Maryland’s offense is going to look quite different in 2015.
Because of that, the ground attack will be more important than ever to the team’s success.
The 2014 season was extremely strange to say the least with several differing performances from the Terrapins running game. Running backs Brandon Ross and Wes Brown only had seven games in which they registered double-digit carries and only one of those games resulted in a tailback topping the century mark in yards (Ross had 10 carries for 108 yards and two touchdowns against Rutgers).
One of the main issues last season was consistency on the ground. Not even from a yardage standpoint, but in terms of the number of carries that Maryland’s running backs had. To put things into perspective, quarterback C.J. Brown led the team in rushing yards (539), carries (161), and rushing touchdowns (8). Granted, Maryland’s offense has run the read-option the last few years with Brown under center.
However, Maryland’s running backs haven’t exactly lit the world on fire when they’ve been given a chance to do so.
The 2014 season got off to a decent start as the Terps rushed for 285 yards (5.7 yards-per-carry) against James Madison in the season opener. Ross and Wes Brown made it look easy and the duo registered 80-plus yards apiece. Obviously, these types of numbers are to be expected when facing an FCS opponent in your season opener.
In Maryland’s second game against South Florida, offensive coordinator Mike Locksley’s group had 116 yards on the ground and only registered a pedestrian 2.9 yards-per-carry. Wes Brown did carry the ball 13 times for 61 yards (4.7 yards-per-carry). However, this was another game where Ross was completely non-existent (six carries for 25 yards). Between the James Madison and Rutgers games, Ross only topped the 40-yard mark once (six carries for 61 yards against Indiana) and never had double-digit carries.
On the contrary, Wes Brown did manage to have more carries (103 to Ross’ 86) and had double-digit carries in five games last season.
The true question heading into the 2015 season remains: how does Maryland maintain a consistent rushing attack and who should be atop the depth chart?
As was mentioned above, consistency with the running game was a major issue for Edsall’s squad in 2014.
In the majority of last season’s games, once Maryland got behind on the scoreboard, they began to throw the ball on most downs. With a somewhat-inaccurate signal caller like C.J. Brown chucking the ball downfield 30-40 times, your chances winning an offensive shootout aren’t exactly high.
Unless the Terps get down by multiple touchdowns early on, there’s really no reason to completely abandon the ground attack and throw on nearly every down. We saw that with C.J. Brown and it just didn’t work. Maryland will have a pure pocket passer in Caleb Rowe or Daxx Garman running the offense in 2015. However, neither quarterback has a full collegiate season under his belt, so he’ll need all the help he can get.
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In terms of which running back should get the call, it would appear that Ross is going to be the guy for Edsall heading into this season.
Maryland hasn’t had a overly productive rushing attack since the 2011 season when Davin Meggett carried the ball 171 times for 896 yards (5.2 yards-per-game) and four touchdowns.
Ross did turn in a fairly productive season in 2013 when Brown was suspended for the entire campaign. The Delaware native rushed 166 times for 776 yards (4.7 yards-per-carry) and four touchdowns. While Ross only had two games where he topped the century mark, he had double-digit carries in all but two games.
Running with two backs wasn’t the problem in 2014. It was the commitment to the ground attack.
Ross probably should get one final chance to be the top dog. Based off his 2013 season, it’s clear that he has potential to be a middle-tier tailback in the Big Ten. Now he’s never going to be the type of back that gets 25 carries every game and he shouldn’t be with a talented counterpart like Brown also in the stable.
If Edsall and his staff want a guy that carries the football that many times, Brown is probably better-suited for that role due to his overall strength and power.
When the season begins, Ross will likely be “the guy.” If Maryland doesn’t abandon the ground attack when they’re trailing early in games, the Terps could be very dangerous.