By Austin Kleber
Lorenzo Harrison exploded through a crowd and juked to his left. The Maryland running back fought through three Michigan State defenders, as he stretched out for the Terps’ first score of the game.
Harrison was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week earlier this week for his 105-yard performance against the Spartans.
The Terps’ stud tailback from Hillcrest Heights, Maryland, is on pace to break LaMont Jordan’s record for rushing yards in a freshman season. Jordan carried the ball for 689 yards in 1997.
Harrison leads the team with 502 yards just seven games into the season. His consistent contribution in a crowded backfield has been a surprise to the coaches because of the other running backs’ experience.
“After we had that second tackle-to-the-ground day [of fall camp] and no one could tackle him, we could kind of see this coming,” offensive coordinator Walt Bell said. “Then, it was, ‘How fast can we get him to contribute at a high level?’ It’s one thing to contribute in spurts, but for him to now be a 30- to 40-snaps per game guy and being counted on in protections, he has done a really good job in the way he practices.”
Head coach DJ Durkin is pleased with the freshman class as a whole. Durkin said 12 to 15 freshmen are playing significant time, which will benefit the program in the long run.
“These freshmen don’t look out of place. It’s critical for the long-term,” Durkin said. “This playing time is valuable moving forward. We’re rotating guys at every position. That’s how you build a program the right way.”
Harrison didn’t know how much he would be playing before the season started because of the veteran depth at his position. The 5-foot-9, 193-pound running back entered his freshman campaign looking to contribute in whatever way he could and earn his playing time.
“He came into the summer and he put in the work. He came to the players’ seven-on-seven practices and was asking questions,” fellow running back Ty Johnson said. “He was improving every day so I’m very proud of him.”
The tandem of Johnson and Harrison has rushed for 984 yards, with Johnson racking up 482 of the total yards. Johnson said that their simultaneous success has helped push each other.
“In practice when I see him make people miss left and right, it makes me go ‘Woah,’” Johnson said. “I don’t do much of that so I have to run like an extra ten yards or something like that. We definitely push each other.”
Harrison relies on his agility to get past defenders, Bell said, as opposed to speed.
“He’ll get hit by like three guys and he’s still fighting for yards,” Johnson said of Harrison. “Even if something isn’t going our way, you can see him fighting for yards and that just speaks volumes because you have a guy that’s pouring out his heart for the team.”
The DeMatha product’s shiftiness is something that coaches and players love to mention.
“He reminds me of a Darren Sproles-type,” defensive lineman Kingsley Opara said. “He’s very shifty, low to the ground and has good vision. It’s hard to bring someone like that down. His legs are huge so if you’re trying to grab him low, he’s gonna slip. He has good upper body strength for a freshman so it’s hard (to tackle him).”
Each of those qualities combine to make Harrison a running back that ranks fifth in the country among true freshmen in touchdowns, rushing yards and yards per game.
“He’s got a chip on his shoulder. A lot of that has to do with the fact that he’s a little bit smaller and he has a lot to prove, which I like because I’m the same way,” Bell said. “He’s had very few bad days from a mood and workmanship standpoint, which is very rare for a freshman.”