The Maryland football team ran the ball better than a majority of Big Ten squads last season.
In 2017, the Terrapins return all of their key running backs and should be poised for another campaign of success.
Maryland finished fourth in the conference with 199.5 rushing yards per contest and averaged 4.9 yards-per-carry. The Terps also found the end zone on 26 different occasions last season.
Ty Johnson had one of the most impressive seasons in conference history. Despite only registering 110 carries, the sophomore tailback still rushed for 1,004 yards and averaged 9.1 yards-per-carry (best mark in program history).
Maryland also got strong production from freshman Lorenzo Harrison before he was suspended for an off-the-field incident. Harrison reeled off his fair share of big runs, especially early in the season.
Let’s take a closer look at each member of the Maryland backfield.
Johnson is one of the more electric players to come through College Park in quite some time. The former Fort Hill (Md.) standout didn’t have the smoothest start to the season as he averaged just 43.0 rushing yards over the first three games last season. Johnson only registered double-digit carries in three games in 2016, but two of those contests came in the final two games of the season. In games against Rutgers and Boston College, Johnson rushed for 327 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries (12.6 yards-per-carry). He also caught 16 passes for 206 yards, including a 66-yard touchdown reception against Penn State.
Earlier this summer, Johnson was named to the Doak Walker Award watch list, which is annually given to the top running back in college football. After a phenomenal season in 2016, Johnson appears to be gaining respect in the college football world and should carry the load once again for the Terps. Johnson provides big play potential for Maryland, but may be even more fresh with the amount of depth that the Terps have in the backfield.
Despite only playing in nine games, Harrison still managed to tally 633 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 88 carries (7.2 yards-per-carry). The former DeMatha star topped the 70-yard mark in five of those contests, including 17 carries for 105 yards and a touchdown in a 28-17 win over Michigan State on Oct. 22. He also had a rush over 20 yards in all but three games this past season. Harrison possesses the perfect combination of speed and strength and proved that he can handle the load.
Harrison is back with the team after serving his suspension over the final four games of the 2016 season. He looks to be penciled in as the primary backup to Johnson and should get plenty of carries this coming season. Harrison would’ve finished with the most yards-per-carry on many teams, but Johnson’s play was out of this world at times last year. Harrison’s emergence should take a lot of the pressure off of Johnson and allow Johnson to potentially be involved in the receiving game more. The sophomore should be able to build off a stellar first season in College Park and have even more success in 2017.
Even with Johnson and Harrison already in the fold, coach D.J. Durkin still attacked the running back position on the recruiting trail. Maryland was able to sign talented four-star DeMatha tailback Anthony McFarland in the 2017 class. McFarland had the option to go to just about any high-profile program in the country, but elected to stay close to home.
McFarland is coming off a broken fibula, which caused him to miss his senior season with the Stags. The four-star running back possesses great vision and game-breaking speed that should allow him to see the field for the Terps as a true freshman. Obviously, Johnson and Harrison will get the bulk of the carries, but McFarland has the talent to garner a decent amount of carries as a freshman, especially in blowout contests.