- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 22, 2012

Justus Pickett received immediate on-field experience last fall at Maryland.

The 5-foot-10 tailback also learned something crucial as he slogged through a season as Davin Meggett’s immediate backup.

“It wasn’t too bad for being as light as I was, but I wouldn’t have minded having 10 more pounds on me,” Pickett said.

Who could blame him? At 175 pounds, Pickett was especially undersized for the rigors of running up the middle for the Terrapins. Now at 185 pounds (and aiming to add enough muscle to play between 190 and 195 in the fall), Pickett capped a solid spring with an 18-carry, 70-yard outing in Maryland’s spring game Saturday.

It was a statistically prolific day for few players, and Maryland didn’t show many bells and whistles with new coordinators on offense (Mike Locksley) and defense (Brian Stewart), but it did offer a slight preview of how the Terps’ backfield situation could play out next season.

That’s important, since quarterback C.J. Brown has more rushing attempts and yards than all of Maryland’s running backs combined.

Meggett graduated, and D.J. Adams and Jeremiah Wilson transferred, leaving Pickett the only holdover from last year’s stable of rushers. But while Pickett impressed at times early and was the Terps’ primary kickoff returner, he managed only 19 carries for 38 yards in the season’s final four games.

Overall, he had 74 rushes for 274 yards and a touchdown – numbers Maryland is eager to see improve as it shifts to a pro-style offense.

The stronger Pickett might have worked his way into a position to offer significant progress next year.

Justus is a much different running back right now,” coach Randy Edsall said.

Maryland will have other options. Redshirt freshman Brandon Ross produced one of the two touchdowns in the spring game and accounted for 46 yards on 14 carries.

Newcomers Wes Brown and Albert Reid, a pair of well-regarded local products, will arrive in the summer and have the opportunity to contend for carries as freshmen.

Still, it appears Pickett is the most likely rusher to begin camp atop the depth chart, and he might now have the heft to remain there.

“Even for his size, he’s still really strong,” sophomore fullback Tyler Cierski said. “In practice, he’s always going up against the linebackers and holding his own. He’s become a lot more physical. He still has the ability to juke someone out of their shoes all the time, but he’s got that extra aspect of his game now. He can put his shoulder down and really run through people.”

It’s a part of Pickett’s physical maturation that needed to come. After all, Maryland probably will look to him for some guidance for the precocious backfield it likely will trot out in the fall.

“I guess I’m one of the older running backs now,” Pickett said. “I’m only going to be a sophomore. It’s definitely ridiculous, but I have to step up and take that role.”

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