Ross Rounding into More Complete Back

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- With Maryland talented junior running back Brandon Ross, there has always been that one caveat: his health.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- With Maryland talented junior running back Brandon Ross, there has always been that one caveat: his health.

"Knock on wood," Randy Edsall said Aug. 13 about how Ross has remained healthy so far throughout fall camp.

Ross, the Terps grizzled veteran in a loaded backfield, hopes this is finally the season he both starts and finishes a year.

Last year he led the team in rushing with 776 yards, but missed parts of camp as well as the Clemson game with leg injuries. The year before he also led the team in rushing, with just 390 yards in a down year for the offense, though he missed six games with a hammy. This past spring, he missed the Terps first big scrimmage with a similar setback.

Now, the Delaware native has risen back up the Terps depth chart this month in camp, and he hasn't been watching from the sidelines yet. Ross, at the midway mark of camp, had a slight edge over junior Albert Reid and sophomore Wes Brown, though he had some ball security issues earlier in the week. And this week the Terps moved shifty sophomore back Jacquille Veii to slot to help unclog some of the logjam in the offensive backfield.

Ross arrived at media interviews on Aug. 13 looking a bit slimmer though the neck and body, with his weight down some eight pounds, and his running and cutting looking quicker on the field just moments earlier. Ross is the Terps fastest back, but has needed to stay healthy, as well as complete his game more, to take the next step. Hopefully he is poised to do just that this season.

"Yeah, it makes me feel good. And I just want to keep, to stay healthy, stay prayed-up and keep going hard out here," Ross said.

Ross has worked to become a more complete back, enhancing his reads and pass pickups and blocking more with each year. Those and some playbook issues, as well as the injuries, had held him back some in the past. But now he sees a clean slate.

Said Edsall, who has never been so complimentary of Ross in three years as he's been this week:

"He's been out here doing everything, hasn't missed anything, so I hope that continues," Edsall said. "I think it's like anything else: the older you get, the more mature you become, and the better you handle situations and the better you deal with things.

"And I think that's been the biggest case with Brandon. Now he's been in the system three years, he really gets it, he really understands it, he's getting more comfortable with the playbook, all those things. And sometimes it just takes some time. But he's really come a long way, he's really come a long way, and I'm very proud of how far he's come."

Ross has been followed by Reid and Brown with the reps, but there's still more camp scrimmages to come and he must keep it up. But his veteran presence and knowledge now can only help him. He joked that he's been here "forever, but it's a good feeling to pass down that knowledge with so many younger backs in the room. And I just want to keep teaching and help them learn up so they will be ready."

Ross said the backs are all competing and no spots are firm yet. He's looked quicker in and out of his cuts, and hitting the holes faster and more decisive, something the coaches have wanted to see from him as well.

Ross said he is working more with trainers, with pre and post-practice stretches, to maintain his health. He swam, and ran in sand, all summer, both at College Park and back home in Delaware, where he visited most weekends. Ross is an "old head" on the team, a laid-back upperclassmen who enjoys spending time with family most. Little brother, Jarrett, is beginning to come on as a young cornerback for the Terps on the other side of the ball.

"I do think I have gotten a little quicker, my acceleration has gotten better, and I also want to pick up those tough yards between the tackles," Ross said. "So really becoming an all-around back. I think my pass-pro has gotten better, and then one thing I want to keep improving on is ball-security."

Stamina work was his main focus this summer, and he'll need it to keep up with Reid, the Terps toughest "grinder" back who has also shown more burst this camp, as well as Brown, who represents the most complete package of any Terps back, with his size, speed and vision, not to mention his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.

"Albert always runs with a passion, Wes is working hard, too, and that's the thing, we've all got a friendly competition," Ross said. "We're all just trying to make each other hard, we really want to run to the ball, and we take a pleasure blocking for our wide-outs, blocking for our quarterback. Just being all-around backs."

And then there was the move of Veii this week as well:

"Well, Jacquille's a good all-around athlete," Ross said. "So I knew that they were going to find a way to use him on the field. He's too talented to be a backup tailback or whatever the case may be. I think they want to get him on the field anyway they I think they are just trying to find ways to do that."

Ross said camp has gone well so far, but communication on offense still needs to improve so they can play even faster, "so we got to make sure everyone's in the right spot."

And Ross can't wait to begin Big Ten play.

"I love it, I love it. It's going to be exciting," Ross said. "It's always fun to measure yourself up against some of the best teams the nation has to offer. So it is going to be fun and we're all looking forward to the challenge."

And on that health, knock on proverbial wood, Ross said:

"Yeah, but you can't really think about that," Ross said. "You just got to play hard every play and whatever happens happens. But I am going to give my best."

Beyond some camp bruises here and there, he's powered through so far. And that always wasn't the case in the past.

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