A year ago the Terps had too many running backs, and grumblings were all season a few may check out. And that they did.
From a starless group to date, one still looking for a signature back, junior Albert Reid (a one-time starter and coaches' favorite two years ago) became the first casualty, graduating early and leaving for Virginia this summer, where he will have two years of eligibility. Reid never progressed past the between-the-tackles/third-down/goal-line type back the Terps needed him to be, so he left looking to carve a more prominent niche at Charlottesville.
Next up was mighty-mite sophomore Jacquille Veii, who was caught between slot receiver and running back his first two years at College Park, and seemingly not happy at either. There were reports he wanted back at receiver this spring, but it all became moot when he left looking for greener pastures/more playing time, though only Towson beckoned. It's too bad, though, as Veii was the Terps back with the most elusiveness and make-you-miss ability.
Add in the fact Maryland did not sign a true running back in the 2015 class (though likely-eventual-corner Ty Johnson will stand in at running back for now), and Maryland has just two experienced backs left standing, vying for the starting job. And neither has yet to set the world on fire as Terps.
Senior Brandon Ross, after years of fits and starts and some injuries and ball security sprinkled in, is "solid," that's about it. Sometimes he hesitates too much, other times goes East-West too often, while he certainly hasn't had a remarkable offensive line to run behind in his years toting the rock at UMD. This year the line will be a bit better, and hopefully Ross sees and hits the holes better all the same. There were games he had either zero or negative yards last season, but then again the Terps offense was a non-starter at times as well. He has good enough speed and quickness, but has to keep improving his vision and ability to hit the hole quickly to finally break through and be the kind of workhorse Maryland has been waiting on for years out of the Delaware native.
Meanwhile, star-crossed junior Wes Brown hopefully will finally catch a break, be it putting injuries or lack of touches behind him. And this year it is beyond critical that happens given the depth woes.
Brown, while recovering from off-season labrum surgery, missed the entire spring camp and an opportunity to wrest the top job from Ross while watching from the sidelines. On paper, he has the best combination of size, speed and vision among the backs, but has to stay healthy, engaged, and maybe run a little lower so as to not be as ample a target. He's also the Terps best pass-catcher out of the backfield. Brown was suspended for a year two seasons ago as he worked through some personal issues, and last season seemingly never got a chance to get on a roll.
An impressive 6-foot, 212-pounder, expectations are high for the former four-star, Under Armour All American to finally put it all together on the field as a Terp after being such a touted signee out of Good Counsel. Brown appears the kind of back that needs 20-22 touches a game to get up a head of steam and start getting downhill, as he did at Michigan last season when he helped carry the Terps to victory with some great, late ball and clock control on the ground. Clearly his time is now.
The Terps also have yeoman junior reserve Joe Riddle and junior walk-on Tehuti Miles returning, while Johnson, a speedster signee out of Fort Hill High School, is a small back who will help the depth this year. But when all is said and done, we see him either at corner or slot, long-term, for the Terps.
TT's Summer Football Thoughts: Running Back
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