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Tayon Fleet-Davis gives Maryland a change-of-pace running back

Running Backs Week moves to a powerful ball-carrier with playmaking speed.

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

We’re previewing Maryland football’s roster one position group at a time this summer. This week, we’re focusing on the running backs, which should be the Terps’ strongest position group in 2019.

Thomas profiled projected starter Anthony McFarland on Tuesday, Sean profiled Javon Leake yesterday and today I’m looking at Tayon Fleet-Davis. After appearing in six games mostly on special teams as a freshman, Fleet-Davis emerged as a change of pace back last season. Most of his carries came in short yardage situations, around the goal line or when Ty Johnson or Anthony McFarland needed a breather.

Tayon Fleet-Davis, RB, No. 8

Height: 5’11
Weight: 226
Year: Junior
Hometown: Oxon Hill, Md.
High school: Potomac HS

2018/career stats: 75 rush, 331 yds, 5 TDs; 4 rec,46 yds 1 TD

The background

Fleet-Davis committed to Maryland on July 30, 2016 as the No. 45 running back in the Class of 2017 and the No. 15 player in Maryland. He was named Second Team All-Met by The Washington Post his senior year, and averaged over six yards per carry during his career at Potomac High School. He didn’t have a role in Maryland’s crowded backfield in 2017, instead playing six games on special teams and recording one tackle against Rutgers on Nov. 17.

Fleet-Davis had a strong start to 2018, but never carved out a consistent role.

Fleet-Davis started his sophomore season as the No. 3 running back on Maryland’s depth chart, giving the Terps a bigger back behind the speedy Ty Johnson and the shifty Lorenzo Harrison III. He had seven carries for 31 yards against Texas, and his first career touchdown ended up being the game-winner. The next week against Bowling Green, he ran for 102 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries for his first career 100-yard game.

But with McFarland and Leake both improving as the season went on, Fleet-Davis saw less of the load. After running for 211 yards and three touchdowns on 41 carries in the first five games, he ran for just 120 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries in the last seven contests. Matt Canada began to use him in more short-yardage situations, but Fleet-Davis struggled in that role. Part of that was Maryland’s offensive line getting pushed around, though part of it was Fleet-Davis not having enough power or an initial quick burst.

His role for 2019 is up in the air.

Despite Fleet-Davis’s inconsistent performance last year, his 75 carries last season were still the second most on the team last season. However, he still doesn’t have a defined role heading into 2019.

Even with Johnson graduating, Harrison and Jake Funk are returning from injuries, which means there are even more mouths to feed in the Terps’ backfield. With McFarland being the top all-around back, Leake serving as the home-run hitter and Harrison being more shifty, Fleet-Davis could once again be a solid change of pace option. However, when he struggled in that role last season, his carries mostly disappeared.

Mike Locksley was able to use a stable of backs at Alabama, and has the arsenal to do the same at Maryland. But the Crimson Tide have talent at each position that most college programs only dream of, and Alabama would jump on opponents early before each back would take turns wearing out the defense. That likely won’t be the case for Maryland, and with likely fewer carries to go around, Fleet-Davis’ usage could fluctuate game-to-game like last season. If he takes another step forward, though, it could give Maryland yet another weapon in the backfield.