Ask Wes Brown what sets him apart from his fellow running backs, and you likely won’t get much of a boisterous, self-fulfilling answer. Everyone has power, the Maryland true freshman says. Everyone runs well and possesses great hands.
“The only thing that sets me apart is that I’m probably the tallest,” Brown said.
Three days removed from Maryland’s 20-18 loss to North Carolina State and just hours after Coach Randy Edsall informed Brown that his 121-yard, one-touchdown performance had earned him the starting job against Boston College this weekend, Brown still doesn’t think he did enough to be named the Terrapins’ first-string running back. He was surprised when Edsall broke the good news.
After Saturday’s game, Brown said he felt “sick” over a fourth-quarter fumble that, at worst, cost the Terrapins precious time as they aimed to close out a slim, one-point win. But his overall performance now seems like a tip-of-the-iceberg situation for the Good Counsel graduate.
Nursing a shoulder injury that kept him out against Virginia and had him listed as questionable against the Wolfpack, Brown became Maryland’s first 100-yard rusher since the 2011 season, plowing through holes opened up by the Terps’ offensive line, running deceptive counters behind backup quarterback Devin Burns in the zone-option offense, bowling over seasoned defenders like a wrecking ball. Offensive lineman Justin Gilbert compared Brown to former Maryland running back Davin Meggett.
“As he got into Saturday’s game, coming off that injury that he had, it just allowed us to get him some more work,” Edsall said. “I think that total package of, when you’re running the read zone, a defense has to make a decision, and one of the decisions is, ‘Who are they going to let run the ball for the most part.’ Wes is talented. I think Wes can have that kind of production without Devin, and I think he’ll have that kind of production with Devin, which was proven.”
Having Burns around certainly helped against N.C. State. Maryland’s ground game strung together by far its most productive of the season once Hills tore his ACL in the second quarter.
“It’s a huge confidence boost,” Gilbert said. “To be able to be a two-dimensional offense, it sets each other up. If you can run the ball really well, then the defense will start stacking the box. To be able to do that just helps out, opens up more plays we can run, the more we can do with an offense.”
Brown had 11 rushes of at least five yards and notched a one-yard touchdown, soaring over the pile after he had been stuffed on the previous play. Burns, meanwhile, had 18 carries for 50 yards, including a 23-yard burst, Maryland’s longest rushing play this season.
“You can’t key on one guy without being able to control him,” Brown said. “Once you control that guy, you have another to worry about it. They had to pick and choose which poison to take.”