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Terps Football Spring Preview: Running Backs

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Maryland running back Ty Johnson in the open field.
USA Today Sports

Graduated: Brandon Ross

Returning: Ty Johnson, Wes Brown, Kenneth Goins Jr., Andrew Stefanelli, Marcus Smith, Tehuti Miles

Incoming: Jake Funk (Early enrollee), Trey Edmunds (Graduate transfer)

Last season:

Senior Brandon Ross was by far Maryland’s most effective rusher in 2015, leading the Terps in carries (150), rushing yards (958) and rushing touchdowns (10). Ross helped Maryland finish fifth in the Big Ten in rushing yards (2,408), third in rushing yards per game (200.7) and second in yards per carry (5.5).

Ross’ signature performance came at home against Indiana where he used 19 carries to rush for 245 yards--the fourth most in a single game in program history--and three touchdowns. But last season Ross was virtually a one-man show for the Terps, whose second-leading rusher was quarterback Perry Hills with 535 yards on the ground.

Many thought Wes Brown could break out in his junior season, but the Baltimore native never got going and never rushed for more than 74 yards before being suspended for Maryland’s final two games of the season for violating university rules.

Freshman Ty Johnson proved to be the more effective backup runner and made the most of his sparse opportunities. Johnson led all Terps running backs with a 7.1 yards-per-carry average and finished the season with 250 yards and three touchdowns in his first year in College Park.

Top Storyline:

Will Wes Brown be back and will a bonafide starter emerge in spring?

When the program levied down Brown’s suspension near the end of last season, it was deemed indefinite, and while no announcement that the suspension was lifted has been made, the soon-to-be senior is still listed on Maryland’s roster and he will be at spring practices.

But there’s no telling what Brown’s role in the backfield will amount to in Walt Bell’s offense despite being the longest-tenured runner left in College Park. Brown will be vying for carries with Johnson, Trey Edumunds--a fifth-year graduate senior transfer from Virginia Tech--and early enrollee true freshman Jake Funk.

Funk is the reigning Maryland Gatorade High School Player of the Year after a record-setting senior season at Damascus High School (Md.) and will have a chance to get a leg up on the rest of the running backs that signed with the Terps’ 2016 recruiting class, which could go a long way in helping him establish early playing time.

Edmunds is the son of former Terps All-ACC tight end Ferrell Edmunds and at 6-foot-1, 215 pounds gives Maryland a nice option between the tackles. Edmunds got his college career off to a fast start by rushing for more than 600 yards as a redshirt freshman in Blacksburg, but he saw his numbers and touches decrease with the Hokies over the last three years and decided to come to College Park in search of more opportunity.

And that leaves us with Johnson, the Fort Hill High School (Md.) product who adapted quickly when thrust into action last season and surprised many with his quickness and ability to finish runs.

All bring something different to the table, but none jump off the page at this point as an every-down back.

Prediction:

Head coach D.J. Durkin and the rest of his offensive staff are looking to replace a lot of output since Ross won’t be returning, and it’s likely that they’ll turn to their entire stable of backs to do so.

Brown is the most complete back left of the Terps roster because of his ability to block, run inside and outside the tackles and catch passes out of the backfield. However, he’s had ample opportunities at Maryland and has yet to emerge as a serious rushing threat. Mental lapses on the field and disciplinary issues off of it have also been an issue for Brown, so it’s hard to peg him as the frontrunner to start.

Edmunds and Johnson could make for a nice thunder and lightning combo with their mix of size and speed. And if Funk picks up on the offense quickly, he would make for a great scatback in Bell’s quick-hitting offense.

There will be even more of a logjam in the backfield once 2016 signees Lorenzo Harrison and Laderrien Wilson join the Terps in the summer. All of the tailbacks in spring practice will be looking to separate themselves before then and the competition should breed good results for Maryland’s offense.

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