A few weeks ago, I decided to re-watch Maryland's win over Penn State, to practice charting plays before the new season. Maryland started the game on offense entirely in a four-wide receiver set, calling four screen passes on its first six plays. None of them worked, and Maryland punted.
On the second drive, Maryland did it again -- four wide receivers, one running back and a punt.
On the next offensive series, the Terps brought out three wide receivers, one running back and a fullback. The offense immediately improved, with an extra blocker in Kenneth Goins Jr. to help deal with Penn State's considerable front 7 talent. The Terps drove down the field and scored a touchdown, with two key C.J. Brown runs
On those first two drives combined, Maryland took 10 plays to get 18 yards of offense. On the third, the Terps went 43 on just seven plays.
Goins proved in 2014 he's one of the country's best fullbacks, blocking out of the backfield, making plays with the ball and getting game-winning punt blocks. With Maryland's losses at halfback this offseason, Goins should play a bigger role in 2015 as a junior.
Here are the numbers from Maryland football's backfield in 2014, via Bill Connelly. Most of it is pretty intuitive, but let's take a minute to explain the three that might stick out.
Opportunity rate is the percentage of a player's carries that go at least five yards. On running plays, those first five yards are considered the responsibility of the offensive line, so opportunity rate is most useful evaluating that unit. But by comparing a player's individual opportunity rate to that of the team, we can find which players were most and least efficient within the unit. For reference, Maryland's team opportunity rate was 37.3% in 2014, No. 85 in the nation.
Highlight yards per opportunity measures how many yards the player gets after 5 yards. In other words, it measures a running back's explosiveness.
EQPoints attempts to measure a player's total impact by assigning point values to yard lines. For more on that, read this or buy Bill's excellent Study Hall, there is a section directly dedicated to PPP (points per play).
|Wes Brown||RB||6'0, 210||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9374||103||356||6||3.5||3.0||30.1%||24.5||2||1|
|Brandon Ross||RB||5'10, 210||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||NR||85||419||4||4.9||5.6||37.6%||26||5||3|
|Kenneth Goins Jr.||FB||5'9, 230||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8471||14||62||0||4.4||5.6||28.6%||3.4||0||0|
|Caleb Rowe||QB||6'3, 215||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8475||12||9||0||0.8||3.1||8.3%||0.6||1||0|
|Joe Riddle||RB||6'1, 210||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8019|
|Ty Johnson||RB||5'10, 173||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8569|
C.J. Brown was Maryland's best rushing weapon in 2014, and it was not particularly close.
If not for the fumbles, Brandon Ross would be a perfectly fine No. 1 option for the Terps.
Ross, at Media Day:
"A big thing with me last year was I put the ball on the ground a lot so I'm going to make sure I don't turn over the ball because that's costing to my offense."
Brown was the most explosive player out of the backfield, but the fullback Goins managed to keep up with Ross, Maryland's most consistent big-play halfback.
Wes Brown did not have a good year, but the talent's clearly there. With another year of experience and a better offensive line, the potential for big improvement is promising.
Losing C.J. Brown will hurt Maryland's backfield, but the Terrapins have three experienced players in the backfield able to share the load. With Goins, Ross and Brown and a stronger unit up front, there's reason to think the Terps will at least be able to match last season's production on the ground.
And bottom line, if Ty Johnson can be 1/10th as explosive as his highlight videos, Maryland's running backs will be just fine.