Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Season Preview: Running Backs

The running back tandem of Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore departed and took with them over 1500 yard of rushing offense and 25 touchdowns. Ball quietly finished his career as the fourth leading rusher in Maryland history with 2487 yards and 26 touchdowns but had to bear the indignity of sharing carries with Keon Lattimore last season. Ball almost averaged a half yard better per carry but Friedgen couldn't help himself and instituted another halfback by committee rotation. One of my greatest hopes is that the new offensive coordinator James Franklin doesn't have such a neurotic obsession with splitting carries among running backs. It may keep some players happy but it does nothing for the consistency of an offense.

Sophomore Da'Rel Scott is the prime candidate to step in and be the primary ball carrier. Scott is a former track star who can also get those tough yards when needed and won't flop at the first sign of contact. His big play potential was on full display last season as he averaged 9.6 yards per carry and had one screen pass that he turned into a 57 yard touchdown, his first career catch. Scott is probably better in space and off tackle than running behind the center or guards where he can't use his break away speed as effectively. He can run between the tackles if necessary.

Morgan Green came to College Park with some high expectations after breaking most of the high school rushing records in Maryland but has been derailed by injuries and a backed up depth chart. He seems to have gotten in Ralph Friedgen's dog house with some nagging injuries that the head coach questioned in the media. With the emergence of Davin Meggett he might be relegated to third string if he doesn't finish camp strong. On paper Green is a complete back. He can run with power but also has a top gear that can get him into the secondary. His only real weakness is an inability to stay healthy.

True freshman Davin Meggett has impressed the staff with his play in camp and could be making a run at the number two spot in the running back rotation. In a rare turn the coaching staff seems to think Meggett is doing better than he thinks as he criticised his own mistakes in talking to the media. Meggett is a compact back with good speed and vision. He is just one of those players who doesn't wow you with his physical abilities but piles up the stats.

There isn't much depth behind those three as Rashad Henry and Dan Bonato don't have much experience nor have they shown the ability to produce yards consistently.

Fullback Cory Jackson returns as the starter from last season. Jackson is a physical punishing blocking back that will be vital to success of the running game. He sometimes struggled to take on physical linebackers last season as a sophomore but he should be more physically ready to handle the workload. He is a decent pass catching option out of the backfield.

Overall this group has the potential to be more productive than the senior duo from last season. They certainly have more raw talent and speed than either Ball or Lattimore. Much of their success will depend on the ability of the offensive line to stay healthy and effective.

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