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Terps Football: 2017 Season Preview – The Running Backs

Last season, the Maryland Terrapins boasted the third-best rushing offense in the Big Ten Conference, averaging just under 200 yards per game and over 4.8 yards per carry. While the team was led by breakout stars Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison III, the rotation of 4-5 different running backs in each game helped to keep all players fresh and contributing at their highest level. While Trey Edmunds, Wes Brown, and Kenneth Goins, Jr. graduated at the end of last season, there is a plethora of young talent at this position ready to begin contributing.

This article is part of a series previewing the 2017 Maryland football season. You can find my projected depth chart here.

(Discuss this article on the BSL Message Board here.)

NCAA Football: Purdue at Maryland

Ty Johnson (Junior)

2017 Projection: “A” Rotation
2016 Statistics: 110 carries, 1,004 yds, 6 TD; 16 catches, 206 yds, 1 TD

Johnson was Maryland’s first 1,000 yard rusher since Da’Rel Scott in 2008, and he did it all while averaging a mind-boggling 9.13 yards per carry. His speed and athleticism were on full display last season, while running both between and outside of the tackles. He led the team in rushing touchdowns, and it’s tough to remember one that didn’t result from a big open-field sprint. While many fans were frustrated at his lack of carries last season (8.5 per game), that was likely part of the reason why he was so explosive when he did touch the football.

I have projected Johnson to lead the way in the “A” rotation of running backs, splitting the majority of carries with Harrison III. He will probably get a few more carries per game in 2017, but don’t expect those numbers to go up exponentially.

Harrison

Lorenzo Harrison III (Sophomore)

2017 Projection: “A” Rotation
2016 Statistics: 88 carries, 633 yds, 5 TD; 9 catches, 72 yds, 0 TD

Harrison III came to College Park from DeMatha Catholic High School last season, and did more in just 9 games than any freshman running back in recent memory for the Terrapins. He averaged over 7 yards per carry, and was an excellent complement to Johnson. While Johnson’s most valuable trait is his sprinter’s speed, Harrison III showed great agility and one-cut ability between the tackles. He was suspended for the final 4 games of the season, but will be ready to go in time for Maryland’s season opener against Texas on September 2nd.

I have projected Harrison III to form the other half of the “A” rotation for Maryland this season. He averaged about one carry per game more than Johnson, so it will be interesting to see how offensive coordinator Walt Bell utilizes his two very talented running backs in 2017.

McFarland

Anthony McFarland (Freshman)

2017 Projection: “B” Rotation
2016 Statistics (High School): Did Not Play

Like Harrison III, McFarland also comes to Maryland from DeMatha Catholic High School, and was one of the highest-ranked running backs in the 2017 recruiting class. He is a do-it-all player, who can run both inside and outside of the tackles, and can even line up as a slot receiver. He missed the entirety of last season due to a broken fibula that he suffered in DeMatha’s preseason scrimmage against St. Vincent Pallotti High School.

I have projected McFarland to be a part of Maryland’s “B” rotation of running backs this season. Bell will have to find ways to get him on the field as a true freshman, so expect to see him lined up in a few different places offensively. He won’t necessarily take carries away from Johnson or Harrison III, but he could force players like Funk or Wilson to take a more minimal role.

Funk

Jake Funk (Sophomore)

2017 Projection: “B” Rotation
2016 Statistics: 29 carries, 136 yds, 1 TD; 7 catches, 42 yds, 1 TD

After a ton of preseason hype surrounding Funk last season, he turned in a regular season that was generally unremarkable. He was the odd man out in the team’s rotation of running backs, as Brown and Goins, Jr. handled the majority of the “B” rotation’s work. He did average over 4.6 yards per carry, and showed some nice hands out of the backfield on swing passes.

I have projected Funk to be a part of the team’s “B” rotation again this season. He likely has the edge over players like McFarland and Wilson, but will need to work to keep that edge during fall camp. His role will probably expand a bit this season, but how much is yet to be determined.

Wilson

LaDerrien Wilson (Redshirt Freshman)

2017 Projection: “B” Rotation
2016 Statistics: Redshirted

Wilson redshirted last season after coming to College Park as a 3-star recruit in their 2016 recruiting class. Like many of the players added by head coach DJ Durkin in that class, he attended high school in the state of Florida. He is an absolute bowling ball of a running back, with a ton of power and lower body strength. He had a nice performance in the team’s Red-White Spring Game last month, taking 8 carries for 56 yards and a touchdown.

I have projected Wilson to be a part of the Terrapins’ “B” rotation this season. With Goins, Jr. gone, there is an open role for a big, powerful runner in short-yardage and goal-line situations. Wilson ought to be able to fill that role perfectly.

Marcus Smith (Senior)

2017 Projection: Reserve
2016 Projection: Did Not Play

Smith is in his final year with the Terrapins, and has yet to see the field. He is a solid scout team player, and will only be needed if the team suffers some unexpected injuries at the running back position.

I have projected Smith to serve as one of Maryland’s reserve running backs, behind the five players expected to be part of the rotation.

Ikechukwu Ogwuegbu (Sophomore)

2017 Projection: Reserve
2016 Statistics: Did Not Play

Ogwuegbu is another running back who is not expected to see the field this season.

I have projected him to serve as one of Maryland’s reserve running backs alongside Smith.

Leake

Javon Leake (Freshman)

2017 Projection: Redshirt
2016 Statistics (High School): 198 carries, 1,643 yds, 29 TD; 13 catches, 98 yds, 1 TD

Leake comes to College Park as a highly-ranked 3-star recruit from the state of Georgia. As you can see from his high school statistics, he was an absolute beast for the last few seasons. If Maryland’s running back position wasn’t already so loaded with talent, he would likely have a chance to compete for a job.

I have projected Leake to redshirt his true freshman season. This will allow him to learn the offense and develop as a player before potentially competing for a job in the 2018 season.

Fleet-Davis

Tayon Fleet-Davis (Freshman)

2017 Projection: Redshirt
2016 Statistics (High School): N/A

Fleet-Davis is another running back who Durkin added in his 2017 recruiting class. A 3-star recruit from nearby Potomac High School, he is a solid all-around running back.

I have projected Fleet-Davis to redshirt his true freshman season. Like Leake, he would typically be able to compete for a job given his talent. However, this will allow him to compete for a job next season and learn from some of the more experienced running backs on the team.

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Zack Kiesel

Zack is working towards a career in law and politics. The Owings Mills native focuses most of his efforts on Maryland Football recruiting and individual coach and player pieces; but also covers Terps Basketball. He has established relationships with Big Ten beat reporters across the conference, which he utilizes in his game previews. Now a Sr. Terps Analyst for BSL, Zack can be reached at: zack.kiesel@baltimoresportsandlife.com.

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