COLLEGE PARK -- Mark Mason burst onto Maryland's football scene like a meteor last November, but incumbent tailback Troy Jackson is alive, well and still No. 1 on the depth chart.
Jackson started all but one game last season, missing Georgia Tech with an injured knee and hip suffered the preceding week against Michigan. He stormed back against Wake Forest with 152 yards.
Mason, meanwhile, first showed his worth against Virginia in the regular-season finale. The freshman from Potomac rushed for 116 yards in the upset win over Virginia and gained 93 in the Independence Bowl against Louisiana Tech.
As Jackson returns for his fifth and final year, he is by no means out in the cold. He is in the same position now that he was when spring practice ended, No. 1 at tailback.
"He and Mason will both play a big role," Terps coach Joe Krivak said. "Whether or not they'll alternate, we'll have to wait and see, but they've both proven they're good enough. They've done it."
Last season was Jackson's first in the limelight. Limited to 110 yards on 22 carries in 1989, the 203-pounder from Williamsburg, Va., was the Terps' leading rusher last year with 662 yards, plus 50 in the Independence Bowl.
"Troy has more power inside, but he and Mark complement each other," said co-captain and center Mitch Suplee. "Speed outside, that's Mark. Strength inside, that's Troy."
That's about the way running backs coach Paul Castonia sees them, too.
"Troy is our workhorse," Castonia said. "He's excellent straight ahead, picking up the tough yards, although he doesn't always look too pretty doing it. Mason is quicker, able to dart in and out."
All the coaches have to judge Mason on is those two games last season. They will judge him and Jackson in Saturday's scrimmage and two more after that before the Sept. 7 opener against Virginia.
hTC "A lot will be determined these next few weeks, when we get film of the scrimmages and study it," Castonia said. "Troy didn't disappoint last year. This is his last year, and he won't this time either."
Behind Jackson and Mason are redshirt freshman Doug Burnett of Laurel Springs, N.J., and true freshmen Larry Washington of Randallstown and Raphael Wall of Wilde Lake. Now recovered from their injuries in last month's Big 33 game -- Washington a bruised foot, Wall a hamstring -- both might be redshirted.
That's a good position to be in, "to have guys you can redshirt but don't necessarily have to," Castonia said.
Jackson and Mason have become quite chummy. When school ended in May, Jackson spent two weeks with Mason and his parents in Potomac.
"Only one can start, but the person who doesn't will still get a lot of playing time," Jackson said. "We'll be running more this year since we lost our quarterback [Scott Zolak to graduation] and all the running backs are back."
Like many of the players, Jackson got eight credit hours, including an internship, this summer, leaving him with only 12 more needed for graduation. He's majoring in Family Studies and may become a probation officer.
"There's no reason not to graduate," Jackson said. "Coach Krivak really pushes it. We have 10 semesters, not including summer school. That's plenty of time."
Jackson can sum up his aims this season in a brief phrase: "Another bowl game."