Maryland running back Wes Brown rushed for 81 yards on 11 carries against James Madison on Saturday in his first game since 2012. (Nick Wass/AP)

Wes Brown’s first carry of the Maryland football season was a nondescript run to the right on third down and short in Saturday’s season-opening win over James Madison. The run for three yards and a first down completed Brown’s return to competitive football after more than a year away, but before it could sink in, he was taking a handoff on the next play and ripping off a 12-yard gain.

“Wes, I’m sure, was really excited to finally be back after missing last year,” Maryland left tackle Michael Dunn said. “He showed it. He had some really good runs, really tough runs.”

Brown, who was suspended by the university for the 2013 season for violation of the student code of conduct, ran physically in a number of short-yardage situations, while also showing elusiveness in the open field. He finished the game with 81 yards on 13 carries, and in doing so, announced himself as a legitimate playmaker for Maryland’s offense. The former Good Counsel star, who was not made available to reporters Tuesday, had already re-established himself during training camp as a hardened, passionate runner, but his showing against James Madison slightly exceeded how he practiced last week, Maryland Coach Randy Edsall said Tuesday.

“I think he’s just going to continue to get better,” Edsall said.

Still, the backfield remains crowded. Starter Brandon Ross had 86 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown against James Madison. Albert Reid was deployed for a goal line situation and had five carries for 23 yards and a touchdown.

The Post Sports Live crew offers best-case-scenarios for Maryland in its first season in the Big Ten conference. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)

Ahead of Saturday’s game at South Florida, Edsall remains committed to giving all three running backs carries. That Ross and Brown, who is listed third on the depth chart, received nearly the same number of carries against James Madison was indicative of the flow of the game. Edsall said that whether Brown gradually sees more carries as the season wears on will be largely situational.

“I think we have three tailbacks that we can utilize, and we’re going to utilize all three of them to try and keep them as healthy as we can for the long haul,” Edsall said. “We knew what Wes could do. . . . It’s great to have Brandon and Albert and Wes because you can keep guys fresh, and sometimes it might be that if there’s somebody who has a hot hand, [he] might get a few more carries.”

Maryland’s running game racked up 285 yards in the opener, with Ross, Brown and quarterback C.J. Brown — who rushed for three touchdowns of his own — combining for 228 on 36 carries. Establishing the run will be key again this week against what Edsall expects to be an athletic and quick South Florida defense.

Reinstated in January, Brown had a productive spring and arrived for fall camp in shape, and Edsall almost immediately said he would be in the mix with Ross and Reid.

Ross said after Saturday’s game he was content with how the carries were split up in the opener. He noticed Brown was able to contain his emotion during his first game back since November 2012.

“He was pretty calm. He really just wanted to make sure that he was ready, and when he came out there, it didn’t seem like he got too high or too low,” Ross said. “He just went out there and balled.”

TERRAPINS NOTE: Coach Randy Edsall said wide receiver Taivon Jacobs will have surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee on Thursday.

Edsall had announced Monday on Twitter that Jacobs will miss the rest of the season because of the injury suffered Saturday against James Madison.

True freshman quarterback Will Ulmer has been moved to wide receiver.