Think the recruiting process gets crazy for blue-chip high schoolers? Well, it can be even more chaotic if you're a proven college QB who can be eligible immediately.
Danny O'Brien, a 2010 Freshman All-American and former ACC Rookie of the Year, who had a 22-8 TD-INT ratio while helping lead Maryland to a 9-4 record and a top 25 finish, announced earlier this week he's transferring from the Terps program after the tumultuous first year of the Randy Edsall Era in College Park. A pro-style QB who still has two years of eligibility remaining would intrigue a lot of programs, but O'Brien's even a hotter commodity because he's on schedule to graduate with a Business degree in the spring and would be eligible as a graduate transfer this fall. Much like former N.C, State QB Russell Wilson was for Wisconsin this past year. However, unlike many of these recent graduate transfer cases, O'Brien has two years remaining, not just one. Even the SEC's new rule restricting graduate transfers would be open to O'Brien because he has two years of eligibility remaining, not just one season. And that twist has only spiced things up even more here.
Edsall employed a system that didn't suit the 6-3, 210-pounder very well, and O'Brien, along with the rest of a team that finished with an abysmal 2-10 record, struggled. The young QB appeared to regress last year. Edsall benched O'Brien in a loss to Georgia Tech in early October and later made comments in the media that certainly didn't come across as a ringing endorsement of the quarterback.
After O'Brien informed Edsall of his decision to transfer, the coach said in a statement: "I'm disappointed by Danny's decision. Danny told me that he's not committed to our program. that he's not 'all in.' I want what's best for all of our players."
Obviously, Edsall wasn't happy about the news, and apparently isn't just showing that by the statement. He also had denied permission of O'Brien to transfer to Vanderbilt. That wouldn't stop O'Brien from being able to attend Vandy, but it would keep him from getting a football scholarship there. In many cases, coaches try and restrict the places where one of their former players can transfer to, and the criteria usually is if that other program plays in the same conference or appears on the schedule in the next year or two. Vandy, however, is not in the ACC or slated to face the Terps any time soon. (The last time the two schools met on a football field was in the late '80s.) But Vandy's coach is James Franklin, the man who used to be the Terps offensive coordinator when O'Brien had his breakout season in 2010. Franklin also had recruited O'Brien from North Carolina to College Park. In addition, Edsall has blocked two of the other former Terp starters (LT Max Garcia and LB Mario Rowson), who also announced they were bailing from Edsall's program Monday, from transferring to Vandy as well.
The players can appeal that decision to get Edsall's restrictions overturned. An NCAA source said that student-athletes often win such appeals.
On Thursday morning, O'Brien's high school coach Todd Willert, who says he speaks to the QB almost every day, expects the family will make such an appeal in order to have the option to transfer to Vandy.
"I believe they will," said Willert. "This weekend, Danny and his family will sort through everything. They think (Vandy) should be an option but I don't know exactly what they'll decide. It should be an option for him. Just be fair to everybody. Danny has no ill will towards anybody."
Attempts to reach O'Brien on Thursday were unsuccessful.
Among the schools believed to be in the mix to land O'Brien in addition to Vandy are Wisconsin, Stanford, Michigan State, East Carolina and Ole Miss. Willert would not disclose which programs O'Brien has had contact with but says there has been a lot of interest.