Fresh­man Har­ri­son is mak­ing peo­ple for­get about size

Baltimore Sun - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - By Don Markus don.markus@balt­ twit­­sprof56

COL­LEGE PARK — The mes­sages on so­cial me­dia be­gan pop­ping up the mo­ment DeMatha run­ning back Lorenzo Har­ri­son an­nounced early in his ju­nior year that he was com­mit­ting to play at Mary­land.

They were mostly di­rected at Har­ri­son’s coach, Eli­jah Brooks, com­ing from al­ready dis­grun­tled Terps fans. They didn’t ex­actly of­fer con­grat­u­la­tions on the first foot­ball player to com­mit orally for 2016.

“They were just say­ing, ‘Hey, Coach Brooks, you’re send­ing us all your worst play­ers,’ ” Brooks re­called in a phone in­ter­view Tues­day. “I thought in my head, ‘You guys have no clue what this kid can do for you guys.’ They just saw a small run­ning back with a three-star rat­ing and thought they were get­ting the short end of the stick.”

Mid­way though Har­ri­son’s fresh­man sea­son, the doubters have dis­ap­peared.

Start­ing near the bot­tom of a five-player ro­ta­tion at run­ning back, Har­ri­son has emerged as Mary­land’s lead­ing rusher (502 yards) and one of the most pro­duc­tive fresh­men in the coun­try (7.7 yards per carry and five touch­downs).

Har­ri­son, 5 feet 8, 193 pounds, has gained more yards than any other true fresh­man in the Big Ten; only red­shirt fresh­man Mike We­ber of Ohio State has more (683 yards on 115 car­ries with four touch­downs) among first-year play­ers in the con­fer­ence. Only the Buck­eyes’ Cur­tis Sa­muel has a higher yards-per-carry av­er­age (8.2) among run­ning backs in the Big Ten with at least 500 yards.

Among true fresh­men na­tion­ally, Har­ri­son ranks be­hind only We­ber, Texas A&M’s Trayveon Wil­liams (727 yards on 91 car­ries with five touch­downs) and Ok­la­homa State’s Jus­tice Hill (565 yards on 109 car­ries and four touch­downs). His yards-per-carry rank sev­enth na­tion­ally among run­ning backs with at least 500 yards.

With sopho­more Ty John­son, who has been even more ex­plo­sive (10.3-yard av­er­age on 47 car­ries) at times than Har­ri­son, the Terps have one of the best run­ning at­tacks in the Big Ten (249.6 yards per game), rank­ing third be­hind Ohio State and Michi­gan.

While first-year coach DJ Durkin said Tues­day that he plans to stick with his run­ning-back-by-com­mit­tee ap­proach Satur­day at In­di­ana, Har­ri­son is mak­ing those de­ci­sions about how much Durkin will use each more Satur­day, 3:30 p.m. TV: ESPNU Ra­dio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM Line: In­di­ana by 41⁄ dif­fi­cult.

“Like any­thing else, a lot of those de­ci­sions are based on pro­duc­tiv­ity and how guys are do­ing,” Durkin said. Har­ri­son and John­son “are both be­ing very pro­duc­tive for us. We’ll con­tinue a healthy ro­ta­tion. The depth at that po­si­tion is a strength of ours.”

Yet it’s be­com­ing more ob­vi­ous that Har­ri­son is the team’s break­out star this sea­son, while John­son, who showed flashes as a fresh­man, also plays a lead­ing role. Har­ri­son needs 187 yards in Mary­land’s last five games to break Terps all-time lead­ing rusher La­Mont Jor­dan’s fresh­man record (688 yards).

In Mary­land’s 28-17 vic­tory over Michi­gan State last week, Har­ri­son car­ried 17 times for105 yards, both sea­son highs, and scored his fifth touch­down. John­son, who has 20 fewer yards and 18 fewer car­ries than Har­ri­son, had 115 yards on just nine car­ries against the Spar­tans.

Though many ques­tioned Michi­gan State’s de­fense, Spar­tans coach Mark Dan­to­nio said: “Give Mary­land credit. Those run­ning backs made peo­ple miss. We had Run­ning back Lorenzo Har­ri­son is only 5 feet 8 and 193 pounds, but he has emerged as Mary­land’s lead­ing rusher (502 yards) and one of the na­tion’s most pro­duc­tive fresh­men. them dead a cou­ple of times and they snuck out and got first downs or got the edge.”

Even be­fore he be­came the first Mary­land fresh­man in his­tory to have rush­ing touch­downs in each of his first four games, Har­ri­son showed early in pre­sea­son camp that he might be ready to be part of the ro­ta­tion at what Durkin said was his deep­est po­si­tion.

“That sec­ond or third prac­tice where we tackle to the ground, and no­body could get him to the ground, you knew he had a chance to be some­thing spe­cial, es­pe­cially with what we do on of­fense,” of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Walt Bell said Wed­nes­day.

After that, Bell said, “it was how fast could we get him ready to con­trib­ute at a high level.”

The an­swer: Though Har­ri­son was the fifth player to take a hand­off in Mary­land’s sea­son opener, he still fin­ished as the team’s lead­ing rusher with 67 yards and a touch­down on nine car­ries.

The next week at Florida In­ter­na­tional, Har­ri­son’s first carry re­sulted in a 40-yard touch­down. He had 15 car­ries for a teamhigh 78 yards and a touch­down in a dou­ble-over­time win at Cen­tral Florida.

In his first Big Ten game, a 50-7 win over Pur­due, Har­ri­son rushed for a 62-yard touch­down but was over­shad­owed by John­son, who car­ried seven times for 204 yards and two touch­downs. Even in the team’s two losses, Har­ri­son played rea­son­ably well.

“It’s one thing to con­trib­ute in spurts, [be] a four-, five- or six-rep-a-game guy, just here or there. But for him to now be a 30- to 40-snap-a-game guy, be­ing counted on in pro­tec­tions, [run­ning backs coach An­thony Tucker] has done a great job with him,” Bell said.

Bell also cred­its Har­ri­son’s work ethic and what Brooks has de­scribed as his for­mer star’s “even-keel” per­son­al­ity.

“He also has done a re­ally good job in the way he prac­tices,” Bell said. “He has very, very, very few bad days from a mood stand­point, from a work­man­ship stand­point, which is very rare for a fresh­man. At this time of year, they typ­i­cally hit the wall.”

Bell said Har­ri­son’s stature and pre­vi­ous sta­tus as an over­looked high school player also in­flu­ence his suc­cess. Har­ri­son was ranked the 55th-best run­ning back in the coun­try and was the low­est-rated of the four DeMatha play­ers to come to Mary­land this sea­son.

“In terms of his mo­ti­va­tion, he’s a pride­ful kid. He’s got a chip on his shoul­der,” Bell said. “I think lot of that has to do with he’s a diminu­tive guy, he’s a lit­tle bit smaller. He’s got a lot to prove, which I like. I’m the same way.” NO. 22 NAVY (5-1, 4-0 AAC) @SOUTH FLORIDA (6-2, 3-1) When: Tonight, 7 Site: Raymond James Sta­dium, Tampa, Fla. TV: ESPN2 Ra­dio: 1090 AM, 1430 AM Se­ries: Navy leads 1-0 What’s at stake: Navy can be­come bowl-el­i­gi­ble and move closer to cap­tur­ing the Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence West Divi­sion with a win. South Florida is seek­ing its sec­ond win over a ranked op­po­nent un­der fourth-year coach Wil­lie Tag­gart. Key matchup: The Bulls of­fen­sive line av­er­ages 317 pounds. Right tackle Mar­cus Nor­man and left guard Jeremi Hall an­chor the unit. Nose tackle Patrick For­re­stal will play a key role in mak­ing sure Navy isn’t blown off the ball. If South Florida quar­ter­back Quin­ton Flow­ers and tail­back Mar­lon Mack have room, it could be a long night for the Mids. Player to watch: Flow­ers is a dy­namic dual-threat quar­ter­back in the same mold as Hous­ton stand­out Greg Ward Jr. Flow­ers leads the Bulls in rush­ing with 745 yards and eight touch­downs. He has used his strong, ac­cu­rate arm to pass for 1,722 yards and 15 touch­downs. — Bill Wag­ner,

Bal­ti­more Sun Me­dia Group


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