Former Maryland Terrapins quarterback Danny O'Brien seems to have whittled his list of potential destinations down to four or five schools. He's taken visits to the Mississippi Rebels and Penn St. Nittany Lions, with a trip to see the Wisconsin Badgers coming this weekend. The Vanderbilt Commodores should also have a chance, as coach James Franklin recruited O'Brien to Maryland in the first place, and the Connecticut Huskies have been a reported candidate.
Before we take a peek at what each offense has to offer, here's what the lucky winner gets in O'Brien. We can all but disregard his whelming 2011 numbers (56.4 percent completion, seven touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 1,648 yards), which came during one of the worst seasons in Terps history under a new offensive coordinator who was fired after one year. His 109.6 passer rating was the worst of any Gary Crowton quarterback in at least the last seven years (I don't have all day), but remember the bleeding Maryland program is stocked with much less surrounding talent than those LSU and Oregon teams were.
In 2010, O'Brien was the ACC Rookie of the Year, putting up 22 touchdowns and 2,438 yards under Ralph Friedgen. That's a better sampling of what he can do in his first year of a well-designed offense.
Ignore several of the following numbers for our first contestant, pretty much. The Rebels are switching up their entire operation, going from the clunky schemes favored by Houston Nutt to the fast, wide-open Hugh Freeze system.
Returning quarterbacks Randall Mackey and Zack Stoudt combined for 13 interceptions to nine touchdowns, so it's safe to say O'Brien would stand a good chance of starting.
Ole Miss could also offer O'Brien a package deal with Maryland teammate Max Garcia, an offensive tackle. The Georgia native wants to transfer south and has drawn interest from around the SEC. Garcia visited Oxford along with O'Brien this week.
Returning Non-QB Offensive Starters: 7/10
Key Offensive Returns: RB Jeff Scott (1,019 yards), like thousands of sophomore receivers
2011 Offensive Rank: 96 (Arkansas State ranked 60)
Soon, Bret Bielema won't even bother recruiting quarterbacks. He'll just wait on ACC schools to get rid of their talented passers. It worked just fine last year, with Russell Wilson leading the Badgers' juggernaut to another Rose Bowl. However, Wisconsin must replace star offensive coordinator Paul Chryst. Former Northern Illinois OC Matt Canada could try and open things up a little bit.
Do you like biographical details? O'Brien was born in Minnesota before moving in middle school. Great sports fact.
As far as depth chart competition goes, Montee Ball is actually the most accomplished returning passer, and he'll be pretty busy taking handoffs. Getting to hand off to Montee Ball most of the time is one of the biggest perks of this particular gig.
Returning Non-QB Offensive Starters: 5/10
2011 Offensive Rank: 1 (Northern Illinois ranked 21)
Not only does Penn State boast Bill O'Brien, Tom Brady's most recent offensive coordinator, as its head coach, it also has a rocky quarterback situation heading into spring. And it's certainly the program most primed for transition. And its coach is a fellow O'Brien. However, an all-but-all-new offensive line sounds like a little bit too much transition.
Returning Offensive Starters: 4/10
Key Offensive Losses: 4 OL, WR Derek Moye (654 yards)
2011 Offensive Rank: 79 (New England Patriots ranked pretty OK)
Oh please oh please oh please oh please go to UConn. Randy Edsall's face would melt right off his skull, especially if O'Brien declared playing for the Huskies to be his dream job.
O'Brien would likely have little trouble unseating Johnny McEntee, who completed only 51 percent of his attempts as a junior. Backup Scott McCummings is an effective runner and was able to peel off a few big plays in his limited throws. Still, call UConn the longest longshot here.
That part back there about Randy Edsall's face melting off might sound cruel, but let's not worry about his face. It was applied to his cyborg frame in early 2011 after Under Armour's focus groups recoiled in horror.
Returning Offensive Starters: 6/10
Key Offensive Returns: RB Lyle McCombs (1,151 yards), TE Ryan Griffin (499 yards)
2011 Offensive Rank: 110
Still a strong candidate even though Vandy's Jordan Rodgers is the most imminently-promising quarterback on any of these rosters. O'Brien will consider Nashville due to the James Franklin factor. The James Franklin Factor is also the name of a devastating finishing move employed by James Franklin, Vanderbilt football coach and current Tennessee Xtreme Wrestling champion.
Also, O'Brien high schooled in nearby North Carolina.
The Dores had approximately 179 quarterbacks last year, but have already spent spring ball time moving many of them elsewhere around the roster, adding some speed to skill positions. So this would basically be Franklin's former quarterback vs. his most recent one. WHO DOES DAD LOVE MORE?
Like Ole Miss, Vandy could bring both O'Brien and Garcia aboard.
Returning Offensive Starters: 8/10
Key Offensive Returns: RB Zac Stacy (1,236 yards), WR Jordan Matthews (778 yards), 4 OL
2011 Offensive Rank: 59
If O'Brien likes what he sees in Madison, the Badgers very well could be the favorite. Re-building that offensive line will be a concern, but tons of talent returns from one of the nation's best offenses.
But if O'Brien doesn't mind a challenge for the starting job, Vandy seems like an excellent fit, with a young offense, stable offensive line and a coach with whom he's clearly comfortable.
Penn State and Ole Miss each has something to offer, while UConn looks like the longshot here, which is probably good for Randy Edsall's face.