2023 Maryland football position overview: running backs

After the 2021 season, the Terps were losing their top running back to the NFL Draft and were only returning sophomores and redshirt freshman for the upcoming season. With all the youth the Terps had at running back last season, there were lots of questions about how productive the running back unit would be and how well the team would do depending on the running backs’ production. Well, after last season, it was safe to say the running back room took a massive leap and was a large part in the offense’s production and ability to move the ball up and down the field. Now, we take a preview of how the running back room should look heading into the 2023 season.

Projected Starter: Roman Hemby

Last season, the running back room started out as an equal playing field and everyone seemed to be getting close to the same amount of touches. However, as the season went on, it was Hemby that propelled himself above the rest and took the reigns of the room. Hemby finished the season as a freshman all-american with a stat line of 989 rushing yards while rushing 5.3 yards per carry as well as ten rushing touchdowns. On top of that, Hemby was a great threat out of the backfield catching the ball finishing the season with 33 receptions for 298 yards and a touchdown. With Hemby exploding onto the scene last season, it would be safe to expect nothing less than for him to be the main focus of the rushing attack and the receiving attack out of the backfield this upcoming season. Maryland got a glimpse of the big play ability that the John Carroll (MD) product provided, finishing third in the country among freshmen in all-purpose yards and breaking off multiple 70-plus yard runs. Entering his redshirt sophomore season, Hemby has a chance to showcase himself as an every-down back in a draft-eligible year.

Projected Rotation: Antwain Littleton, Colby McDonald, Ramon Brown

After Hemby, it was mainly Littleton who was getting the second most touches out of the backfield every week. Littleton is known as the bell cow of the group with him being the most powerful runner out of the bunch. But do not let his 6-foot, 235-pound frame fool you, he has very quick feet and he can beat you with his speed once he hits open space as well. Littleton finished last season with 76 rushes for 379 yards and six touchdowns while also catching six passes for 44 yards. After Littleton, both McDonald and Brown had 30 carries each. McDonald went for 140 yards and two touchdowns while Brown went for 116 yards. With the rushing attack expected to take the next step with all of it returning, Littleton’s continued efforts in the weight room will give him the edge as the Terps’ power back while McDonald will get a chance to round out the room maintaining his efficient style.

Breakout Candidate: Ramon Brown

Brown was a true freshman last season who only got 30 carries. This year, with a full off-season in the weight room and on the practice field, the 6-foot, 212-pound running back has a chance to have a similar type of breakout season that Hemby and Littleton had last season. Brown is a powerful back that also has some breakout speed to him which is what made him a four-star running back coming out of high school, but also has the hands to become an asset in the passing game. Brown benefits from entering his second season with the program, but he was sidelined for the Terps’ spring game after suffering a foot injury in Maryland’s second scrimmage of spring ball. The Virginia native will work his way back onto the field once fall camp begins in less than one month with a chance to solidify himself in the rotation when conference play heats up.

Bold Prediction: Maryland will have nine games with a 100-yard rusher

Maryland only had five games last season featuring a 100-yard rusher, with Hemby doing it four times (Buffalo, SMU, Indiana, Northwestern) and Littleton doing it once (Michigan State)–but Maryland also leaned on its passing attack one season ago. That’s not to say the Terps will shy away from the pass this fall with Taulia back and a reloaded room of weapons at his disposal, but with both Hemby and Littleton having another year under their belt in the weight room, as well as McDonald and Brown both coming back, the Terps enter next season with a veteran room. Maryland also has experienced options to assist in pass protection, but the four-man rotation can take advantage of the Terps’ weaker nonconference schedule and also having somewhat of a favorable conference schedule facing teams with defenses that have a lot of questions. Maryland also amassed 150-plus rushing yards five times last season, but the experience gives them the chance to roll out a balanced offense this fall.

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