There was talk after Maryland’s 2017 football season ended that sophomore running back Jake Funk might be moved to defense, where he played quite a bit in high school.
That talk quieted when offensive coordinator Walt Bell left for Florida State in January and Matt Canada, whose offenses have often used a healthy dose of jet sweeps, was hired as Bell’s successor.
As evidenced by what Canada called and Funk did in Saturday’s annual Red-White spring game at Maryland Stadium, that could become a regular staple of the offense this fall.
Funk, who scored four times in 27 carries last season as he developed into something of a goal-line specialist for the Terps, scored twice on jet sweeps in helping the White team to a 31-3 victory Saturday.
On both touchdowns, Maryland’s second-team defense was caught going in the wrong direction, allowing Funk to run unscathed into the end zone.
“That’s what the whole offense is based off of — [misdirection],” Funk said. “Getting the defense’s eyes off of what’s actually going on … and ultimately they lose track of the ball.”
Asked if it was reminiscent of his senior year at Damascus High, where he set a Maryland state record with 52 touchdowns, Funk said, “I feel they try to get me all over the field. Jet sweeps, out in the slot, playing running back. I think my role in this offense is increasing and I love it so far.”
Said third-year coach DJ Durkin: “What we do offensively really allows for a guy to create a role for himself. … You have certain strengths and [if] those show, we can find a way to utilize you and Jake obviously has a nose for the end zone. He’s a terrific running back.”
Not that Funk is going to displace senior Ty Johnson (10 carries for 50 yards Saturday) as Maryland’s top running back, but he might squeeze some carries away from fellow junior Lorenzo Harrison III, who sat out the spring game with an undisclosed injury.
Then there’s redshirt freshman Anthony McFarland and sophomore Javon Leake.
McFarland, who sat out last season recovering from a broken leg and ankle he suffered as a senior at DeMatha, had a spectacular 39-yard run on which he bounced off a defender cutting right and then changed direction.
Leake, who as a freshman showed his combination of speed and power with a 61-yard touchdown against Towson and a 20-yard touchdown burst at Ohio State, followed McFarland’s run with a 37-yarder up the middle for a touchdown.
“Anthony McFarland’s been terrific. He’s got such big-play capability,” Durkin said. "He’s finally healthy and in shape and he is who we all know he is. It just took some time. We expect huge things from him. Javon Leake as well. He even showed that in spurts last year as a freshman and I think you’ll see more and more of that.”
Not that Funk will be overlooked as the younger, faster running backs find their way.
“Jake has always been such a big contributor special teams-wise for us, and I think you’ll see his role increasing more and more on offense,” Durkin said.
Pick-six for Lewis
Florida State transfer Marcus Lewis, who is being counted on to replace JC Jackson as Maryland’s shutdown cornerback, made a good first impression.
The 6-1, 190-pound junior, whose career in Tallahassee was derailed by a hip injury that required surgery after his sophomore year in 2016, stepped in front of Chris Jones and returned it 43 yards.
“Always fun to get a pick-six, especially here,” Lewis said. “It’s my first time playing in a long time, my family and friends were here. It was good to get one under my belt.”
With quarterbacks Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill sitting out the spring as they rehabilitate from ACL surgeries this past fall, junior Max Bortenschlager and freshman Tyler DeSue got most of the reps Saturday.
Along with sophomore walk-on Legend Brumbaugh, the three combined to complete just 11 of 27 passes for 98 yards. As expected, Bortenschlager was the most effective, completing five of nine for 70 yards.
The interception return by Lewis for a touchdown was part of a rough start for DeSue, who completed just one of his first eight passes for minus-1 yard. DeSue finished 4-for-12 for 20 yards.
Durkin seemed confident that both Pigrome, who was injured in the season-opening win at Texas, and Hill, who got hurt in his second start in a home loss to Central Florida, will be ready to go in July.
“They’re even a little ahead of schedule with where they’re at,” Durkin said. “Our plan all along has been by the end of May to have them full strength, to have a full summer to get ready to go.”
Durkin on potential search for new AD
Durkin, who was hired by outgoing athletic director Kevin Anderson, didn’t have much to say about Friday’s announcement of Anderson’s resignation and the expected national search for his successor.
“To me, we’re about, control the controllables, and what’s with our team, I have great faith in our administration and our university and we’ll do the right thing for sure,” he said.