Part of a position-by-position look at Maryland football this spring
Running down Maryland’s running backs …
Starters returning (0): None
Other notable returnees: TB Justus Pickett (74 carries, 274 yards, 1 TD; 10 receptions, 49 yards, 1 TD; 1 start), FB Tyler Cierski (4 carries, 5 yards; 1 reception, 5 yards, 1 TD; 1 start)
Starters lost (1): TB Davin Meggett (171 carries, 896 yards, 4 TD; 17 receptions, 141 yards, 1 TD; 11 starts)
Other notable departures: TB D.J. Adams (transferred to Portland State; 40 carries, 174 yards, 4 TD; 3 receptions, 16 yards), TB Jeremiah Wilson (transferred to James Madison; 5 carries, 16 yards; 1 reception, 3 yards)
Emerging names to know: TB Brandon Ross (redshirt freshman)
Career starts returning: 2 (Pickett 1, Cierski 1)
Career starts lost: 17 (Meggett 17)
There’s a new look to the Maryland backfield, in multiple ways. There will be time to delve into the Terrapins’ quarterback situation next week as spring practice winds down.
For now, though, it’s worth looking at a running back unit filled with youth.
Veteran Davin Meggett is gone after three reliable seasons and a fourth (2009) when he didn’t have any room to run thanks to a leaky offensive line. Take that season out, and Meggett’s chugged along to per-carry averages of 5.1, 5.7 and 5.2 yards – while playing in all 50 games in his career.
Perhaps he wasn’t the most explosive back, but he was exceptionally reliable. Maryland would no doubt he happy to find a guy to average 75 rushing yards a game again this season.
Fan favorite D.J. Adams, a solid short-yardage back, departed after last season to the Pacific coast and will play for Portland State. Change-of-pace back Jeremiah Wilson was barely used on offense in the second half of the season and also transferred.
All that remains from last year’s backfield situation is Justus Pickett, who averaged 3.7 yards per carry as a true freshman. That figure was buoyed by a strong day against Towson; take out the game against a lower-division opponent, and Pickett had 60 carries for 192 yards – 3.2 yards per rush on the button.
It’s not hard to guess what caused some of his problems. At 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, Pickett wasn’t the ideal size for a between-the-tackles rusher. He’s added some weight (about 10 pounds) and strength this offseason, and he figures to be more effective after a full year in the program.
He’s competed all spring with Brandon Ross, who at 5-foot-10 and 205 pounds looks the part of a rugged rusher. Why didn’t he crack the rotation last year? A bit of it had to do with the standard bugaboo for many young back: An inability to regularly pass protect. Plenty have overcome that problem before given time, so it’s hardly a blot on the redshirt freshman’s ability to produce in the future.
Like with Maryland’s wideouts, the spring competition isn’t a full glimpse into how things will look once the season starts. The Terps reloaded their running back depth with their signing class, and there are few positions where it’s easier to make an instant impact just a few months removed from high school than tailback (the pass protection caveat notwithstanding).
No matter who emerges as the primary rusher (and expect both Pickett and Ross to be factors in the chase for that job), Maryland does enjoy the services of a well-regarded fullback who was underutilized a year ago. Sophomore Tyler Cierski will likely have a greater impact this season in a more pro-style offense.