When a team loses a running back that ranks in the top 10 on the school's career rushing attempts, yards, and yards-per-carry lists, it's natural for questions to arise about who will fill the void.
It's a question Maryland had when Davin Meggett exhausted his eligibility following the 2011 season after running for 2,411 yards in his Terrapin career. Meggett, now with the Houston Texans, was Maryland's leading rusher in both 2010 and 2011.
It's also a question Maryland began to address prior to and during last season. Head coach Randy Edsall and staff brought in a talented group of running backs that included Justus Pickett, Brandon Ross and fullback Tyler Cierski.
Pickett played in all 12 games as a true freshman in 2011 and finished third on the team in rushing yards. Cierski also played in all 12 games as the No. 1 fullback and saw extensive action on special teams. Ross, meanwhile, served a redshirt season and preserved four years of eligibility.
The 2012 recruiting class brought an influx of talented, local running backs to bolster an already solid core. That group includes four-star recruits Wes Brown (Olney, Md./Good Counsel HS) and Albert Reid (Washington, D.C./Friendship Collegiate Academy), as well as Kenneth Goins (Baltimore, Md./Gilman School) and Joe Riddle (Frederick, Md./Linganore HS).
The surplus of talent has led to healthy competition, the kind Edsall would like to see at every position.
"That's where I need to get to with our program, where we have that kind of competition at every position," Edsall said last week. "When we get that kind of competition that we have there, because you take a look - Justus Pickett, Brandon Ross, guys that were already here; and then you see some of the things we've seen the first five days from Wes Brown, Albert Reid and Joe Riddle. And then just experimenting with [Kenneth Goins] in short-yardage and goal-line. That's what you want - you want that kind of competition."
So whereas Meggett was somewhat of a workhorse last year, receiving more than twice as many attempts (171) than quarterback C.J. Brown (79), Maryland's second-leading rusher - more depth exists this season.
That gives Maryland the ability to use a three-back system and insert the best possible player in certain situations, be it third-down, short-yardage, goal-line and others.
"That's what we're going to find out over these next 24 practices - who are the guys who can help us in certain areas," said Edsall. "Also the thing I like with those guys, with the running backs, is the fact that those guys are going to be able to play on some [special] teams for you too. So now you're getting some speed, some toughness and everything else which is going to make your special teams better."
It starts with Pickett and Ross, the young veterans among a talented and youthful group that will be exciting to watch develop in 2012.
"Justus knows that he's got to play. He's competing his tail off every day, and Brandon Ross is doing the same thing. Like I said, we've got to get that kind of attitude and competition at every position."