Still searching for a feature running back, even with four co-starters listed for the second straight game, Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley is content with a rotating quartet, at least until one distinguishes himself.
Brandon Ross received 20 carries against West Virginia on Saturday in his collegiate debut, returning from a hamstring injury. Justus Pickett was featured against William & Mary, despite Albert Reid getting the starting nod, and Temple. Wes Brown starred against Connecticut, then gave way to Ross at Mountaineer Field.
All four have warranted playing time, Locksley said, and each bring something different to Maryland’s backfield. Rather than pigeonhole one into becoming a multi-dimensional back, the Terps would rather play each strengths at certain times.
“We’re basically doing the things they do well, as opposed to a guy doing all the different things we ask of that position,” Locksley said Wednesday. “We’d like one guy to take that position by the reins and do some things, but we want to put the best player on the field that gives us the best chance to be successful.
“In a perfect world, would you like a guy who can do everything? No doubt. But I don’t think any of them have mastered the skills necessary to play the position for all four downs.”
Ross had multiple highlight-reel runs against West Virginia, spinning and bouncing off the line, but none went longer than nine yards. He finished with a 2.6 yards-per-carry average and a team-high 52 yards.
“I’d love to have seen him make a few more big plays,” Locksley said. “Brandon’s the type of player, if you get him that amount of touches, he has the ability to make big plays. I thought it was good for him getting his feet wet in his first college game, but I think there’s room for improvement and he’ll continue to get better with experience.”
Whoever lines up against Wake Forest will be supported by a new-look offensive line, featuring Andrew Zeller and Mike Madaras, who were named starters earlier this week in place of De’Onte Arnett and Nick Klemm, respectively.
Madaras, a former Good Counsel teammate of Brown and wide receiver Stefon Diggs, said he “wasn’t really ready” for the news, expecting instead to grow in a backup role throughout his freshman season. He was told he’d start on the Sunday after the West Virginia game, during an offensive line meeting.
That he’s been tabbed to start, just four weeks into his college career, is extremely rare.
“You don’t want to make a living out of starting a bunch of true freshmen on the offensive line,” Locksley said. “That’s the one position where maturity and strength come as you develop within the system. Fortunately for us, Mike comes out of a good program, where they’ve done a pretty good job of bringing along their players from a technical and strength standpoint. That’s not something you’d want to do a lot, where you have too many true freshmen up front, where you could maybe get away with it at the perimeter positions.”
The Terps have more than excelled with Diggs at wideout. Now Madaras gets his shot, too.