(Ed. note: BlackHeartGoldPants did this awesome breakdown of their running back projections for Iowa, a team with tons of running back options. I decided to gank it for our site, since it was so great. All credit goes to the guys over there.)
Maryland football has depth at most positions, but they have a lot of depth at two positions: wide receiver and running back. Today, we’re going to deal with the latter, because it’s easier and probably going to be more fun. The Terps will likely have seven tailbacks on the roster this season, three fullbacks, and a quarterback who finished second on the team in carries. Those are a lot of players vying for carries, but not a lot to go around.
So let’s get 2013’s stats out of the way:
|5||Kenneth Goins Jr.||FR||RB||13||9||48||5.33||0||0.69||3.69|
And now for 2014’s post-spring game depth chart (HERE).
So who’s going to, realistically, play at all? Well, based on that depth chart there are some names we can mostly assume will be next to useless or not utilized in any meaningful manner. It’s more than awesome that Tehuti Miles is on the team, but there’s basically no chance he sees the field this season for the Terps outside of the practice squad. Same goes for Zimuzo Nwaigwe, who might end up playing some other position by the end of the year.
Now, Joe Riddle didn’t take a single snap last season and was a redshirt the year prior, so it’s highly unlikely Riddle will play much meaningful time at running back save for the scout team. That said, RB/ST coach Andre Powell has said he really does think Riddle is a running back through and through despite being recruited at another position. He may get a few carries, but they really will be negligible given the depth. Let’s just peg him at around ten to fifteen carries at best.
That leaves us with CJ Brown, Jacquille Veii, Brandon Ross, Albert Reid, and Wes Brown to split up the rest of the carries…
Maryland ran 890 offensive plays through 13 games last season, and 476 of those were rushing. That’s almost exactly the same number of rushing plays from 2012, where they had 472, so we can probably expect something very similar next season after two straight years of consistency. The Terps averaged 36.6 rushing attempts per game last season, and I do expect that number to probably rise closer to around 40 carries per game next year mostly because with Brown at the helm, they were almost always around 39 to 40 carries per game. Maryland has weapons at wideout, but in a zone read offense you have to rush a bunch to set up the big plays outside. Last year, they weren’t able to run as much as I think they wanted, so expect that to rise up. Brown averaged almost exactly 25 passing attempts per game all season long, so I presume that number only slightly increases. I fully anticipate this offense to bump up from 68.4 plays per game to around 70. That would give us a ratio of 42/28 rushing to passing.
I still think that could be close to 45/30, but history says otherwise under Locksley, so I digress.
Automatic QB Carries
With almost 100% certainty, CJ Brown will slot in at second on the team in total carries. The QB position accounted for 153 total carries (including sacks) in 2012, and in 2013 it accounted for 164. Here’s where we get into a bit of guesswork. During the nine full games that Brown was quarterback, he rushed it an average of about 15 times per game. If we assume he plays 13 games this season, that’s going to come out to around 186 carries per season. Considering QBs like Braxton Miller and Nick Marshall at Auburn rushed 171 times and 172 times respectively last season, that seems more realistic for Brown.
I still think that number will be a bit lower because of how many offensive options Brown has at his disposal, and because he may finally have come to grips with a simple fact: his body can’t handle that many carries. Some QBs are blessed with immaculate health, others aren’t. Brown’s tempering of carries should reflect that.
165 of 546 carries complete.
The fullback is going to eat a couple, so will the wide receivers
Last year, Maryland’s receivers ran the ball (be it through jet sweeps or options) 14 times. Stefon Diggs only played 7 games, but Levern Jacobs attempted some last year, as did Deon Long. I don’t figure Maryland to start using more of these plays; rather it feels like they’ll employ it at most once a game. 13 feels right. Let’s also factor in Kenneth Goins Jr., the team’s fullback who rushed 9 times last year. I expect that number to also remain stagnant or go down, since there are better options to run the ball both in the red zone and otherwise. The fullbacks will be blocking this year.
185 of 546 done
Brandon Ross Is Probably The Starter Here
Maryland may have tons of options at running back, but Brandon Ross is going to be their alpha option. Even though he’s not the most talented back in the NCAA, how can you not give Ross the nod over everyone else on the roster? He has improved every season (and been present), he’s a leader on and off the field, and he performs pretty well both in and out of conference. None of the other backs are wowing the coaches enough to commit to one, so I have every reason to believe that Ross is going to continue his role as starter.
Last year, Ross rushed for 166 times for 4.67 yards per attempt, good for 92nd in the nation. He missed one game and he left another two early, so that number should have been quite a bit higher. But if we take out those two games, Ross ran 155 times over 9 games. That eventually comes out to 17.2 attempts per game, which becomes 223 total carries if we extend it over 13 games. That number would put Ross in the top 25 range in terms of carries over a season. I could see the staff wanting to use all their options here and limiting Ross’ carries, so let’s go with 215 carries for Ross
Is that a little high for someone in a crowded backfield? Kind of, but kind of not as well. James White over at Wisconsin carried the ball 221 times backfield that featured one of the best tailbacks in the country last year, for example. Tre Mason at Auburn ran 317 times despite oodles of talent. So I’ll stick with that many carries, and if we combine Brandon Ross, the fullbacks/receivers and Brown, we’re up at 407 of 546 available carries.
The final 124 carries
Last year, Albert Reid carried the ball 70 times, averaging 5.3 attempts per game. The case could be made that Reid, who averaged 4.2 yards per carry last season, ought to be getting the ball more than 5 times a game. His production increased significantly, from 2.6 yards per carry his freshman year to 4.2 yards per game as a sophomore. Part of that is C.J. Brown’s addition to the team, the rest is Albert becoming a more complete runner. I think it’s fair to assume Reid is going to carry the ball more often than he did last year. Let’s peg him at 80. That gives the team 59 more carries to spread between Brown and Veii.
Here’s where it gets tricky, though. Jacquille Veii has been pretty electrifying during spring, and it’s easy to envision him become a much more dangerous option for the team with a better offensive line. I think his 39 carries last season will stay the same this year, as we see him employed in more specialized packages to take advantage of his shiftiness. Productivity-wise, he’ll be better, but I think we see Veii with 40 carries.
That leaves 26 carries for Wes Brown, the previously suspended stud back, to work his way back into playing shape. Brown really doesn’t seem like a coaching favorite right now, so while he used to be the most talented back on the roster, his odds of seeing significant carries are slim. A game or so worth of carries, maybe some spot duty due to injuries, seems apt for Brown during his comeback season
SO here’s the final breakdown
|5||Wes Brown ||SO||RB||13||26||111.8||4.3||1||2||8.6|
So there you have it, and before you say that 194.94 yards per game and such a drastic improvement rushing is unreasonable, factor in how bad Maryland was at running the ball last year. This seems like an unrealistic year-to-year jump, but it still would only place the Terps just inside the top fifty nationally. They’d be comparable with Syracuse and South Carolina in terms of rushing, and would have placed sixth in the Big Ten last season. Those expectations aren’t ridiculous, they’re expected with a group this deep quite frankly.