As the dust settled on Terps' spring football camp last month, well, it was a murky look at running back no doubt.
What began as a crowded situation (despite junior Wes Brown out with a shoulder injury) turned into a winnowed deal, as by this week two of the four regulars had left the program.
Junior, but graduating this spring and between-the-tackles back Albert Reid, announced following the Red-White game that he was leaving (with UVA a possible destination), as he wants to figure more prominently in the offense after running third or fourth string the last few years. Last season, he missed the balance of the year with a knee injury, and this winter was granted an extra medical hardship year, so he will have two seasons to play.
However, being a third-down, goal-line or redzone back was not what he wanted, so he is off looking for greener pastures. Reid was a solid but unspectacular back, who really couldn’t get to the second level, more of an inside grinder. But he was a former Gatorade Player of the Year (in Washington, D.C.), and hailed from Friendship Collegiate Academy, so you never want to lose those types of kids (not to mention he served on the Terps' player leadership council).
Meanwhile, this week converted sophomore slot receiver Jacquille Veii, who was moved full-time to running back last month at camp, decided he wanted to find a new home where he could showcase his skills more. He remains a finesse athlete/slasher, not a downhill conventional back, and may fit better at wing-back or slot, perhaps thriving in a spread system more. But bottom line, his loss stings as he was the one Terps' back with some shake, quick change of direction, could play at different speeds and had “make you miss” qualities.
That leaves the two regulars left, Brown, the would-be-star-hopefully-some-day-when-he’s-healthy-and-not-suspended, and the yeoman Ross, who had the best spring of the bunch, highlighted by an impressive 56-yard, third-quarter touchdown run in the spring game. The offensive line was patchwork in said game, and there wasn’t always a ton of room to run, but Ross managed 102 yards on 13 carries to end spring on a high note.
Ross has had his share of ups and downs through his career, as at first he needed work on learning plays and pass pick-ups, and is now trying to become a more north-south runner rather than a side-to-side guy. He appeared to be hitting the holes quicker this spring, and running lower and more decisively and with better ball security as well, so hopefully for his sake that carries over to the fall.
The Terps also have career reserve Joe Riddle, who is more a special teams stalwart, as well as walk-on Tehuti Miles. The recent departures mean class of 2015 signee Ty Johnson will be firmly in play at running back when he arrives this summer, where previously he appeared destined for corner. And though smallish, he does have some of that "fast-twitch" ability to replace Veii, as Johnson is a slasher/dasher type.
Maryland now finds itself with a low depth situation at the position, and we would not be shocked if they added a fifth-year transfer this spring to help shore up numbers.
But this will also give Brown all the opportunity in the world to step up and try to grab the feature-back reigns, what fans and followers have longed for years for from the former four-star Under Armour All-American out of Good Counsel (Olney, Md.), who has been slowed by either injuries or off-field issues. He had labrum surgery this winter, but will be good for the fall.
Terps fans got a taste when he helped Maryland past Michigan in the Big House last fall, his late-game, hard inside running working the clock down as Maryland held on for its first victory ever at the stadium. Brown appears a back that needs carries to pick up a head of steam and get downhill over the course of the game, while Ross, if he can stay healthy, can be an asset if he continues to take care of the “little things” more often. But one has to get some separation and distinguish themselves more as THE feature back, as too often in recent years it has only been dribs and drabs, and not much consistency.
Neither back rushed for over 350 yards last season, though the line was not a big help. This year’s improved line gives UMD hope the ground game will be improved, although depth is starting to become a concern with the recent losses.
Spring Football Rewind: Running Backs
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