Maryland OC Walt Bell not concerned about young RBs Lorenzo Harrison III and Anthony McFarland

A year ago as a freshman, Maryland running Lorenzo Harrison III showed immediately that he was ready to make the jump from high school to college.

Though he appeared to be buried on the depth chart going into the season opener against Howard, Harrison moved up quickly after picking up 67 yards and a touchdown on nine carries and well as scoring on a 16-yard catch in a 53-14 win over the Bison.

In a season shortened by a four-game suspension for his involvement in an off-field incident in early November for allegedly firing off an Air Soft rifle on campus, Harrison finished with 633 yards and five touchdowns on 88 carries.

One of Harrison’s best games came in a 30-24 double-overtime win at Central Florida, when he rushed for 77 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Maryland offensive coordinator Walt Bell hopes that Saturday’s rematch with the Knights in College Park will reinvigorate Harrison.

In two games this season, Harrison has gained just 78 yards on 19 carries for a rushing offense that is leading the Big Ten and is ninth in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 315 yards per game.

Junior Ty Johnson has gained 256 yards on just 17 carries and has scored three touchdowns.

Asked Wednesday about Harrison’s slow start, Maryland offensive coordinator Walt Bell said, “Sometimes it’s not your day. I know that’s not the answer that anybody wants to hear.”

Bell was typically candid when offering one theory.

“All these kids have a lot of pride,” Bell said. “Lorenzo is a great player. When you see the other guy [Johnson] break a bunch of big runs, and everybody’s talking about him and nobody’s talking about you, sometimes you press a little bit and try to do too much and hit things that aren’t there.”

Still, Bell believes that Harrison is still contributing in other ways to Maryland’s 2-0 start.

“Lorenzo is doing an incredible job,” Bell said. “He’s our highest-effort player on offense. If we get all 11 guys to play like he plays, with and without the ball, we’d be a great offense. He’s a guy every week we point out for effort.

“Sometimes you’re a victim of what the other 10 guys around you do, and sometimes you’re pressing a little bit. I have no problems handing it to either one of them in any situation no matter how critical. Both of them are great players.”

A year after listing as many as five different running backs simultaneously as the team’s potential starter until the performances of Johnson and Harrison — along with a foot injury to senior Trey Edmunds — made the pecking order more obvious, Harrison and Johnson are still listed as co-No.1s.

“As we get into the meat of our play, it’s going to take both of those guys,” Bell said. “There’s going to be games when Lorenzo had 200 yards and Ty only had 60. There’s going to be games when people are going to say, ‘Ty’s a great player and what’s wrong with Lo Lo [Harrison’s nickname]?”

But just as Harrison put pressure on upperclassmen as a freshman, Javon Leake might have done that too in Maryland’s 63-17 win over Towson on Sept. 9. Leake rushed four times for 78 yards, including a 61-yard streak down the sideline for a touchdown.

Leake, who was ranked the top high school running back in North Carolina last year, is also taking advantage of the fact that fellow freshman Anthony McFarland is still not 100 percent after missing his senior year at DeMatha with a leg injury.

Asked about McFarland’s status Wednesday, Bell said, “When he gets back to where he was at the end of his junior year, from a physical standpoint, where he’s fresh and he’s ready to go, and we’ve got an entire spring to really grind on him and give him nine million carries, I think a year from now he’s got a chance to be a really special player.”

Though Bell and second-year coach DJ Durkin never talk about redshirting players, it appears that is the direction they are heading with McFarland, who followed Harrison at DeMatha.

Either that, or entering him as a Quickfire Challenge on “Top Chef".

“The most important thing for him is that we get him as mentally and physically sharp as possible, so when it is his time, he looks the way he’s supposed to look,” Bell said. “One of the biggest issues you can run into is so many people heap such expectation and praise him so much that the second it doesn’t look like that the first time they carry the football, everybody thinks that they failed.

“That’s the last thing we want to happen to him. He’s a local guy, he’s a great football player. But it takes time. We’ve got to season him, he’s got to marinate him a little bit and when it’s time to come out of the ziplock bag and go the grill, he’ll be ready to go.”

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad