Terps still searching for workhorse running back

Maryland would like the running game to take the pressure off freshman quarterback Perry Hills in matchup with Temple

September 07, 2012|By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK — The YouTube video just keeps going and going. Running back Jordan Todman is taking handoff after handoff, pitch after pitch, often carrying the ball deep into the opposition's secondary.

It was 2010 and Todman and his Connecticut team — led by current Maryland coach Randy Edsall — were on their way to a 30-28 victory over Pittsburgh. Todman carried 37 times for 222 yards. The video shows every carry and yard.

Edsall seemed to have a fondness for workhorse backs then, and he still does today. But, in his second season at Maryland, Edsall is still looking for his Todman. And for the accompanying comfort level of handing the ball — repeatedly — to a talented tailback he implicitly trusts.

"Ideally, I'd like to have one guy who is really kind of the main guy if it works out that way," Edsall said as Maryland (1-0, 0-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) prepared for its game Saturday against Temple (1-0, 0-0 Big East) at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field.

"That's one of the things we're finding out — who can be that guy. That's all depending on the players," Edsall said.

Sophomore Justus Pickett and freshman Albert Reid split time at tailback in last week's 7-6 victory over William and Mary.

Maryland did not produce the dominant running game that might have been expected of a team whose offensive line had a noticeable size advantage at the line of scrimmage.

The Terps averaged 294 pounds across their starting offensive line, while William and Mary's defensive line averaged 261 pounds.

But the Terps rushed for just 91 yards. Reid, the starter, often seemed to be hit early — before he could muster any speed. He had 12 carries for 29 yards (2.4 yards per carry). Reid committed one of Maryland's four turnovers with a fumble.

Pickett fared better, rushing 11 times for 45 yards (4.1 average) and the game's only touchdown.

Pickett, who said he intentionally packed on 15 pounds during the offseason and now weighs about 195, was named by Edsall as the starter against the Owls.

But it's not clear yet if Pickett will emerge as "the one" this season. Redshirt freshman Brandon Ross, who remains sidelined by a hamstring injury, and freshman Wes Brown are also seeking carries.

Edsall said his offensive philosophy is shaped by the talents of his players at any given time. He has certainly had his share of run-heavy teams.

Edsall's 2010 Connecticut team — which finished 8-5 with a Fiesta Bowl appearance — relied on Todman, who gained 1,695 yards with a 5.1 yards per carry average and 14 touchdowns.

That season, the Huskies averaged more rushing yards per game (175) than passing yards (151).

Todman, now with the NFL's Minnesota Vikings, had the second-most carries in the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2010, behind only Western Kentucky's Bobby Rainey, a current member of the Ravens.

Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley has also helped develop a handful of top running backs as an assistant coach. The list includes former Terps Bruce Perry and LaMont Jordan and Illinois star Rashard Mendenhall, the 2007 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.

Locksley said a reliable running game is particularly important this season because the Terps are eager to provide help for freshman quarterback Perry Hills.

"With a young quarterback, the run game can be his best friend," Locksley said. "I thought we were too inconsistent last week in the run game, and for us to be the team we need to be this week, we've got to find a way to run the football a little bit."

William and Mary's defense seemed to crowd the box, halting runs before they developed.

"If you're passing better, you can get the linebackers out of the box and you can run the ball a little better," wide receiver Kevin Dorsey said. "[And] if you run the ball effectively, your play-action passes work a little more."



Maryland (1-0, 0-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) vs. Temple (1-0, 0-0 Big East)

Time: Noon

Site: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pa.


Radio: 105.7 FM, 1300 AM

Series: Maryland leads, 6-1

Last meeting: Temple beat Maryland, 38-7, on Sept. 24, 2011 at Byrd Stadium.

Maryland offense vs. Temple defense: The keys for Maryland and true freshman quarterback Perry Hills will be to reduce the number of turnovers (four last week against William and Mary) and improve the running game to take pressure off Hills. Hills was intercepted three times and missed a couple scoring opportunities — one on an overthrow and another when he failed to spot an open Kevin Dorsey in the end zone. Sophomore tailback Justus Pickett (45 yards last week) gets the start over freshman Albert Reid. Freshman Wes Brown could get the first carries of his college career. Temple lost 22 seniors from last season, and the defense was hit hard. The Owls played six true freshmen in win over Villanova — half of them linebackers.

Maryland defense vs. Temple offense: Two previously injured Maryland linemen – Keith Bowers (knee) and Isaiah Ross (hamstring) — return to a Maryland defense that didn't give up a touchdown in the season opener. The Terps will be wary of Owls senior running back Matt Brown, who started his high school career in Baltimore before ending up at Peddie School in New Jersey. He had 145 yards on 19 carries in the opener. Temple running back Montel Harris, the dangerous Boston College transfer, is day-to-day with a sore hamstring. "We're trying to keep an update of his status," Maryland defense coordinator Brian Stewart said.

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