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Maryland football has run well for years, but now has a deep backfield

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Recruiting six running backs in two cycles has made quite the difference.

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Maryland Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports

If there’s one thing Maryland has been able to do consistently well over the past several years, it’s been running the football.

There have been some good running backs in College Park since 2013, but there hasn’t been a blue-chip recruit in the Maryland backfield in quite some time. This means the staff has either identified prospects who were better than their recruiting ratings or they simply got lucky. The reality is probably a bit of both, but isn’t that what good recruiting is all about? Whatever the reason, it’s notable because that hasn’t happened at the quarterback position in a long time.

While Maryland’s running back and quarterback recruits have produced different results on the field, they follow a similar trajectory on paper, sitting right around average before taking an upward turn.

2013

With Brandon Ross entering his redshirt sophomore season, three-star (.7993) recruit Jacquille Veii was the only running back signed in the Class of 2013. Then-sophomore Wes Brown missed the whole year. The team managed a fairly successful final season in the ACC, though, going 7-5 in the regular season before dropping the Military Bowl to Marshall.

2014

Maryland didn’t sign a running back in this cycle. At the time, the Terps had nowhere near the depth they’ve got now, so that posed a bit of a problem. This season was the Ross and Brown show in the backfield, and quarterback C.J. Brown ate up a lot of Maryland’s rushing yards. However, Maryland was still able to earn a bowl-game berth.

2015

The senior version of Brandon Ross turned out to be pretty good, leading the Big Ten with 6.4 yards per carry. Three-star (.8569) running back Ty Johnson was the Terps’ only signee at the position in the Class of 2015. He wasn’t the most high-profile guy at the time, but showed flashes of brilliance throughout his freshman season. Running is now the only thing the team can or should do because of the lack of a passing offense.

2016

Three-star (.8486) running back Lorenzo Harrison was the first commit of the class. His rating surely would have climbed over time, but with his early pledge to Maryland, his recruitment never took off the way others have. Three-star (.8282) running back Jake Funk committed to Maryland in October before early enrolling in January, just a few days after three-star (.8387) running back LaDerrien Wilson flipped from Virginia to Maryland. The senior version of Wes Brown wasn’t too good, but Harrison, Johnson, Kenny Goins, Funk and quarterback Perry Hills shouldered the load and carried the team to another bowl game.

2017

Four-star (.9518) all-purpose back Anthony McFarland was one of the biggest signees in years and could be an impact player immediately. Three-star (.8715) running back Javon Leake looks to have all the tools of a prototypical between-the-tackles back. Three-star (.8497) running back Tayon Fleet-Davis could contribute eventually too, though there’s a possibility he moves to linebacker down the road. Maryland also landed a surprise commitment from four-star (.9293) on National Signing Day, but that was short-lived, as he signed with Central Florida the next day.

2018

Four-star (.9118) all-purpose back Mychale Salahuddin is the top target at the position and might be the only prospect the staff would take in this cycle. With the outstanding depth Maryland has going into the 2017 season and beyond, the Terps are looking to only take one, if any at all, in the Class of 2018. That depth is the difference between bringing in one or zero backs now and in 2014.

2019

There are some local talents worth keeping tabs on. St. Frances Academy (Baltimore) running back Joachim Bangda isn’t rated yet, but already has an offer from Alabama, which pretty much says it all. St. John’s (Washington, D.C.) Keilan Robinson isn’t rated yet either, but boasts offers from several Power 5 schools even before his junior season. There will be plenty of other targets as National Signing Day 2019 nears, but for now, these two are guys to keep an eye on.