A little bit of an audible this morning, and switching up the positional breakdown. It seemed wiser to go with the offensive line and running backs on consecutive days, since one is very dependent on the other for success.
Anyway, no one can pick up a preview magazine and take a look at an analysis of Maryland without reading how the Terps have a pair of 750-yard rushers to replace. It doesn’t take much work to discover the current tailbacks on the roster own a whopping 17 career carries.
But in experience at running back isn’t a problem so long as there is a strong offensive line in front of whoever is carrying the ball. And that’s why Morgan Green and Da’Rel Scott have a chance to be just as effective this year as Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore were a year ago.
It is a rare, rare running back who can thrive regardless of his line. Barry Sanders was one of those guys. There might not have been another one of his kind whose prime was in the last 25 years. It’s no insult to suggest Ball and Lattimore were definitely not Barry Sanders, especially since the second half of last year provides all the evidence on how they fared without a fully stocked line.
Lattimore ran for at least 80 yards in each of the first five games of 2007. He didn’t top 65 yards in his final seven outings (he missed the Boston College game). Ball rolled up his only 100-yard game of the season against BC, a feat made easier by Lattimore’s absence but one still impressive against a stout run defense.
The line is back mostly intact this year, with the notable loss of Andrew Crummey. And it leaves open the possibility Maryland could have its first 1,000-yard rusher since Chris Downs in 2002.
Whether it’s the shifty Scott or the more compact Green remains to be seen. And both players’ extensive injury histories – it seemed like one or both of them was always nicked up with something, be it an ankle sprain or a hamstring problem or whatever – certainly offers no reason to anoint either of them as the next big thing.
But if healthy, they should be productive. This is really a deceptive hole to fill, since Maryland knows who it wants to plug into the spot and has the supporting cast to make the newcomers look good from the start. Even better is that Scott and Green are complementary backs, whereas Ball and Lattimore’s skillsets tended to overlap each other.
Scott (blazing fast former track star) and Green (given a scholarship over Steve Slaton, formerly of West Virginia and now with the Houston Texans) have simple storylines that will be written about plenty in the next couple months. They’ll probably be able to craft new plots this fall – assuming they don’t get hurt.
They’ll be helped by stability at fullback, a position Maryland is in great shape at for the next couple years. Junior Cory Jackson is an anchor at fullback, and the spring game hinted he might even nab a few extra carries this year (he has six in his career, including four in the 2006 Champs Sports Bowl).
His more-than-capable backup is sophomore Haroon Brown, who stepped in and replaced the injured Jackson against Clemson last season.
A lot of folks wonder just how well Green and Scott will adapt to a starting role. The better question is just how much more effective they will be this year than in 2009, when the Terps will be without five senior offensive linemen.
In 2006, Ball and Lattimore combined for 334 carries, 1,558 yards, 4.7 yards/carry and 11 touchdowns.
In 2007, Ball and Lattimore combined for 395 carries, 1,573 yards, 4.0 yards/carry and 25 touchdowns.
The early prediction here is the Green/Scott combo to follow a similar trend. They should be an efficient pair in 2008 (though with plenty of end zone visits to go around). The greater concern will come in 2009, when despite all their “experience” and “knowing how to play” and whatever nonsense anyone wants to throw out, they’ll be less likely to have room to maneuver.
But that’s a future concern. Maryland has enough worry spots heading into 2008. It’s just that running back really isn’t one of them.
Coming tomorrow: Quarterbacks (really!)