18 Til Kickoff: Finding Carries for Maryland's Stable of Running Backs

First it was D.J. AdamsThen it was Da'Rel Scott's return. Now it's Davin Meggett's triumph against the forces of athletic recession. It's safe to say Maryland's running back position is pretty well stacked, with two proven starters and one player that will at the very least steal goal-line carries and could be a future star.

So obviously, the question is raised: where exactly are all these carries for these three guys going to come from?

Last year, Maryland had their fewest rushes by running backs since Ralph Friedgen came to Maryland. Maryland's traditionally been a run-heavy team, and last year saw just 235 attempts by all of Maryland's running backs combined. The reasons for that are varied: a senior QB that gave Maryland a good chance to win, a poor offensive line, injuries, and early deficits that forced Maryland to pass for time reasons.

Friedgen's teams, though, average 350 carries total for every running back combined. With both Scott and Meggett now healthy, an improved offensive line, and a new QB, you'd expect the numbers to rise. But that history says that rise could be pretty drastic.

(First off, a digression: how Friedgen teams do with rushing. Maryland's gone over their average of 350 carries for running backs four times: they're 36-17, have been to a bowl game all four years, and have had three 9+ win seasons. Their five seasons under? A 30-29 record, two bowls, one 9+ win season. To state the obvious, Maryland's most success comes when they have a running game they can lean on heavily and use to control the clock.)

Let's look, for a moment, at Maryland's history when it comes to allocating carries:

2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001
RB Carries 235 322 412 367 329 326 407 410 340
QB Turner Turner Steffy/Turner Hollenbach Hollenbach Statham McBrien McBrien Hill
Record 2-10 8-5 6-7 9-4 5-6 5-6 10-3 11-3 10-2

When Maryland rushes their most - 400+ running back carries, let's say - they tend to have most of their success, with exception of the half-year that Jordan Steffy was in. So, what's in common in those 400+ years? Well, on the surface, not a lot.

In the first two years they cracked 400, 2002 and 2003, the Terps had Scott McBrien at QB: Maryland's most mobile QB under Friedgen, perhaps ever, and a master at running the option. Maryland wasn't a Navy during those years or anything, but option running was a serious alternative to passing and even traditional running. It ate into how much Maryland passed and gave the running backs a few extra dozen carries.

Part of the high total was Maryland's RB talent - Josh Allen, Bruce Perry, and Chris Downs - but there's a reason the carries dropped by 80 once the relatively stationary Joel Statham took over, even though Allen remained and Sammy Maldonado proved a reliable running option.

That explains those two, to some extent. But what about that last one in 2007? Jordan Steffy and Chris Turner are stone-footed compared to Statham. So why the increase?

Pretty simple: Maryland's never had more backfield experience than they did entering into the 2007. When they went into that year, also known as Keon Lattimore and Lance Ball's final seasons, they came in with one runner who had racked up 1700 yards in his career (Ball), one who had racked up 900 (Lattimore), and a highly-regarded, four-star redshirt freshman named Da'Rel Scott. With that much talent, combined with an uncertainty at quarterback, Maryland turned to the ground. And despite an iffy passing attack, it got them into a bowl game.

Hold on, does this sound familiar? Well, it should, Maryland's situation this year: Friedgen's most mobile QB since McBrien, maybe ever, figures to start at QB. There's uncertainty regarding his passing ability, and Maryland may be forced to turn to an experienced, talented backfield. Oh, and that backfield has one runner that has racked up 1700 yards in his career, one that has racked up 800, and a highly-regarded, four-star redshirt freshman named D.J. Adams.

It's a combination of all three of those years, really. Maryland's backfield is more experienced and talented than ever (almost), they'll be forced to run thanks to a mediocre passing game, and they'll have a mobile QB that can run the option. A .500 year and a bowl big might not be the final result, especially considering that in 2007 Maryland was coming off of a 9-win the campaign the year before. But after a measly 235 RB carries, don't be surprised to see around 400. No promises, but history often repeats itself.

The interesting thing about that: here's the breakdown of carries in 2007:

 
Ball 182
Lattimore 213
Scott 14

In other words, if this really something you can expect to happen, then don't expect a lot more than goal-line carries and the occasional carry for D.J. Adams. The majority of the work will still fall upon Scott and Meggett, at least if history is any indication and they can stay healthy. In fact, the most carries a full-time third string running back has received at Maryland: Josh Allen's 33 in 2006, when he was behind Ball and Lattimore as juniors. Of course, he was also a fifth-year senior and one of the most productive runners of the past two decades or so when he started, which Adams can't yet claim.

So, if you're worrying about how Maryland can get touches to both Scott and Meggett while integrating Adams into the offense, don't worry. Friedgen's done it before. Only Adams' integration might have to wait for a while.

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