NCF Nation: Marcus Leak

C.J. Brown turns 23 on June 27. He's a graduate student preparing for his sixth year at Maryland. He has played for two head coaches and three offensive coordinators and suffered two season-ending injuries. He's the most accomplished rushing quarterback in team history, owning five of the top 10 single-game totals, including the top performance (162 yards against Clemson in 2011).

He has experienced two 10-loss seasons (2009 and 2011) and two postseason games (the 2010 and 2013 Military Bowls).

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AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyMaryland hopes QB C.J. Brown (1,162 career rushing yards) won't have to carry the ball as much this fall.
Now Brown prepares to play in his second league, the Big Ten, which Maryland joins this fall. The Big Ten move could widen some eyes when the Terrapins enter venues like Michigan Stadium, Beaver Stadium and Camp Randall Stadium.

Brown won't flinch.

"Just thinking about all the things, from defensive schemes to overtimes to weird calls to different situations, the momentum shifts and swings," Brown said. "You've been through it all when you've been around for five, going on six, years now."

Maryland should be optimistic about its offense entering the 2014 season. Explosive receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long return from leg injuries. Wide receiver Marcus Leak and running back Wes Brown both are back after spending a year away from the team. The Terps return five players with at least 450 receiving yards and all of their top ball carriers from 2013.

Perhaps most important is the calming veteran presence Brown provides at the quarterback spot.

"You know he's not going to get rattled," Maryland coach Randy Edsall said. "He's going to be the mature guy and go up to guys and talk to them and get them going [to do] the right thing. It's very comforting for me to know we have that kind of guy with that kind of experience and that kind of makeup being the leader of our team."

Brown's extended stay in college football has reached many junctions. He came to Maryland to play for coach Ralph Friedgen and offensive coordinator James Franklin. When a broken collarbone ended his 2010 season in the opener, he watched as Danny O'Brien went on to ACC Rookie of the Year honors.

Then came Friedgen's surprise firing after an 8-4 regular season -- on the heels of Franklin's departure to Vanderbilt. Edsall arrived and Maryland went through a disastrous 2011 season, although Brown replaced the struggling O'Brien toward the end.

With what he's had to go through with all the injuries, that stuff makes you a lot more mature and makes you see and understand the big picture a little bit more.

-- Maryland coach Randy Edsall on C.J. Brown
Brown entered 2012 as the starting quarterback and a co-captain, but an ACL tear in August ended his season before it started. He made it through the 2013 season mostly in one piece -- he missed two games with a concussion suffered on a brutal hit against Florida State -- and recorded 2,242 passing yards, 576 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns (13 pass, 12 rush).

"With what he’s had to go through with all the injuries, that stuff makes you a lot more mature and makes you see and understand the big picture a little bit more," Edsall said.

Added Brown: "It's been good to grow, to be able to put all that in the past and take a step forward."

Brown benefits from a resource few major-college quarterbacks enjoy: a dad who did the exact same thing. Clark Brown played quarterback at Michigan State in 1983-84.

C.J. was born in Michigan, and though the family moved to Cranberry Township, Pa., just north of Pittsburgh, C.J. remembers attending Michigan State games every few years.

"He's been a huge resource," C.J. said of his father. "He understood that I had coaches for a reason, and if they wanted his advice or I wanted his advice, I could go to him. He's been an open book, a great support system I could go to when I had questions or I was having a tough time.

"He's been through it, and he can definitely relate."

The scouting report on most college quarterbacks is set by Year 4 or Year 5, much less Year 6. But Brown could be a different player, leading a different Maryland offense this fall, if the injuries that have haunted the unit simply stay away.

Although Maryland flexed its muscles early last season, eclipsing 30 points in each of its first four games, the offense, in Brown's view, hasn't shown its full potential. Despite 1,162 career rush yards, Brown might not have to carry the ball as much this fall. Edsall, pleased with Brown's understated but effective leadership style, wants his quarterback to simply fine tune his game this spring.

"I see how much he's progressing with each practice we have," Edsall said. "He's doing things so much better now than even what he was doing last fall.

"That natural progression, I think he's going to be an outstanding quarterback in 2014."

Transfers to watch in the ACC

June, 11, 2013
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Freshmen are not the only players with an opportunity to make an immediate impact in the ACC this season. Let's not forget about several transfer players now eligible and ready to make their own mark.

Here is a look at the top eligible transfers in the league with the most potential to turn some heads:

Drew Allen, QB, Syracuse. The Orange actually have three transfers eligible this year -- receiver Quinta Funderburk and defensive tackle John Raymon are the other two. But neither are listed as a starter on the post-spring depth chart. Allen isn't either, but he hasn't yet had an opportunity to show what he can do. Allen will arrive in time for fall practice after deciding to come in from Oklahoma. He has immediate eligibility, and joins the mix to win the starting quarterback job with Terrel Hunt and Charley Loeb his primary competition.

Kellen Jones, LB, Clemson. We all know the Tigers need some help on defense, and they are hoping Jones fits the bill. Jones transferred from Oklahoma and sat out last season because of NCAA rules. During his time at Clemson, Jones has learned all three linebacker spots in order to make himself much more valuable to the team. He is athletic and familiar with coordinator Brent Venables from their time with the Sooners. If he's as good as coaches expect him to be, Clemson's D should be better.

Deon Long, WR, Maryland. The Terps already were expecting an immediate contribution from Long, a junior college transfer who began his career at New Mexico. But you can bet expectations will be even higher now that second-leading receiver Marcus Leak has left the team for personal reasons.

Brandon Mitchell OR Pete Thomas, QBs, NC State. Mitchell is in a similar spot to Allen -- he has immediate eligibility this season for the Wolfpack after transferring in from Arkansas and joins an open quarterback competition. Thomas himself transferred in last year but had to sit out a season because of NCAA rules. In that season, the head coach and offensive style changed, so his pro-style gifts do not necessarily match what Dave Doeren wants to do. Still, Thomas showed some flashes this spring though Doeren is reluctant to give anybody the edge just yet. With Mitchell now joining Thomas and Manny Stocker in the mix, it's anybody's guess who will start the opener.

Pat O'Donnell, P, Miami. Scoff if you must, but O'Donnell is a terrific punter and a workout warrior, and fills a gaping hole on the Hurricanes' roster. Miami may return nearly all its starters on offense and defense, but not on special teams, where the Hurricanes have to replace both punter Dalton Botts and kicker Jake Wieclaw. Getting a punter the caliber of O'Donnell, who transferred from Cincinnati and is immediately eligible, helps ease a big concern.

Matt Patchan, OL, Boston College. The Eagles need major help on the offensive line and could get it in the form of Patchan, who has immediate eligibility after transferring in from Florida. He will be available for fall practice. The only issue to keep in mind is he has been injury prone for his entire career.

Tom Savage, QB, Pitt. It's been a long road back to the football field for Savage, who transferred twice after leaving Rutgers in 2010. Now here he is with one season of eligibility remaining and an opportunity to win the starting job. Though coach Paul Chryst has yet to declare a starter, Savage at least has starting experience. Still, he and Chad Voytik remain in an open competition headed into fall practice. Another Pitt player to watch: Wisconsin transfer tight end Manasseh Garner.
Maryland starting receiver Marcus Leak has withdrawn from school for personal reasons but plans to re-enroll in January, he announced in a statement Thursday.

A source close to the situation said Leak is in good academic standing.

Here is the full statement from Leak:
“I have withdrawn from the University of Maryland and will return home to North Carolina to be with my family while I deal with some personal issues. I would like to thank Coach (Randy) Edsall, my teammates and the rest of the Maryland football program for their continued support as I work through these personal matters. It is my intention to return to College Park in January. I look forward to rejoining my teammates and continuing my education at the University of Maryland.”

Leak started the first seven games of last season but missed the final five because of a toe injury. That injury kept him out of spring practice, but he was expected to start for the Terps in 2013. Leak finished 2012 second on the team with 23 receptions and 393 yards and added two touchdown receptions.

The only good news here is that Maryland does have depth at the position. Stefon Diggs, one of the best receivers in the league, returns, and the Terps signed junior college transfer Deon Long. Nigel King will now be relied upon to take a bigger role. He seems prepared for that after starting three games last season with Leak out. King followed that up with a solid spring.

Others who could have bigger roles include Levern Jacobs, Amba Etta-Tawo, Malcolm Culmer and Tyrek Cheeseboro. The Terps also will have four-star receiver Taivon Jacobs for fall practice.

Maryland building depth at receiver

February, 19, 2013
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Maryland true freshman Stefon Diggs grabbed all the headlines last season as the top Terps receiver, thanks to his incredible athleticism and eye-popping moves.

But behind Diggs, the Terps have assembled some pretty good depth and talent at receiver. That depth was bolstered further on signing day, when Maryland signed four-star receiver Taivon Jacobs, who flipped his commitment from Ohio State. His addition was enough to give Maryland coaches visions of Diggs and Jacobs running 4.0 40s in their heads.

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G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty ImagesStefon Diggs headlines a deep group of Maryland receivers.
"In my opinion, we’re pretty stout at receiver," Maryland recruiting coordinator John Dunn said. "When you add more skill players, what that allows you to do is you can’t key on one guy, and you can’t throw coverage to one guy or double one guy. Now we’re adding even more explosive weapons to where maybe you’ve got to be more honest defensively and spread the ball around to all your different playmakers. I think it’s a very nice complement certainly."

Even better for Maryland -- there is not one senior among the top returning receivers. Maryland had four receivers with at least 10 catches last season. Three are back: Diggs, the team's leading receiver, along with second-leading receiver Marcus Leak (junior) and Nigel King (sophomore).

The Terps also return sophomore Levern Jacobs, who had seven catches for 50 yards last year, and sophomore Tyrek Cheeseboro, who has yet to live up to his potential because of injuries the past few seasons. Now add junior college transfer Deon Long into the mix. Long played at New Mexico for two seasons -- as a redshirt freshman he tied for the team lead with 47 receptions and led the Lobos with 809 receiving yards and four touchdown catches.

He then transferred to Iowa Western Community College, where he he became the first player in NJCAA history to catch 100 passes in a season. Long is eligible to play this season and already is enrolled. His coach at New Mexico is current Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley.

Long grew up in Washington, D.C., and already knows Diggs. He told local reporters earlier this month, "I call him the 'Young Great One' because he is really good, and before he came to college we were on the field together playing. I know what he can do and he knows what I can do. He is a great guy to play beside."

The talent is there for the Terps. If Maryland can get a quarterback to stay healthy, this could be one of the better groups in the entire league.

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