- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 11, 2012

Name a way to inject some life into its rushing attack, and Maryland probably tried it in the last month.

The Terrapins cycled through three starting tailbacks in September.

They juggled their offensive line during their bye week late last month.

They sifted through several offensive formations, some by choice and some out of necessity.

And still, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Terps continue to struggle.

“It’s not one thing or it’s not one person all the time,” coach Randy Edsall said. “It’s everyone taking a turn, it seems like at times.”

For all of Maryland’s feistiness as it enters Saturday’s trip to Virginia (2-4, 0-2 ACC), it is easy to imagine its most obvious area of trouble emerging as a greater shortcoming as the Terps (3-2, 1-0) delve deeper into their conference schedule.

Maryland ranks 116th nationally in rushing offense, and the four teams below the Terps are a combined 4-19. Only once in five games has Maryland reached the 100-yard barrier on the ground as a team.

The Terps have ripped off only eight runs of at least 12 yards, with their four inexperienced tailbacks accounting for just four.

The longest run of the season was 21 yards; every other ACC team has at least one of 40 yards.

In that light, it is impressive Maryland has already surpassed its victory total from a year ago. Without improvement, though, that success could easily stall in the second half of the season.

“It’s frustrating, but when you’re starting young players up front and the middle of your offense — from our center to our quarterback to our tailback — we have some guys who don’t have a lot of game experience,” offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said.

“The thing you’d like to be able to do is find a way to run the football to find a way to take some pressure off the young quarterback. We just haven’t been able to do it consistently.”

After both of last year’s starting offensive tackles (Max Garcia and R.J. Dill) transferred in the offseason, the line was not an obvious strength. It took four games for Edsall to opt for a youth, plugging freshmen Mike Madaras (left tackle) and Andrew Zeller (right guard) in place of upperclassmen.

Maryland did not have the choice to wait in the backfield, where quarterback Perry Hills was elevated to a starting spot after C.J. Brown’s preseason knee injury.

There were no illusions about the youth of the tailbacks; the Terps’ top four contenders at that position owned 74 career carries entering the season.

All belonged to Justus Pickett, a sophomore who the staff trusted enough to handle carries in the fourth quarter of all three victories. Pickett, however, averages only 3 yards a carry. Of the three freshmen in the rotation, only Wes Brown (4.5 per carry) is better.

“Every running back back there is [a sophomore] or younger,” right tackle Justin Gilbert said. “We don’t have a Da’Rel Scott or a Davin Meggett back there that’s been running the ball for four years for us.”

Perhaps Maryland already has a future stalwart rusher on its roster. Nonetheless, there does not appear to be an immediate fix to the running game’s problems.

It hasn’t taken a severe toll on the Terps yet. That doesn’t mean that it won’t even as Edsall acknowledged his green offense probably won’t blossom overnight.

“Those are things that take some time,” Edsall said. “We need to keep working at it and get better at it. We need to be able to run the football because I want to be a physical team.”

Note: Kicker Nick Ferrara (hip) will miss the rest of the season and leave the program at season’s end rather than pursue a fifth year with the Terps.

Ferrara is on track to graduate in December and could transfer elsewhere and become immediately eligible next year if he’s healthy.

Ferrara ranks ninth in school history with 30 career field goals.

“He’s going to finish his schoolwork and then come December — he doesn’t know if he’s going to be able to continue to kick anyhow,” Edsall said. “What he’s going to do is explore his options. It was a mutual discussion. We’re going to do everything we can to get him graduated and he’ll move on from there.”



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