- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien hosted tailback Justus Pickett on his visit to College Park. He’s worked with the newcomer since the start of camp.

And he’s impressed with a trait certain to serve Pickett well as his career unfolds.

“You hear the word poise all the time,” the Maryland quarterback said. “I never really knew what it meant. I found out what it was when I saw Justus.”

O'Brien, of course, was received similar praise last season on his way to earning ACC rookie of the year honors. This year, Pickett is the freshman fitting seamlessly into the Terrapins’ offensive backfield as Maryland (2-2, 1-0 ACC) prepares to visit Georgia Tech (5-0, 2-0) on Saturday

Pickett earned the backup tailback job during camp and further established himself as a significant rushing option with 82 yards and a touchdown in Saturday’s 28-3 defeat of Towson. Coach Randy Edsall said Tuesday the Terps might prioritize starter Davin Meggett and Pickett going forward, a move that could marginalize red-zone back D.J. Adams.

After working as a change of pace during Maryland’s first three games, Pickett had 14 carries against Towson in his first extended action.

“That’s one of the things we had been talking about through the week, me getting some more reps to get more comfortable with the system and the speed of the game,” Pickett said. “Once I got into it, you could definitely tell I got used to it and my game really showed.”

It’s a skill set he brought to the Terps later than most of Edsall’s first haul of recruits.

Pickett said he wanted to concentrate on his senior season at Ardrey Kell High School in Charlotte, N.C., not the recruiting process. It was a wise choice; he rushed for 2,429 yards and 31 touchdowns to solidify himself as a Division I prospect.

By the time he started to take his official visits, Maryland wasn’t in the picture.

“The old offense really wasn’t my style, so I wasn’t really interested in them at the time,” Pickett said.

That changed when ex-offensive coordinator James Franklin left to take over at Vanderbilt and former coach Ralph Friedgen was subsequently fired. Edsall became Maryland’s coach, and new offensive coordinator Gary Crowton installed a system with several spread elements.

Pickett was on his official visit to Arkansas the week of signing day when Maryland receivers coach Lee Hull called him and asked him to take a deeper look at the Terps.

Rather than commit to the Razorbacks as he planned, Pickett came to Maryland. With the encouragement of former NFL running back Natrone Means, who was Pickett’s Pop Warner coach and played for Jacksonville when Edsall was on the Jaguars’ staff, Pickett became the last signee in the Terps’ class.

He also was the first true freshman on the field, returning a kickoff on the first play of Maryland’s season after impressing coaches and teammates in the preseason with his steadiness as he climbed the depth chart.

“He didn’t make a whole lot of noise coming into camp,” O'Brien said. “People knew who he was, but they saw on film as camp went on. About halfway through camp, it was like ‘This guy’s really good.’ He was busting out big run after big run. He continues to be that same guy. He just gets in there, asks for the play and executes it. He’s very dependable and really tough.”

At 175 pounds, Pickett isn’t as big as Meggett (215 pounds) and Adams (220 pounds). But after already making an impression in his first month, Pickett is poised to become a backfield mainstay for the Terps over the next few seasons.

“He’s going to tear it up the next few years,” wideout Kevin Dorsey said. “He reads the hole, he hits the hole hard. He’s quicker than a lot of people realize. The biggest thing is he’s small and some people say undersized, but he lowers his pads. He’ll fight for that extra yard and always fall forward. That’s a great asset to have, especially with a freshman.”