Another week, another stellar running back as Rodney Smith and Minnesota come to College Park on Saturday.
This comes after facing Saquon Barkley and Markell Jones in consecutive weeks with very differing results.
The Maryland run defense completely shut down Jones to the tune of just 23 rushing yards on 12 carries. Just days later, Barkley ran wild on the Terrapins for 202 yards.
The Golden Gophers will attempt to dissect the Terps very much the same with Smith being the key cog.
Smith is one of the top running backs in the Big Ten and currently sits fifth in the conference in rushing (89.2 yards-per-game). He’s also second in the Big Ten in rushing touchdowns (five).
“Just like always, these guys are elusive,” defensive coordinator Andy Buh said. “They can break tackles. Several teams that they have played have had a hard time tackling them after first contact.”
Smith has definitely been impressive through five games this season.
He’s currently averaging 4.8 yards-per-carry and has topped the century mark twice. Against Colorado State, he finished 99 yards on the ground.
When you put on the tape of Smith, one thing that immediately jumps out is how much he thrives off of contact. He nearly always manages to keep his legs churning and fights for every extra inch.
Smith may only be 5’11, but he’s one of the toughest backs that the Big Ten has to offer.
“They have the ability to run between the tackles, bounce it out and get it on the perimeter and have enough speed to go,” Buh added. “We need to work on keeping good edges on our defenses, being stout inside, trying to funnel them into all the players inside.”
Smith has a multitude of different ways that he can burn opposing teams.
While he’s very powerful, he can also use his speed to bounce it to the outside or get to the second level. His smaller frame also allows him to be more elusive in both space and when running between the tackles.
Smith is a very crafty back that does whatever is necessary to gain extra yardage. That determined persona is going to give Maryland quite the challenge just a week after they saw a fair share of struggles against Penn State.
Minnesota is likely going to depend on Smith’s production even more with starting quarterback Mitch Leidner being sidelined with a concussion. Instead, the Golden Gophers will go with former walk-on Conor Rhoda under center.
Needless to say, the Terps are going to have their hands full with Smith.