Competition high in crowded Maryland running back group

Competition high in crowded Maryland running back group
April 18, 2014, 3:45 pm
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(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

COLLEGE PARK--Maryland running back Brandon Ross saw a cluttered field in front of him. Then a hole emerged and he took it, scampering 75 yards for the most notable touchdown of the team’s spring game in College Park.

It was one of only a handful of differentiators, the few standout plays during Maryland’s organized scrimmage that otherwise ought to be accepted for what it is--a scrimmage.

It speaks to a larger point for Maryland, the fact that someone will have to find a way to separate themselves, 75-yard run or otherwise, in what will be a crowded backfield for Maryland in 2014.

“It’s a good thing because I don’t know who our starter is,” head coach Randy Edsall said after the spring game. “We’ll have Albert [Reid}, Jacquille [Veii], Wes [Brown], and Brandon [Ross] all competing. Again, as we get back to preseason camp it’s a great thing to have.

“That’s the thing. Competition is what you need and we have it at that position.”

Ross and Reid split the majority of the carries at running back last season while Veii picked up the scraps in select situations. Brown was not a member of the team while he served a season-long suspension stemming from a preseason incident.

In total, it was one of the weakest rushing attacks in the country. The Terrapins ranked No. 86 in the country in yards per rushing attempt at 3.8 and No. 96 in rushing yards per game at 134.8.

A mix of factors were to blame, perhaps. Maryland’s offensive line struggled with consistency throughout the season and it didn’t help that its two biggest playmakers, wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, were lost to injury midway through the ACC schedule.

And they now enter 2014 as a quartet competing against itself for carries behind what it hopes is an improved offensive line.

“We’re probably the most competitive group on the team...just because we’ve got so much depth,” Ross said after the spring game. “Everybody’s trying to succeed the other person. It’s a battle every time we go to practice because sometimes the running back group is in that situation where it’s you make one mistake you could come back out you might not come back on the field.”

It’s unclear how long it will take for Brown to fully reach football-ready shape or if a dual-back set is in store again for Maryland in 2014.

With Diggs and Long returning and the read-option offense likely to be back, the pieces are in place at the skill positions to compete offensively.

But weight still falls on the shoulders of this group of running backs.

“We work hard every day. We go out there and we give each other tips and everything,” Reid said. “It’s all fun and it’s all competition. We’re all a team.”