The breakdowns in Maryland’s running game are so prevalent that the Terrapins can’t simply pinpoint and fix them like a rundown car part. Responsibilities are missed, individual technique and fundamentals need to be cleaned and shored. As a result, the Terrapins are averaging just 86 rushing yards per game, which ranks last in the ACC and 116th out of 120 FBS teams nationally.
But, as offensive coordinator Mike Locksley noted Wednesday, there is a bright side. In Maryland’s three wins, running back Justus Pickett has been able to seal the deal for the Terrapins.
“He’s been the guy who’s been out there when we need to do it,” Locksley said. “He’s been a guy who’s been pretty steady. A lot of it starts with his game experience. He’s only a sophomore, but he played a lot of ball last year. It’s allowed him to handle things over the course of this year.”
Pickett has solidified wins over William & Mary, Temple and Wake Forest with short fourth-quarter touchdowns. He has more carries in the final period than fellow running backs Albert Reid, Wes Brown and Brandon Ross combined.
“It’s a matter of trust in crunch time, knowing that he’ll be where he’s supposed to be,” Locksley said. “We’ve had to throw the ball and he’s the most reliable pass protector, he’s been the guy who’s been out there in those situations. The more you do your job consistently, and have production doing it, the easier it is for us to put you out there as a position coach.”
Locksley said that Reid, a true freshman like Brown, should maintain his short-yardage role, but echoed Coach Randy Edsall’s statement that Brown and Pickett will shoulder a heavier workload from here on out.
“They make the least amount of mistakes,” Locksley said. “That’s the thing for us, when you look at us across the board, it’s not just one guy or one position. During the course of the game, we have enough mental assignments, where a guy goes the wrong way, blocks the wrong guy, doesn’t take care of his responsibilities. We have to be pretty perfect, so those two guys have been the most steady in terms of their assignments.”
But Locksley sees promise among his young running back corps, currently four deep, all four still listed as co-starters on the latest depth chart. Ross will suit up in just his third collegiate game against Virginia, which will be Brown’s sixth game and Reid’s fifth.
“There will be a light at the end of the tunnel gaining experience,” Locksley said, “which will be very fruitful of us.”