Green, Scott hope to form potent 1-2 punch for Maryland
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- It didn't seem to matter that Morgan Green racked up 5,133 rushing yards at Lackey High School and was one of the all-time leading rushers in the state of Maryland, or that he was recruited by the likes of Penn State and Florida.
Almost all of the traditional hype was quickly replaced by talk of what Green hasn't done at Maryland, and who he isn't -- namely Steve Slaton, the former West Virginia Heisman candidate who wanted to come to Maryland but was denied a scholarship in favor of Green.
"I hated to hear it," Green said, "but you know how that goes."
So far, it's gone like this: Green, a redshirt sophomore, has played in one game, carried the ball three times, and has 0 yards. This year, he has to do more. After an injury-laden career delayed by a stop at Hargrave Military Academy, Green is finally at the top of the Terps' depth chart and in a position to show what he can do.
"Morgan has had a very good spring, probably better than I thought, to tell you the truth," said running backs coach John Donovan, who coached the quarterbacks last year. "I wasn't sure what to expect. I had him when he was a true freshman. He's come a long way from there."
Green and Da'Rel Scott both had impressive springs capped by strong performances on Saturday in Maryland's Red-White spring game, and have shown the potential to be viable if not better replacements for the graduated duo of Keon Lattimore and Lance Ball. Green is the bigger, more physical back the coaches expect consistent 6-yard gains from, along with the occasional long burst. Scott has the speed, and is the one they're depending on for the dazzling breakaway plays.
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"This is a different one-two punch than we had last year, because both of those guys were pretty similar," coach Ralph Friedgen said of Ball and Lattimore. "Now you've kind of got a guy that's a hard runner and then you've got a guy who comes in and changes the pace because he's got such speed that he can go all the way. I'd like to get another one coming along. That's my big concern -- I wish we had another guy we can put in and count on."
Considering the injury history of both players, it's probably a good idea to have another option.
Scott had a high ankle sprain on each ankle that limited him last season, and Green broke his clavicle in last year's spring game and also missed six games with a hamstring injury.
"It was very tough," Scott said. "I felt as though I could contribute to the team a lot more than I did, but the injuries did set me back. That was a little frustrating, but now it's a new year. I have to learn from that and do what I have to do next year."
So far so good.
"From a coaching standpoint, it's frustrating when you open a hole up and you've got a back that maybe is not fast enough and he gets 15 yards, when if you had a back that could go the distance it should be a touchdown," first-year offensive coordinator James Franklin said. "I think that's what Da'Rel is. He could be a game-changer for us. He's got to become more of a complete back in terms of protection, in terms of running when there's not a hole there, lowering the shoulder and getting us 4 yards when there's really not 4 yards there."
Still, Friedgen is concerned with Scott's durability and his pass protection. Green's steady performances over the spring pushed him to the top of the depth chart. He ran hard between the tackles Saturday and finished with 11 carries for 68 yards.
"Our job is to coach these two and get these two ready -- no disrespect to the last two backs -- but so that people say, 'Who were those last two backs we had?' and forget about them," Franklin said. "I think we could do that."
And Green thinks he can make Maryland fans finally forget about Slaton. It certainly helps that West Virginia is not on the schedule for the first time in Green's three seasons, and Slaton, who was chosen last weekend in the third round of the NFL draft, is no longer on the same playing field.
"I do feel like I have something to prove," Green said. "If I go out here and play hard, everybody will see that I'm also a good back and I can do the same things. This season, hopefully I'll get that chance."
Heather Dinich is a college football writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Heather at firstname.lastname@example.org.