Maryland football lost to Boston College in the Quick Lane Bowl on Dec. 26. With the regular season now firmly in the rear view, it’s time to enter postseason analysis mode. We’re doing a position-by-position evaluation of the team. Let’s look at the running backs.
|Lorenzo Harrison III||FR||9||88||633||7.19||5||9.78||70.33|
|Kenneth Goins Jr.||SR||13||41||241||5.88||4||3.15||18.54|
|Rushing Success Rate||45.70%||48||43.10%|
|Adj. Line Yards||115.1||13||100|
|Power Success Rate||55.30%||123||68.00%|
What we thought would happen
Alex Kirshner predicted that the Terps’ running game would be strong, because Maryland was decent on the ground in 2015 and returned everyone behind Brandon Ross.
Wes Brown was cleared of an indefinite suspension in spring practice, and Trey Edmunds transferred from Virginia Tech. Ty Johnson was coming off a promising freshman campaign, and a trio of three-star recruits—Jake Funk, Lorenzo Harrison and LaDerrien Wilson—joined the frey.
We still can't know exactly what kind of roles Bell will carve out for his various running backs. But given the talent here and the likelihood that a blue-chip-stocked offensive line only gets better, it's hard to imagine this unit being anything other than a positive for the 2016 version of the Maryland football team.
By the end of camp, Johnson looked like a lead back, but the backfield was still crowded. Four backs were listed on the season’s first depth chart, even with Brown suspended for the first three games.
What actually happened
That depth chart actually increased to five backs after Harrison led the team in rushing against Howard, then to six when Brown came back. Just to make life more fun, Maryland listed all six as co-starters. That number dwindled late in the season, for expected and unexpected reasons.
Johnson was indeed the main back, even if his usage isn’t entirely indicative of that. The sophomore finished with 1,004 yards on just 110 carries, which is less than nine per game. He was always a threat to break a big run, as Purdue, BC and others can tell you. Johnson had 10 plays longer than 40 yards, which more than offset his quiet outings.
Harrison proved quickly that he was the real deal. He scored touchdowns in Maryland’s first four games and added a fifth in the Terps’ win over Michigan State. He was a lock to break LaMont Jordan’s school freshman rushing record...until he blew his chance on some airsoft pellets. Harrison, along with freshman wideout D.J. Turner, was suspended indefinitely before the Ohio State game; that ban lasted through the bowl game, but won’t carry over into 2017.
Goins was moved from fullback to halfback after meeting with Walt Bell, and he was productive as a short-yardage back. The senior scored four touchdowns and added a couple two-point conversions. For the second straight year, his highlight was a breakaway score against Rutgers.
Funk was around all season, but saw his carries decrease dramatically in conference play. His one touchdown came in the Howard game; his most memorable carry after that was a fourth-down jet sweep that Penn State stuffed. He still showed promise in the aggregate, though, and got more experience than he would have by redshirting.
Edmunds looked good in the team’s first five games, but fractured his foot in practice the week between Penn State and Minnesota. His injury was supposed to last a few weeks, but he never returned from it.
Brown never got it going in his senior season. He finished with less than one yard per carry, and saw more time on special teams than he did on offense.
What’s going to happen next
The ground game should be Maryland’s strong suit in 2017. Johnson and Harrison will be back, and they ought to receive the vast majority of the carries. Funk will be the only other returner from this year’s rotation, although Wilson figures to see some action after redshirting this season.
The Terps have three-star prospects Javon Leake and Tayon Fleet-Davis coming in. Expecting either to become feature backs immediately would be unreasonable, but one or both could earn some situational carries. Maryland also still has some sort of chance at Anthony McFarland, a four-star back who played with Harrison at DeMatha.
As it stands right now, though, Maryland’s backfield looks to be built around Johnson and Harrison, and even if the team doesn’t add much from there, that’s still a combo worth getting excited about.