Maryland's running back situation has been a little bit curious over the past few years. They've had a three-headed monster of talented players in Brandon Ross, Wes Brown and Albert Reid (mostly featuring the first two), but haven't quite been able to turn the ground game into a consistent force.
They'll try and change that this season, bringing in experienced running backs coach Terry Richardson and returning their core group of players from the 2014 unit. That group will entirely be made up of upperclassmen this year, so bringing in at least one running back (and as many as three) was the goal for Randy Edsall and Maryland. Even if Jacquille Veii switches back from wide receiver, the Terrapin backfield would be comprised entirely of upperclassmen -- not a bad thing for 2015, but something to work on for the years beyond that.
To address this need, Maryland targeted a few local and national prospects. They offered St. Aquinas (Fla.) running back Deltron Sands and Wake Forest-Rolesville (N.C.) star Bryce Love in late February, and Sickles (Fla.) prospect Ray-Ray McCloud III in early March. Sands committed by the end of May, giving Maryland their requisite one back in the class -- with the ability to take another if they were wowed by a prospect.
Wowed they were, as small school running back Ty Johnson, out of Fort Hill (Md.) showed up to a camp on June 8 and earned a scholarship offer. He committed on the spot, but Maryland was still willing to take a third if it was one of their two preferred targets.
Those would be McCloud and Oscar Smith (Va.) prospect Deshawn McClease, both highly-rated players who included Maryland among their finalists. Neither were expected to end up in College Park, and neither did -- McCloud committed to Clemson on June 28, and McClease pledged to Virginia Tech on July 15.
To make matters worse, Sands decommitted in early September after receiving an offer from Louisville. He later signed with Oregon State and new head coach Gary Andersen. Maryland ended up with just Johnson in the class, declining to pursue what would have been a likely commitment from local back Kesean Strong (who ended up with Old Dominion).
Maryland 2015 running backs in review
Who's leaving: Tyler Cierski
Who's coming in: Ty Johnson, three stars, No. 54 running back, No. 18 player in Maryland.
Major targets missed: Deshawn McClease (Virginia Tech), Ray-Ray McCloud III (Clemson), Bryce Love (Stanford)
Other players with offers: AJ Turner (South Carolina), Taylor Thomas (Oregon State), Andre Robinson (Penn State), Corey Dauphine (Texas Tech), Johnathan Sutton (North Carolina), Javarius Davis (Auburn), Karan Higdon (Michigan), Aca'Cedric Ware (USC), Tristian Houston (Texas)
Projected 2015 depth chart:
|1||Wes Brown||Junior||Kenneth Goins||Junior|
|2||Brandon Ross||Senior||Andrew Stefanelli||Junior|
Is the unit better or worse than 2014? Better. Add Ty Johnson to the halfback rotation, lose Tyler Cierski (a once highly touted fullback who lost the job to Goins while injured and never fully recovered) and all that changes is the addition of one more weapon in the backfield. Johnson may not yet be ready to contribute at the Big Ten level, but Brown, Ross and Reid have another year of experience under their belts, and with a new position coach we may finally see one of them break out.
2015 Signing Day Grade: B-. Maryland would have liked to grab at least one other of their running back targets, but Johnson appears to be an extremely good find. Completely unknown when the Terrapins offered him, his highlight reel quickly spread and he saw his rankings rise not too long after. The Terrapins already have a 2016 running back commitment in Lorenzo Harrison, lessening their need for more than one back in the 2015 class, and Johnson could be a special player down the line.