One of the big storylines of spring ball, the summer, and Maryland's upcoming season was (and will be) the return to health for the Terps' star senior running back, Da'Rel Scott. Last season, Scott missed five games with a broken wrist, and during those five games Maryland nearly completely abandoned the run.
Now that he's back, the Terrapins figure to run a much more balanced offense, and that can only be a good thing. Plus, he's completed rehabbed and faster than ever before, thanks to running indoor track in the winter - he says his 40 is under 4.3. Clearly, Scott's on pace for a monster year.
But wait, just one thing: before Scott was injured, does anyone else remember him getting benched for fumbling the ball consistently? Am I the only one? I hate to be a downer, because I play that role way too much as it is, but I can't help think about that every time I think about Scott's past year.
First off, it's worth noting that, post-injury, Scott didn't fumble the ball once. It's also worth mentioning that a grand total of three fumbles really isn't that bad (just ask Adrian Peterson).
But it is also worth noting that Scott had such a bad stretch of fumbles last year that it got him essentially benched for three straight games, despite obviously being Maryland's most effective runner in the time frame.
It started against Middle Tennessee State, when Scott fumbled the ball away twice. He was benched after the first one in the early second quarter, only to come back out to start the second half. That didn't last long until he fumbled another one in the middle of the third quarter, and that was the last time he saw the field that game.
Obviously, in a game where Maryland only lost by one point, those fumbles were huge. That's when the stories started of Scott carrying a football around campus, to make sure he didn't do it again. Next week, though, he did it again.
Maryland was down 17-13 to Rutgers as the third quarter wound down. Scott was given a carry on second and twelve, and fumbled the ball away. Rutgers scored on the ensuing drive (only a field goal, granted) and Maryland really never mounted another drive. Scott, unsurprisingly, was benched again.
Then came the Clemson game. Davin Meggett started in place of Scott; DRS only received three carries before breaking his wrist in the third quarter.
What might be lost in that entire sequence is that the fumbles didn't greatly diminish Scott's rushing value during that period. Despite the problems of the offensive line, in his first five games he ran for 297 yards on just 54 carries; that's a very good 5.5 yards per carry. Remember that Davin Meggett, his backup, ran for 338 yards all year, on just a 3.4 yards per carry average.
And, surprisingly, Friedgen still saw fit to bench him against Middle Tennessee State and Rutgers. The move almost seemed a power play, a flailing attempt to resecure the order of the locker room. And, evidently, it didn't work.
Is a two-game, three-fumble series of games a bit of a stretch to call a "story line"? Probably, a little. But if Scott really is 100% healthy and even faster than before, he's going to be a very big problem for defenses. In fact, if last year's fumbleless plays are any indication, he was still all-ACC caliber back, and he might've just gotten better in the past offseason.
If that's the case, then you can expect a pretty great year from DRS, who seemed unaffected by the poor line play. In the first three and final two games of the season last year - that is, the games unaffected by fumbles - he had 403 yards, averaging 5.6 yards per carry, and was on pace for 173 carries. Extrapolate that out over twelve games, and he would've had 967 yards last year. Another year like that places him at fourth on Maryland's all-time rushing list, ahead of Lance Ball and behind just Steve Atkins, Charlie Wysocki, and LaMont Jordan.
Actually, that's a tad conservative. His workload was reduced because Maryland abandoned the run early and often last year; if his workload was more like what it was in 2008-09 (208 carries) he'd have 1164 yards, which - though not enough to pass Atkins or Wysocki, and still not close to Jordan - would've been good for fourth best in the ACC last year, and be Maryland's fifth-best rushing season ever. Even that could be considered conservative - with Jamarr Robinson at QB, Maryland may look to run even more than they looked to throw last year, and his numbers could go up even more. Talk about going out with a bang.
But fumbling problems even got Adrian Peterson's workload reduced, and if they rear their ugly head again for Scott, he might see his carries take a dive, too. That'd be a shame for everyone involved, because Scott figures to be at his best since becoming a Terp. For everybody's sake, let's hope he's over it.