Over the past several years, the Maryland backfield has produced few -- if any -- concerns.
Guys like Da'Rel Scott and Davin Meggett were known quantities. When they finished their careers, they ended up as some of the top rushers in school history.
But headed into this season, there are far fewer players established in the backfield. Scratch that. There are no established players in the backfield. Of the four running backs competing for playing time, true sophomore Justus Pickett is the only one with game experience. Brandon Ross, who has turned heads during fall camp, is a redshirt freshman. Wes Brown and Albert Reid are two very promising true freshmen who have earned praise so far this fall.
"I had to take on a leadership role just get everybody in the same level because you really can't go through one season with one running back," Pickett said in a recent phone interview. "Running back is a position where you need a good amount of depth there, so I just wanted to come in with great focus and motivate my fellow running backs."
"It's definitely strange," Pickett said. "I knew going into it that I was going to be the oldest guy but now that it's here, the coaches look upon me to do things the older guys would have to do. I have to assume that responsibility. With C.J. (Brown) going down, it's even more responsibility on me that I have to pick up."
Pickett has no problems with that. Even though he has only played one season, he can share some advice with the younger players. Last year, he ran for 274 yards and a touchdown on 74 carries behind Meggett. Though he does have game experience, coach Randy Edsall has also praised the play of Ross, Brown and Reid as well throughout camp. Ross seems to be the most likely candidate to start the season opener, though Edsall has called Ross and Pickett co-No. 1 starters.
“I’ve been really impressed with Brandon," Edsall told local reporters last week. "Again, he’s still got things he’s got to work on, but ... he’s got the ability to break a run just about every day. I like his speed, I like his power, but we’ve got to get him to be a better blocker, a better pass protector. But as far as carrying the ball, I really like the things that I do see out of him.”
No matter who starts, the Terps are going to feature various running backs. Both Pickett and Ross said the competition has made them better.
"We all feed off one another," Ross said in a phone interview. "If one of us makes a big play, the other one wants to go in the next play and counter it. It's a friendly competition. We all want to do well but it's a battle out there."
And given the loss of Brown, there may be more placed on the shoulders of the running backs.
"We want it that way," Ross said. "We want to be able to run the football when we have to and when we want to. We definitely take pride in that, and we want there to be pressure on us."