Welcome to Maryland Tailback Roulette, a game of some amusement though debatable value a quarter of the way into the Terrapins’ season.
Maryland lists four —- FOUR! —- tailbacks as co-starters on this week’s depth chart. It’s all the usual suspects. There’s the preseason competition winner (Brandon Ross), the opening week starter (Albert Reid), the second and third week starter (Justus Pickett) and the guy whose per-carry average is nearly three yards ahead of his nearest competitor (Wes Brown).
Ross is the relatively new element in this mix. He missed the first two games with a hamstring injury, then worked on the scout team a week ago. He has yet to play in a college game.
Meanwhile, Reid started the opener and has one carry since. Pickett drew only four rushing attempts last week. And Brown has managed to average 5.9 yards per carry (to Pickett’s 3.2 and Reid’s 2.2) on 21 attempts the last two weeks.
A lot of times, obsessing over tailbacks can be a bit overrated. After all, running backs tend to only be as good as the offensive linemen in front of them.
However, this is a bit different since the offensive line hasn’t fluctuated much over the first few weeks. Freshman Mike Madaras has probably played somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of the snaps at left tackle. Josh Cary filled in a little at right guard against Connecticut, and Evan Mulrooney took one snap against the Huskies.
Mostly, though, the line functions as a control group, and the rushers’ respective numbers (as coaches so love to say) are what they are. Come Saturday, everyone will find out if the data points to date really matter all that much.
As for two non-changes on the depth chart …
* Fullback Tyler Cierski, who missed Saturday’s 24-21 loss to Connecticut with a concussion, remains atop the depth chart at fullback. Maryland used a lot of four wideout sets, as well as formations with three wideouts and tight end Matt Furstenburg, against the Huskies. If Cierski can’t go against West Virginia on Saturday, look for a lot of the same.
* Linebacker Kenny Tate, who could return from a knee injury this week, is not listed at the strong-side linebacker position. It will be curious to see how reps are split between him and sophomore Alex Twine if Tate indeed plays this week.
—- Patrick Stevens