COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Like Da'Rel Scott before him and Bruce Perry before him, Maryland junior running back Brandon Ross is like a fine-tuned athlete/race car that, when it gets a little tweak or twinge, sometimes has to go in the shop, so to speak.
The Terps would-be top back in a crowded field for the fall, Ross again was sidelined with a hamstring injury midway through spring camp, which put him on the shelf for a few practices as well as the off-campus scrimmage at North Point High School.
Randy Edsall mentioned that week that some players were taking themselves out of the mix by putting themselves on the sidelines at a few very competitive positions, notably running back and receiver. But unlike maybe in years past, this time Ross did not fade into the woodwork.
While sophomore Jacquille Veii ran out with the starters at the beginning of the annual spring game on Friday, Ross didn't worry that he wasn't going to get his shot.
"Yeah, I was a little banged up but I didn't worry about that at all. I did lose some valuable practice time but it was more important for me to get healthy now and not let my injury carry into fall camp," said Ross after the game.
Ross made up for any lost time, getting in on the next series and eventually leading all rushers that night at Byrd with 90 yards on four carries, two of which he turned into touchdowns. In a very tight battle for fall reps, Ross shined the most between backs Veii (9-78), Albert Reid (14-79) and Joe Riddle (5-48), though sophomore Wes Brown, who will challenge for top reps in the fall, only got a handful of plays as he continues to work his way back from a year suspension.
It was Ross' 75-yard touchdown cut-back run in the second quarter that stood out as the offensive play of the game on a night the passing game struggled under a sea of interceptions and near-picks.
"I've been waiting for that kind of a chance all spring," Ross said. "The play was designed to go inside but things got a little cluttered so I looked out and looked back in and just took off."
Ross had been a little anxious the past week or so because he felt things slipping away at times.
"This was the kind of game I needed to have. I knew that if I didn't play I would have been stuck behind two or three other guys for playing time. I just wanted to use this scrimmage to prove that I can play and that I can work my way back up the depth chart," Ross said.
In terms of his hamstring, Ross said: "Its fine, but the important thing is to stay healthy and to be stronger so this thing won't come back and hurt me next season. I don't want to pull it again."
The last few seasons Ross has missed a few games with injuries, while he's still mastering his reads and pass pickups, an area he appears to have turned the corner. He also looked more decisive hitting the holes this spring as well.
"I just want to be a complete player. To do that I have to run lower, be a better pass blocker and catch the balls out of the backfield. I need to be able to do it all so I need to work on everything this summer," Ross said.
There are a couple of positions that seem overcrowded and running back is among them. The battle between Veii, Reid, Riddle, Brown and Ross will be tight and continue throughout the season.
"No offense to everybody else, but we're the most competitive position on the field," Ross said. "Everybody is out there trying to be better than the other guy so, it's a battle every practice. The problem is that when I come out I think that I might not get back in so I can't afford to make mistakes and to not play hard on every play."
For Ross, it's about being aggressive with and without the ball. It's' about being as consistent as he can be.
"We're all able to be the every down back. "I think that I feed off of the other guys and that will make me better. I just have to go out and play. I have to know what I'm doing, I have to know my assignments and go out and execute."
This offseason could be a turning point in the Delaware native Ross's situation moving into the season in August. Also, big things are expected of his younger brother, Terps sophomore corner Jarrett Ross, who was sidelined this spring following surgery.
"I want to work on my football intelligence and know my reads and responsibilities. Yeah, I would say that is my main focus this summer. If I know what I'm looking at than it will make my job a lot easier," Ross said.
Despite the setback with his hammy, Ross thinks he became a better football player this past month.
"I know that I can't take a play off anymore because it would mean my job or more importantly winning or losing the game. I can't do that anymore and I can't be in there thinking ‘what if' either," Ross said.
Last season Ross averaged averaged 64.7 yards a game to lead all Terps rushers. He scored four touchdowns and racked up 865 total yards. Obviously that wasn't good enough. The Terps rushing game was anemic at times behind a patchwork offensive line, and at times it seemed only quarterback C.J. Brown was the one rushing threat.
New offensive line Coach Greg Studrawa has his group playing faster and lower, and it appears the backs are now benefitting. Running back could be one of the more improved positions in the fall, and Ross hopes he is leading that charge.
Ross Finishes Spring with a Bang
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