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Wes Brown is returning to Maryland football’s backfield, and things should only get better

He was suspended for the team’s first three games.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The Maryland football team hasn’t had much trouble getting things going on the ground in its first three games, averaging 5.8 yards per carry and tallying 11 touchdowns. The Terps have done this without arguably their best all-around running back in senior Wes Brown, who was suspended for the team’s first three games of the season. They’ll have him back this Saturday against Purdue.

Brown’s suspension was a continuation of the indefinite one he received from interim head coach Mike Locksley that caused him to miss the final two games of last season. He was also suspended for the entire 2013 season after he was charged with wiretapping, assault and theft, though all charges were later dropped. The coaching staff says he’s been a model citizen while sitting out these first three games.

“Wes has been outstanding this whole time,” head coach DJ Durkin told reporters Tuesday. “If you came out to our practice this whole season, you’d have no idea he wasn’t able to play in the games, just the way he practices and approaches it. I’m really proud of Wes. He’s taken on a leadership role on our team.”

Brown returns to a backfield that’s much different from when the one he left last season. Back then he and Brandon Ross were the the two workhorses, with other backs rarely getting carries. Ross graduated and in came some talented freshmen and grad transfer to bolster what’s now a deep rushing attack. Through three games, Maryland has spread the ball around.

Player Pos. Ht, Wt Year Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Hlt Yds/
Lorenzo Harrison RB 5'8, 193 FR 32 208 3 6.5 5.6 50.0% 0 (0)
Trey Edmunds RB 6'2, 223 SR 21 148 1 7.0 5.0 57.1% 0 (0)
Ty Johnson RB 5'10, 205 SO 21 129 1 6.1 5.1 42.9% 0 (0)
Perry Hills QB 6'2, 213 SR 18 128 1 7.1 4.8 55.6% 0 (0)
Kenneth Goins Jr. RB 5'9, 233 SR 11 85 2 7.7 8.8 45.5% 0 (0)
Tyrrell Pigrome QB 5'11, 196 FR 11 69 2 6.3 9.3 45.5% 1 (0)
Jake Funk RB 5'11, 207 FR 10 63 1 6.3 10.0 30.0% 0 (0)
William Likely III DB 5'7, 175 SR 2 15 0 7.5 5.5 50.0% 0 (0)
Levern Jacobs WR 5'11, 185 SR 1 10 0 10.0 3.0 100.0% 0 (0)
NOTE: Quarterback run totals above do not include sacks (which are counted toward pass averages below) or kneeldowns.

(Stats via Bill Connelly)

Freshman Lorenzo Harrison has been the team’s most explosive back, with sophomore Ty Johnson not far behind. Seniors Trey Edmunds and Kenneth Goins Jr. provide solid short-yardage power.

So where does Brown fit back in? Maryland listed six running backs on its two-deep this week, with three starters and three backups. Brown was in the latter category, though it’s unclear if that will matter at all.

Brown’s presence will help as the team enters Big Ten play, where opponents will be bigger and faster than those Maryland’s seen so far. The coaching staff will rotate him in with the rest of the backs, and while each may lose some carries, they’ll have plenty to do on special teams.

“That might be our five or six best special teams players as well,” offensive coordinator Walt Bell said. “They’re all contributing on special teams. They’re all playing a lot of volume even though their carries may not show it. They’re playing a lot of plays in a lot of different phases.”

The unit’s most notable special teams success came in Week 1 when Johnson blocked a punt against Howard, which Edmunds returned for a touchdown.

While Brown has been out of the public eye, his role at practice hasn’t changed. He’s still been rotating in with the first and second teams since the start of camp, and that should help.

“Your biggest fear as a coach is when you’ve got a kid who has to take extended time off, because when he comes back, two things happen,” Bell said. “No. 1, every time he touches it, he tries to hit a home run and score, and he loses patience. No. 2, you’re worried about extended layoff. You’re worried about when a kid hasn’t taken a collision to the football for an extended period of time.”

Brown hasn’t really been in an extended layoff because he still practiced with the team all through the spring and fall. Whatever his role is against Purdue, he should be ready to go.

“He’s been working hard this whole time, so it’s not like he’s been taking reps off or plays off,” wide receiver DeAndre Lane said. “He’s been practicing like he’s been playing in every game. You can tell there’s a little more fire, but other than that it’s the same.”