Maryland's safety net shrinks with running back transfers

The competition for carries at Maryland has thinned out considerably since the Terps ended spring practice a little more than a week ago.

The school announced Tuesday that junior Jacquille Veii plans to transfer before the start of the next season. Veii, who moved to running back in a more permanent role this spring after spending a large portion of 2014 at wide receiver, is the second backfield defection in less than a week. On Friday, senior Albert Reid decided to use his final year of eligibility elsewhere.

The Terrapins aren't hurting for bodies at running back. Wes Brown and Brandon Ross both return after combining for 775 yards and 10 of the team's 21 rushing touchdowns a year ago. But for a program that was hoping to have a more physical presence on offense in its second run through a Big Ten schedule, the post-spring departures could cause depth issues during the weekly grind of the regular season.

Veii established himself as one of Maryland's most dynamic and versatile offensive weapons during the past year. He caught 16 passes for 230 yards and ran the ball 19 times for 105 yards. His speed gave the Terps a slightly different look in the backfield compared to the more downhill approach of the other backs. Veii ran the ball 10 times in the team's spring game earlier this month and looked to be fully in the mix for a good share of the reps next fall.

"I think Jacquille is a young man who is very talented," head coach Randy Edsall said following the scrimmage. "He's just got to understand you don't need to always make the big play. I love his desire and his passion and what he does out there."

The three healthy running backs in spring practice split their reps evenly, according to Ross. He and Brown, who missed the entire spring while recovering from labrum surgery, are expected to battle for the top spot on the depth chart when Brown gets healthy. Both Ross and Edsall said they were looking forward to a competitive battle for playing time during the season.

"We're all talented and we all make plays," Ross said. "It's always been competition every year I've been here so it's all the same."

The competition will be cut in half with the exits of Veii and Reid, who had a team-high 16 carries during the spring game.

Maryland's running game was among the worst in the country last season (ranked 111th nationally with 121.8 yards per game). A better-stocked offensive line and a sharpened focus on getting tougher this spring led to some optimism in College Park that those numbers would get better.

Losing Veii and Reid doesn't kill the possibility that the Terps can improve on the ground, but it seriously limits their safety net when dealing with injuries or routine wear and tear.