Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin enters his third season back in College Park, and his collection of quarterbacks have spent all or nearly all of their time in the program with him in charge of the offense.
Franklin sat down to talk about the quarterbacks as well as the rest of the offense earlier this week.
PS: How much different is Jamarr Robinson from the guy we saw last November?
JF: I think he's much further along and I'm hoping where he is now, he's leaps and bounds come July. Because it's like anything. It's like in your profession. The more you learn, the more you're able to learn because you have this really good foundation to build on. Then you get excited, and you say 'Wow, this makes sense, because now I understand that.' And it just kind of grows. The game of football is one of these things, there's so much to learn, you're not going to learn it all. But you start to get excited and confident because you have this foundation and now even if you don't understand the play, you understand the concept because you understand football and it all starts to come together for you.
That's what we see with him right now. He's very poised in practice. He knows when he's going to be hot and he doesn't freak out. He just sits there and gets it off. He played very well in the scrimmage on [Friday]. What we've been talking about is there's still four or five plays, negative plays, that we need to eliminate. If he does that, then I think he has a chance to be pretty good.
PS: Is he as calm and cool on the field, in practice with you guys, as he is when he's talking with us?
JF: One of the things we talk about with the quarterbacks, and I think it's one of Jamarr's strengths, is you've got to be the same guy every day. You have to come the same. He's that guy. He's always in a good mood, he's always quick to smile, he's always quick to laugh. The guys like him, the guys respect him and he's that same guy every day. You've got to do that. You've got to be consistent coming out on the field every day in how you interact with people, and I think that's one of his strengths.
He's a lot like Chris [Turner] in terms of his poise. There's not a lot that's going to rattle him. He's very easy-going, very poised. He's got a little bit more fire, where Chris, he would try to motivate the guys by getting them loose and telling a joke. Where Jamarr, he can turn it on and he can get on them a little bit. Not a lot, but he's got a little bit more fire in his gut naturally from who he is, so I think that helps as well.
PS: Let's talk about Danny O'Brien. Ralph was saying there's a pretty clear separation between two and three at this stage. It would seem Danny would be the most likely to take on Jamarr in a camp battle. Where do you see him as a guy who has yet to play but is clearly someone that you're very high on based on what he's been able to do in terms of picking things up last season?
JF: Very high on Danny. And although he's probably the slowest of all the quarterbacks we have, he ran 4.8 Chris Turner ran 5.1 for NFL scouts. Jamarr ran high 4.6. Devin Burns ran 4.5, and so did C.J. Brown. We're so much more athletic than we've been in the past, and I love Chris but I'm just saying that's the reality of it.
Mentally, [O'Brien]'s as sharp as any quarterback I've ever been around. Very poised, very under control, so much further ahead than any quarterback I've ever been around as a freshman, and Josh Freeman started for me as a freshman at K-State and got drafted in the first round. Mentally, he's very, very sharp. He's much more athletic than I think people give him credit for. He's doing very well.
I wouldn't necessarily say it's going to be a battle between those two in fall camp. They are clearly No. 1 and No. 2 right now, and there's days you can make some arguments that Danny can be a 1A and 1B-type thing. The reality is spring is spring, and it's nice. But the fall's important, and what I want C.J. to understand and all those guys is if they all grow, they're still going to be a two-week period of time in summer camp where you're going to be evaluated. And if C.J.'s closed the gap considerably, then we're going to make that decision at that time. But there's no doubt right now Jamarr is 1, Danny's 2 and it's pretty close. I think we can win with both those guys.
Then there's a little bit of a drop-off for C.J., but it's starting to come on for him right now. The light's starting to come on for him right now. What's neat for C.J. is C.J. has got Danny's body, he's 6-3 and 200 pounds, but he also has Jamarr's athletic ability. He ran a 4.57. He's got a chance to do some really special things. The game really hasn't slowed down for him yet like it has the other two.
PS: Going back to your idea about having a foundation, the fact O'Brien does have that foundation from high school and Brown doesn't necessarily, is that you think the big difference in terms of the development?
JF: I think Danny's really sharp. He was a really good student out of high school. So was C.J. Very good student out of high school. But also, he's kind of a gym rat. He was doing stuff that we do now in high school. They'd play Friday night games and him and his high school coach were coming in Saturday and watching an entire tape and breaking it down together and talking. That's kind of who he is. If he wasn't doing that, he was playing AAU basketball.
This is the same type of guy, he goes home on spring break and he takes Pete White and Pete DeSouza with him and he's walking around town and everybody's like 'He must be the man at Maryland because they sent two bodyguards with him.' They're up working out every single day at the high school. He's a gym rat, and a smart guy so that translates into some pretty good things.
PS: You've got Clay Belton and Devin Burns. Where are they at at this point?
JF: I feel good about them. Clay's in a little bit different situation because even though he was with us last year, he was on scout team. He didn't really get all the reps and although we've been very excited about him, he's still a lot like C.J. Last year, they didn't understand anything. This year, they understand it in the meetings and they're really sharp in the meetings and they can draw it up and tell you why and tell you what. But there's that next step. You can know it all in the meeting and then you go out on the field and it's happening so fast, you have to know it so cold that it comes natural.
Him and C.J. are both at the stage where they know it pretty well, but they don't know it cold yet. If you met with them and talked to them, you'd be like 'This guy really knows.' But he doesn't know it could yet so he can go up and just play. That's kind of where C.J. and Clay are both at right now. It's going to be interesting to see with all the reps in the summer between now and fall camp where they can be.
Devin, same thing like I said before. He's probably learned more football in a month than he has his entire life. He has a chance now --- he told me his goal was to be in the three-deep so he can travel. He's got a legitimate chance to come in and do that. Now he's got a foundation, he understands the basic concepts of what we're doing. He's had a few reps. Now build on it all summer and legitimately compete for one of those spots. He's probably the most athletic guy we've got. I think he ran low-to-mid 4.5. He's 6-3, 185, 190 pounds. He's going to be a big, strong athletic kid.
We're very, very excited about him. But again, he should be taking AP chemistry right now and getting ready for the prom, so this is a huge transition for him. For the most part, he's handled it very, very well.
PS: You've talked about the excitement of being in the offense. Is that one of the more underrated things about you being back in the program and being able to recruit these guys and find these guys that will be able to fit your system. Not to knock anyone else, but have you almost sold these guys in that process?
JF: Correct. I think that's very, very important. I think the other thing that's significant to me is, for example with Chris. I thought Chris did a great job and he really worked at it. My expectations about how to prepare and what to do and how to be successful as a quarterback were different from what he was used to. So, now for me, it's refreshing because the entire room, basically all they know is what we've been doing. They've bought into it, they're excited about it, they think it's the best offense in the country.
Although Jamarr was here a year before I got here, he was still scout team. Now, most of the guys, this is what they know. This is how you do it. It's definitely like that with Danny, it's definitely like that with C.J., Clay and Devin. It's going to be that way when Tyler [Smith] gets here. That's what they know. This how you prepare, this is how you get ready. So I think that really helps.
They're really into it. It's kind of like --- I go back [to] Steve Spurrier. When I was kind of coming up in this game, Steve Spurrier was viewed as an offensive guru. Well, Steve Spurrier would call a play, and he's a confident guy --- I'll describe him as confident --- and whatever he called, because of his confidence, because of the success that they had, whether it was a great call or not, those kids believed it was a great call.
He might call a dive to the fullback on third-and-11. 'It's Steve. This must be a great call.' Those kids believed in their heart, and that's 90 percent of the battle, that these people truly believe this is the best offense in the country, that we are ready and that this is a great call and everybody's bought in. When you do that, you have a chance to be very successful. It's really not about the plays. It's about the players and about the players believing in what you're doing.
PS: Let's quickly look at the other aspects of the offense. Your take on the tailbacks and fullbacks to this point?
JF: I feel very good. Haroon Brown has probably been the bright spot of spring ball. We lose Taylor Watson to an injury, and we didn't know what Haroon could do. I called him in front of the entire offense after practice [Tuesday], and I've been tough on Haroon Brown for two years, and I couldn't be more pleased with where he's at, so that's a real bright spot for us.
I think you've got Da'Rel [Scott], you've got [Davin] Meggett, you've got D.J. Adams and [Caleb] Porzel and Gary Douglas. I think all five of those guys are legitimate guys. I'm very pleased with that position.
JF: Again, a veteran group, playmakers, guys that have been there and done that. Where I'm most excited is probably Quintin McCree, the light's gone on for him. He's figured it out. I think instead of having Torrey [Smith] with almost 700 reps and the next guy with 150, I think we have a legitimate two-deep there and there's no drop-off. You can put either of those guys in the game. Then the same thing with Kevin Dorsey and Tony Logan at the X with [Adrian] Cannon. We've always felt good about LaQuan [Williams], [Kerry] Boykins and Ronnie [Tyler] inside. There's a bunch of guys that have done it, and now I think we have more depth with experienced guys.
PS: Tight ends.
JF: Last year, they were young, inexperienced guys. They've all been there, they've all done that. They've been in the system. They've played. They're bigger, stronger. So I'm pleased with that group. Then you're going to have the addition of [Will] Yeatman as well. So that will be interesting how that goes.
PS: Then with the offensive line, which I think everybody knows is the big question again.
JF: Correct. There's no doubt about it. I feel really good about what we're doing. The guys have bought in. If you look at a Pete DeSouza, for example, we've been talking about recruiting faster and recruiting those types of athletes. Pete DeSouza and Pete White came in at 342 pounds and 362 [respectively]. Pete DeSouza's lost 45 pounds and he's just under 300 pounds now and doing great. I think Pete White is starting to figure it out. I think he's in the [320s] now. So we're headed in the right direction. That as a group I feel better about. We still have some work to do, and that's going to continue to be a challenge for us. But I think they're into it and we're getting better every day. I think when we get some guys healthy and get some guys back, we'll have a much better picture of what we have on the two deep.