Oct 13, 2012; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Maryland Terrapins quarterback Perry Hills (11) receives the snap from Terrapins offinsive lineman Sal Conaboy (65) against the Virginia Cavaliers during the first quarter at Scott Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Frederiksen-USA TODAY Sports

Biggest Maryland Football Positional Battles

Running Backs

The Competitors:

1. (RS) Jr. Brandon Ross

2. Jr. Albert Reid

3. So. Jacquille Veii

4. So. Joe Riddle

5. (RS) So. Wes Brown

Right now, Maryland has a running back conundrum, though as I’ll explain in a bit it is not necessarily a bad one. The Terrapins return last years starter Brandon Ross and his two backups Albert Reid and Jacquille Veii (along with seldom used Joe Riddle). Ross is coming off a career year after rushing for 776 yards, 4.6 yards per carry, and four touchdowns, while Reid picked up the rest with 294 yards and two touchdowns on 4.2 yards per carry. Meanwhile, Veii rounded out the entire group with 39 carries for 146 yards.

Those numbers placed them 96th nationally in yards per game at 136, so there’s clearly substantial room for improvement. This number, unlike the one above, factors in that QB C.J. Brown was actually the second leading rusher at 576 yards per game, and it’s still pretty paltry. Maryland has the talent at running back, but figuring out how to best utilize it in conjunction with a mobile quarterback has been difficult. That’s where Wes Brown enters in.

Brown, a fan favorite at running back, was suspended before the season began for running from the cops, among other things. The university decided he was detrimental to their image then, but he’s back now and probably pretty hungry for carries. Brown represents the X-factor in this debate because he’s got the advantage of lack of evidence to suggest he can’t get the job done. From what we can remember, he’s a powerful back who has great vision in the open field, but he hasn’t played in awhile and it’s a limited sample size.

Ross and Reid both clearly have the leg up here, having run the offense more and both having more experience, but Brown is definitely going to be pushing for that spot. There were plenty of games where Reid and Ross just didn’t get the job done, and there’s a sad reality that running backs don’t just all of the sudden get amazing overnight. With underwhelming stats in the backfield, Brown may actually have an advantage if he has a strong spring.

Wide Receiver

The Competitors:

1.) Levern Jacobs

2.) Amba Etta-Tawo

3.) Marcus Leak

4.) Taivon Jacobs

5.) DeAndre Lane

6.) Deon Long (IR)

7.) Stefon Diggs (IR)

8.) Malcolm Culmer

9.) Nigel King

That list above us right now? That’s not even all of them; those are just the wideouts who factor in being major players. Last year it was generally assumed the leading receivers on the team would be Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, but injuries stunted those guys big time, and it ended up being Levern Jacobs who took over the mantle. That’s not to say Stefon Diggs, who missed the final six games of the season, didn’t tear it up; he was second on the team in yards despite missing that much time. And Deon Long finished fourth in total yardage.

Basically, Maryland is once again heading into the spring with more talent at the wideout position than (arguably) any team in the program’s history. What do you do with Levern Jacobs, who was dominant for the Terps once Stefon Diggs and Deon Long went out? Where does Nigel King, who missed a lot of the season but returned strong even at less than 100%, fit in? And Amba Etta-Tawo, despite all his dropped passes, actually put together two 100-yard games and finished third on the team in yardage despite having way fewer targets.

Those are three guys who could definitely start on a lot of teams, and yet Maryland has two players in Stefon Diggs and Deon Long who could start for NFL teams. Whenever they’re healthy, WR1 and WR2 are already penciled in for them. There’s no rush to come back for them, which is a great thing for the Terps, but in the meantime who gets the receptions? Marcus Leak was fantastic before he left the university for personal reasons, but now he’s back. Nigel King is finally healthy and ready to contribute as a bruising receiver. So many spots, and just not enough balls to go around.

The Terps were 50th last year in passing yards per game at 234, so there’s still room to optimize everything. With that much talent, the Terps ought to be in the top 10, easily, even if they have to adopt a Texas Tech offense to do so. But who gets the nod as starters? Well, with Diggs and Long out, you have to figure Nigel King, Levern Jacobs, and Amba Etta-Tawo are the top three receivers. Then it’s probably Marcus Leak, who has proven results even if he’s a bit rusty (this is assuming he’s still in shape). But after that, there’s no shortage of possibilities. If Diggs and Long are healthy to start the year, then King and Jacobs get pushed back, while Leak and Etta-Tawo are the odd men out. They’ve all shown it in flashes, so you can expect this to be a heated battle that necessitates watching.

Offensive Line

The Competitors:

1.) Sal Conaboy

2.) Ryan Doyle

3.) Michael Dunn

4.) Silvano Altamirano

5.) Andrew Zeller

6.) Damian Prince

7.) Larry Mazyck

8.) JuJuan Dulaney

9.) Evan Mulrooney

According to the depth chart, the starters are Doyle at LT, Altamirano or Mulrooney at LG, Conaboy at C, Zeller at RG, and Dunn at RT. That’s all well and good, but there’s virtually no chance that this is how it ends up. The listing on the depth chart doesn’t factor in a trio of studs coming in (Mazyck, Gray, and Prince) who will be vying for playing time right off the bat. You don’t bring in those guys without at least the minor expectation that they’re going to start very quickly.

Conaboy is the only one that’s virtually guaranteed to start right away. He’s got the experience and talent to merit the starting position at center. After that, it’s anybody’s guess. The left tackle and left guard positions are Doyle’s and Altamirano/Mulrooney’s to lose, but when you have a behemoth of a man in Larry Mazyck come in (with college experience), you have to figure he’s going to crack the depth chart somewhere. And of course, the RT position would be a great place for Damian Prince to get his hands dirty without getting exposed early on (if he’s ready).

Derwin Gray adds depth even if he isn’t ready right away, and JuJuan Dulaney switching over to guard (from tackle) does the same thing. But you have to imagine that five-star players want to start right away, especially offensive linemen. Once these three get onto campus, that depth chart is going to be summarily torn up. Or maybe not! Either way, it’s a great problem to have.

Tags: Damian Prince Maryland Football Maryland Terrapins Terps

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