COLLEGE PARK -- It hit Maryland running back Brandon Ross for the first time during spring ball earlier this year.
Five years ago when head coach Randy Edsall took over in College Park, Ross was one of the younger players on a roster that has seen significant turnover at the position since.
He looked around at camp and realized it. Now, he’s the old guy -- and not the same player than he has been in the past.
“There’s something different about him. I see a different Brandon Ross,” Edsall said at practice this week.
“Whatever he did, whether it’s physically, mentally. I like what he’s done. To me, he’s a different guy this preseason and maybe it’s because it’s his last go-around but I like that he’s working hard, he’s being productive, he’s seeing things, he’s running with great vision, and doing the things necessary in order to put himself in a position that he has.”
Ross acknowledges it -- the change Edsall sees -- as he begins the final chapter of his five-year college career.
“It’s a different feel when it’s your last year,” he told CSN. “You really just want to leave it all out on the field for your coaches, your teammates, really just playing for your family and stuff.”
What was once a crowded backfield has thinned in the offseason with the transfer of Albert Reid and Jacquille Veii. Ross now undeniably leads the pack, alongside Wes Brown and freshman Ty Johnson.
And there should be carries on the table after the graduation of quarterback C.J. Brown, who was a more pure option quarterback than the three players competing for the starting job this season -- Perry Hills, Daxx Garman, and Caleb Rowe.
Ross looks poised to take on those responsibilities.
“He’s more decisive and I think he has a really good understanding of what’s happening in front of him and I think the one thing is he’s playing with a lot of confidence, too,” Edsall said. “I see a much more confident running back this preseason than what I saw before.”
Maryland’s running game was among the nation’s least productive last season. The Terrapins ranked 106th in yards per carry at just 3.4 in 2014 behind an offensive line that even Edsall admitted needed to be beefed up to deal with a more physical fight in the Big Ten trenches.
Ross’ average was much higher than the team’s, at 4.8 yards per carry, but his total carries were nearly cut in half compared to the 2013 season.
With Brown’s departure from under center, perhaps those numbers return closer to where they were in 2013.
“In the past, I haven’t always had my focus level right,” Ross said. “I wasn’t always as strong as I could have been and that’s really one thing I wanted to change year-by-year in the program.
“I just want to be like an all-around back. If I can get more carries, that’s great.”