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 looked at Javon Leake on Wednesday and I focused on Tayon Fleet-Davis yesterday. Today, I’m looking at Lorenzo Harrison III. The DeMatha alum had a breakout freshman season that was cut short due to suspension, and couldn’t return to the same level in 2017 before having his junior season mostly lost to injury.
Lorenzo Harrison III, RB, No. 2
Year: Redshirt junior
Hometown: Hillcrest Heights, Md.
High school: DeMatha Catholic
2018 stats: 10 rush, 84 yds, 1 TD
Career stats: 235 rush, 1339 yds, 9 TDs; 20 rec, 108 yds
Harrison committed to Maryland early in his junior season in September 2014, and is one of the last players remaining from Randy Edsall’s #TheMovement push for DMV recruiting. He was a three-star recruit, the No. 55 running back and the No. 23 player in Maryland, according to the 247Sports Composite. As a senior, he was named First Team All-Met by The Washington Post and was an all-state selection.
As a freshman, Harrison emerged as the No. 2 running back behind Ty Johnson. He ran for 58 yards or more in eight of the nine games he played in, with his shiftiness and lateral quickness a nice counterpart to Johnson’s breakaway speed. Harrison scored a touchdown in the first four games of the season, and had his first career 100-yard performance in a primetime win over Michigan State. After nine games, he was 57 yards short of breaking Lamont Jordan’s then-freshman record for most rushing yards in a single season.
But Harrison would never get a chance to reach that mark. Shortly before the start of Maryland’s 62-3 loss to Ohio State, Harrison and fellow freshmen DJ Turner and Antoine Brooks were suspended indefinitely for violations of the athlete code of conduct. Four days later, Harrison and Turner were charged with three counts of second degree assault and three counts of reckless endangerment for firing BB guns at students. Harrison didn’t play again all season, but the charges were eventually dropped and he was reinstated to the team.
He’s struggled to get back to his freshman-year form.
Harrison remained the No. 2 running back for his sophomore season but wasn’t able to make the same impact. He still ran for 622 yards on three touchdowns and tied Johnson with a team-high 137 carries, though his yards per carry declined from 7.2 to 4.5. However, Harrison was much better over the second half of the season, running for 382 yards and three touchdowns while averaging 5.4 yards per carry after only running for 240 yards and averaging 3.6 yards per carry in the first half.
But injuries kept him from bringing that momentum into 2018. He had 10 carries for 84 yards in Maryland’s wins over Texas and Bowling Green before sitting out against Temple with a hamstring injury. Interim head coach Matt Canada kept him out of the game against Minnesota two weeks later. After returning from that injury, he suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice the next week.
Now, he’s battling for carries.
Harrison and fellow redshirt junior Jake Funk both didn’t participate in the spring game as they recover from injuries. Harrison is likely ahead of Funk on the depth chart, but after that, it’s mostly unknown where he’ll end up. Both he, Leake and Fleet-Davis can complement McFarland in different ways. Harrison has the most question marks out of the three, since he may not have the same playmaking ability he had before the injury. Every player recovers from a knee injury differently, and it could take a while for him to get comfortable again.
McFarland heads into fall camp as the No. 1 back, but he can’t be on the field for every down. Harrison has shown he can do more than give McFarland a breather, even if it’s been almost three years since he played his best college football. If he can return to or come close to his freshman-year form, Maryland’s backfield becomes a lot more dangerous.