Terps Football: 2019 Season Preview – Running Backs
Ever since former head coach DJ Durkin’s first season in College Park, the Terrapins have boasted one of the deepest and most talented stable of running backs in the country. Despite Ty Johnson moving on to the NFL after last year, the team returns all the rest of its top rushers and will have many options in their backfield once again in 2019. With some uncertainty at the quarterback position, success this season will likely depend on the ball-carriers.
This is the second in a series of articles previewing the 2019 season. You can find the full list of previews here.
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Anthony McFarland, Jr. (Redshirt Sophomore)
2019 Projection: Starter
2018 Statistics: 131 carries, 1,034 yds (7.9 ypc), 4 TD; 7 receptions, 73 yds (10.4 ypr), 0 TD
Everyone knew McFarland, Jr. was talented when he committed to Maryland via Snapchat scavenger hunt in 2017. A 4-star recruit from DeMatha Catholic High School, he chose the Terrapins over just about every blue blood college football program in the country. But after serving a redshirt year due to a leg injury, he flew under the radar a bit in 2018. He only carried the ball twice in the team’s season opener against Texas, but got consistently better as the year went on. He broke out in a big way in November, rushing for over 200 yards in two straight games against Indiana and Ohio State. He became the first Maryland freshman to rush for over 1,000 yards.
I have projected McFarland, Jr. to be the Terrapins’ starting running back this season, getting the first crack at carries in what will likely be a committee approach for offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery. He’s been reunited with his high school head coach Elijah Brooks, now his running backs coach. With his versatile skill-set, it’ll be interesting to see how Montgomery utilizes him. When head coach Michael Locksley was Maryland’s offensive coordinator, his offenses were primarily built around Stefon Diggs. This season may not be too different with McFarland, Jr.
Lorenzo Harrison III (Redshirt Junior)
2019 Projection: Second Team
2018 Statistics: 10 carries, 84 yds (8.4 ypc), 1 TD; 0 receptions, 0 yds (0.0 ypr), 0 TD
After finishing second on the team in rushing yards in 2016 and 2017 and splitting carries evenly with Johnson in 2017, most people were expecting a big season from Harrison III last season. Unfortunately he suffered a season-ending knee injury after the team’s second game of the year. Like McFarland, Jr., he’s a product of DeMatha Catholic High School and has been reunited with Brooks as his running backs coach in College Park. When healthy he’s an explosive and powerful runner who would add an important dimension to the backfield rotation.
I have projected Harrison III to serve as McFarland, Jr.’s primary backup this season, and he’ll receive plenty of carries in the 2019 rotation. His versatile skill-set will allow him to be an excellent compliment to McFarland, Jr., and there’s a good chance we see multiple running backs on the field at the same time.
Javon Leake (Junior)
2019 Projection: Third Team
2018 Statistics: 34 carries, 309 yds (9.1 ypc), 7 TD; 1 reception, 4 yds (4.0 ypr), 0 TD
Johnson made his mark at Maryland on explosive plays with his ability to hit a hole and wind up in the end zone before opposing defenses knew what hit them. Of all the running backs on the roster this season, Leake is probably the one who fits that role most closely. Despite averaging less than 3 carries per game last year, he led all running backs in yards per carry and led the team in rushing touchdowns. He’s also an explosive kick returner, and became the first player in Big Ten Conference history to win both offensive and special teams player of the week in the same week due to his performance against Illinois.
I have projected Leake to serve as the team’s third string running back this season, but he’ll certainly have a large role in the rotation. Like most of the backs on the roster, he possesses a unique skill-set that will help set him apart. I’ve also projected him to be the Terrapins’ starting kickoff returner.
Tayon Fleet-Davis (Junior)
2019 Projection: Fourth Team
2018 Statistics: 75 carries, 331 yds (4.4 ypc), 5 TD; 4 receptions, 46 yds (11.5 ypr), 1 TD
Fleet-Davis played a big role in former interim head coach Matt Canada’s motion offense as one of the primary wing backs. The majority of his carries came on fly sweeps, getting him on the edge and using his powerful running style in open space. He ran for 102 yards and 2 touchdowns in the team’s win over Bowling Green early in the season.
I have projected Fleet-Davis to serve as the team’s fourth string running back this season. He could have a big role as a short yardage and red zone back in Montgomery’s offense, but also has the ability to work in space. He received plenty of carries in Maryland’s Red-White Spring Game, and will certainly be part of the rotation in 2019.
Jake Funk (Redshirt Junior)
2019 Projection: Fifth Team
2018 Statistics: 2 carries, -2 yds (-1.0 ypc), 0 TD; 1 reception, 4 yds (4.0 ypr), 0 TD
After a 2017 season that saw him finish second on the team with 4 rushing touchdowns, Funk broke his hand during practice in the second week of the season last year. While he was able to return on special teams towards the end of the year, he redshirted and will return this season with two years of eligibility remaining. He’s a powerful runner with excellent pass catching skills out of the backfield and good pass blocking abilities.
I have projected Funk to serve as the team’s fifth string running back this season, and he’ll likely compete with Fleet-Davis for some of the short yardage and red zone carries. He will also be in consideration for time as the third-down back due to his pass blocking abilities. I’ve also projected him to be the Terrapins’ second string kickoff returner behind Leake.
Zack is a financial analyst for a defense contractor in Washington, DC. 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: [email protected]