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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Need to Know

For O’Brien, Looking Beyond Vanderbilt

The door is still open for Danny O’Brien to transfer to Vanderbilt, but he’ll need to jump through a few hoops to make it happen. This process would lead with O’Brien taking his case to the N.C.A.A., such as several high-profile would-be transfers have done in the past. From there, he would need to convince the N.C.A.A. that Edsall is not working in good faith — that there is no viable reason for Maryland to prevent a former player from transferring to a school that plays in another conference and has no historical or regional rivalry with the Terrapins. It shouldn’t be that hard to prove: Edsall can cite every reason he’d like, but the N.C.A.A. should eventually see that his decision to limit O’Brien’s transfer choices holds as much water as the idea that Vanderbilt is circling Maryland’s wagons.

Hopefully, for O’Brien’s sake, he’s available to transfer to Vanderbilt in time for spring ball. While the Commodores’ offensive system will seem familiar to O’Brien, thanks to his time spent under James Franklin with the Terrapins, being on campus during the spring would allow O’Brien to acclimate himself to any tweaks and changes in terminology. The series of practices would also give O’Brien a chance to develop a rapport with his teammates on the offensive side of the ball.

In addition, if O’Brien is on campus by March he’d be able to compete against Jordan Rodgers for the starting job. Rodgers, who replaced Larry Smith in October, is far more mobile than O’Brien; on the other hand, landing O’Brien would give Vanderbilt its best passing quarterback since Jay Cutler.

As of today, however, O’Brien can only investigate other transfer opportunities while preparing his petition to the N.C.A.A. regarding Maryland’s stringent transfer stipulations. Intriguing options exist even if Vanderbilt is taken off the table; several B.C.S. and non-B.C.S. conference programs would be very interested in taking on a quarterback of O’Brien’s caliber for the next two seasons.

One thing to remember: O’Brien is due to graduate before the start of the coming fall semester, meaning that he’ll be eligible to play immediately at any F.B.S. program that carries a graduate program not offered at Maryland. In the same fashion as Russell Wilson, O’Brien can step right in and battle for the starting job without losing a season of eligibility to the N.C.A.A.’s typical transfer rules.

That only increases his appeal to programs looking for an immediate hit under center. But for O’Brien, it also diminishes the draw of a program currently touting an incumbent starter at quarterback; after leaving Maryland, O’Brien will want to start immediately, not a year down the road. He’ll have two seasons with which to complete his final two seasons of eligibility. What programs might fit the bill?

South Florida Greg Auman, who cover the Bulls for the Tampa Tribune, noted that O’Brien had East Carolina, then coached by Skip Holtz, in his final three during his recruitment process as a high school senior. In addition, Holtz’s current quarterbacks coach, Peter Vaas, recruited O’Brien when an assistant at Duke. That sort of built-in familiarity goes a long way in the recruitment process. Unfortunately, U.S.F. can’t offer the starting job until 2013; for now, senior-to-be B.J. Daniels has a solid grasp on the starting role. There’s a lot for O’Brien to like about U.S.F., including an offense suited for his pro-style game, but that year on the bench might be a sticking point — unless he can outplay Daniels and grab the starting job.

Rutgers The Scarlet Knights have a pair of younger options in Chas Dodd and Gary Nova, and a third, Blake Rankin, arriving as part of February’s recruiting class. Would the Scarlet Knights even be interested in bringing O’Brien on board? The amount of depth at the position would suggest that the Scarlet Knights would pass, but bringing in O’Brien would do two things for the program: one, give the offense its first seasoned starter since Mike Teel; and two, would allow Kyle Flood and his staff to pump the breaks on Dodd and Nova, giving each a year or two to develop their skills in a backup role. Both could use a little more seasoning.

Southern Mississippi The first of several Conference USA programs — Conference USA for now, at least — who could use a quarterback of O’Brien’s stature. That Ellis Johnson hired Rickey Bustle as his new offensive coordinator implies that the Golden Eagles will be running a more pro-style offense than the spread-based, record-setting offense favored by Larry Fedora and offensive coordinator Jarrett Anderson. While O’Brien doesn’t fit the old system, thanks to his somewhat limited ability to make plays with his feet, he’d be a good fit for a system with West Coast principles. In addition, with Austin Davis exhausting his eligibility, the Golden Eagles are in the market for an immediate starter at quarterback.

Penn State Don’t forget about the relationship between Ralph Friedgen, who recruited O’Brien to College Park, and new Penn State coach Bill O’Brien, who worked alongside Friedgen at Georgia Tech and under him at Maryland. One thing we know about the Nittany Lions heading into the fall: Matt McGloin is a nice player, but he’s not the sort of quarterback who can lift the offense above its recent mediocrity. Bill O’Brien will get more out of Penn State’s returning quarterbacks, whether the starter is McGloin or Rob Bolden — or another quarterback, though the Nittany Lions don’t go deep at the position. It’s clear that Penn State could use a proven college starter with a basis in an N.F.L.-style offense. O’Brien, meet O’Brien.

The MAC What teams in the MAC wouldn’t want two years of O’Brien? Ohio has two more years of Tyler Tettleton, so adding O’Brien would be a luxury, not a necessity. Likewise, Toledo has another two years of eligibility left on Terrance Owens’ clock. Based on its offensive philosophy, Northern Illinois would shy away. The rest would take O’Brien would open arms, minus Temple: Edsall’s no-transfer list includes the Owls, unfortunately. Whether O’Brien would be interested in a MAC program might depend on his desire for a prove-them-wrong conclusion to his college career; if he wants to go to a B.C.S. conference program and show Maryland what it’s missing — and this isn’t likely — then trying his hand at a Big East school or a Penn State would make more sense. But the MAC is a quarterback-driven league, and there are as many as seven or eight programs that would fit O’Brien and his needs very well.

Connecticut Just a thought, but O’Brien should tell Edsall that playing for the Huskies would be “a dream come true.” That might be one way to change Edsall’s tune on Vanderbilt, for starters.

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  1. Hokieshibe says:

    The way edsall has handled this has been embarassing. Is he on the hot seat after another poor year?

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