There’s newness in the Maryland backfield as well this spring (see ‘change’ as the theme for the spring), with new running backs Coach Terry Richardson having arrived after two seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL, and years previously under Randy Edsall at UConn. He replaced Andre Powell, who left for Pittsburgh.
But one thing that remains the same is a spring without Wes Brown, the heir apparent many would like to see ascend soon, who will miss his second consecutive spring following winter shoulder surgery. Last year, the bruising junior-to-be was sidelined during his year-long suspension.
Brown, who finished third on the team with 341 rushing yards last season, played in 11 games and got three starts. While he had a season-high 81 yards against JMU in the opener, maybe fans will best remember him for his clock-chewing, 39-yards and game-winning touchdown at Michigan in the Terps upset win at the Big House, when he and the offense were finally able to ground out the clock and win on the road in the final moments.
But Brown had just 88 carries (3.5 avg) in a season the Terps backs either couldn’t find enough holes behind the still-developing O-line, or couldn’t create enough daylight on their own. A signature, workhorse back still remains to be seen/emerge for UMD, but Brown has the most complete package of size, vision and power.
But when it will be deployed more full-time remains to be seen. Had he seen more action at the end of the West Virginia game, when the Terps needed critical short yardage, who knows what could have been in that loss to the Mountaineers.
He is the one back who can seemingly take on defenders and break through to the second-level with consistency, but he also appears a "reps" back who may need more to get in more of a rhythm.
This spring won’t be his chance either, as senior-to-be Brandon Ross (77-387 yards in 2015 to lead all Terps backs) returns atop the depth chart, despite only averaging 32.2 yards per game last season. He got eight starts a year ago, but disappeared in too many games (25 yards versus USF; 0 yards versus West Virginia; 6 yards at Syracuse, though he did unleash on a 90-yard catch and run score; 6 yards versus Wisconsin, etc.) Ross did have a season-best 108 yards and two rushing scores in the regular season finale against Rutgers.
But folks want to see better vision and "North-South" ability out of the Delaware native, who like Brown has had a star-crossed UMD career so far. But he is a worker, and has gotten better each season especially with pickups and blocking, and is a guy everyone pulls for.
Behind Ross is sophomore Jacquille Veii, who played both running back and slot receiver last fall, but returns to tailback now with the numbers thin. The Terps did sign Fort Hill (Cumberland, Md.) running back Ty Johnson in the 2015 recruiting class, but he likely projects either at corner or slot.
Veii brings a shiftiness none of the other backs have, and last season he rushed 19 times for 105 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught 16 balls for 230 yards and one score, and had a long of 60 yards and a career-best 78 receiving yards versus Ohio State.
Another rising senior, spring graduate Albert Reid, missed all but four games last season with a knee injury, though he did start against West Virginia. He had 16 rushes for 58 yards and a score, and is more of a goal-line, between-the-tackles power back still trying to find his spot/niche in the Terps depth after hovering at fourth at times last year.
Joe Riddle is also on the depth-chart, likely working behind Reid.
The Terps return starter Kenny Goins at fullback, with Drew Stefanelli backing him after Ty Cierski graduated.
But take out C.J. Brown’s rushing totals last season, and Terps runners only averaged 83 yards per game (opponents rushed for 201.6), so obviously those figures have to get better. With the line having another year of strength and maturity and cohesion under its belts, plus the expected infusion of four and five-star elite talent like tackles Derwin Gray and Damian Prince, hopefully for Terps fans those numbers indeed improve.
Richardson has not been available to the media yet since his arrival, but he inherits a unit that will be depleted, at least for the spring, but with hopes of a stronger fall if Brown and Ross can finally get on-track. Maryland has lacked a difference-maker/home run threat at running back since Da’Rel Scott, seemingly far too many years ago.
Spring Football Preview II: Running Backs
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