By Austin Kleber
Maryland’s potent rushing attack will add another impact player to its already packed rotation Saturday against Purdue, as Wes Brown returns from a three-game suspension for violating the school’s code of conduct.
The Terps have rushed for 800 yards and rank second in the Big Ten and 11th nationally in rushing yards per game, averaging 266.7 yards.This is the first time since 1999 that the Terps have gained at least 795 yards through the first three games.
“He’ll definitely be in the mix,” head coach DJ Durkin said of Brown. “We know at that position for us, we have really good depth. We’re going to continue to utilize that depth. We’re going to roll guys through and keep guys in certain spots. He’ll insert into that and be a part of that rotation.”
Offensive coordinator Walt Bell has devised a system that maximizes the strengths of each of the five running backs that have already seen playing time. A trio — consisting of freshman Lorenzo Harrison, sophomore Ty Johnson and senior Trey Edmunds — leads the way in the rushing game, picking up a combined 485 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
Johnson, Edmunds and senior Kenneth Goins Jr. are all listed as potential starters in the depth chart for Saturday with Brown. Harrison and freshman Jake Funk are their respective backups.
“Wes is another really good player,” Bell said. “To add another big, long, strong athlete to the rotation, whether it be running back or special teams is definitely beneficial to the football team.”
Durkin is pleased with Bell’s success using the running back by committee approach.
“I think we’re doing a really good job getting a lot of guys involved,” Durkin said. “All of our guys understand that they have a role. I think they understand that how they practice and how they play affects how big that role is and how many snaps they get. Anytime you have a team, there’s motivation behind how you work, how you practice, how you perform and how you play. There’s real things tied to that. That’s a big part of our program.”
Brown, who racked up 317 yards on 71 carries last year, was the lead returning tailback coming into this season.
Durkin praised Brown, highlighting his leadership both on and off the field.
“Wes has been outstanding the whole time,” Durkin said. “If you came out to a practice this whole season, you would have no idea that he wasn’t able to play based on the way he practices and approaches it. I’m really proud of Wes.”
Bell said there are two big concerns when a running back comes back from an extended layover: trying to make a big play every time he gets the ball and fumbling the ball because he hasn’t been tackled in a game situation.
In order to avoid those problems, Brown has been practicing with the running back rotation as if he was never suspended.
“He has gotten a ton of practice reps knowing that when he came back, we wanted to prevent those two things,” Bell said. “He hasn’t had a day off. He’s been with us every second and every meeting. Hopefully, we’ll be able to prevent some of those things we’re worried about.”
One of the keys to the running game on Saturday will be wearing down the Purdue defense with Maryland’s quick pace of play, Bell said. Purdue’s rush defense is ranked 80th in the FBS, allowing 168.7 yards per game, so look for many different running backs to get involved, including Brown.
Maryland hosts Purdue Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Listen live on WMUCSports.net.