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Maryland has an exciting and young backfield

Maryland has two exciting underclassmen who have excelled at running back.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland is in transition from the Randy Edsall era to new coach — and former Michigan defensive coordinator — DJ Durkin. Durkin is a great recruiter who has had success in that area when he was an assistant at Florida and at Michigan. Since he was hired on December 2, 2015, he had limited time to gather together a class, but he did grab a couple of 4-stars and he found a 3-star diamond in the rough with running back Lorenzo Harrison III. The team is struggling in Big Ten play right now, but they have had 15 freshman play this season and the 14th ranked class is coming in for next season. The future is bright for Maryland.

Harrison and sophomore running back Ty Johnson lead the Terps in rushing, averaging about 8-yards a pop. Johnson has only one game with double-digit carries and out of his 69 total carries, he’s racked up 635 yards on the season. Harrison has seen three games with double-digit carries and has already accumulated 633 yards on only 88 carries. The two youngsters got their chance when Trey Edmunds went down with a fractured foot, and they’ve both given the offense a spark.

Harrison is Maryland’s version of Mike Weber, with 17, 14 and nine carries in his prior three games. He stands at only 5’8” and possesses a thick frame. Like Weber, most would expect him to be a pure power back, but he shows quickness in the hole and has the ability to make guys miss.

“Just by stature. He’s very thick. He’s very compact. He’s got great, explosive movement and short-area quickness. He’s been blessed with a lot of talent,” Durkin said. “He’s a competitor. He plays at a high level, and he’s a guy that we point out for effort many, many times. When you get a guy with that type of ability, that plays relentless type of effort, than he is something special.”

Here’s a 26-yard run against the Nittany Lions that showed off his blend of attributes. He was able to find the hole, make the linebacker miss, out run three other defenders and keep his balance after breaking another tackle, before being corralled.

Harrison isn’t a burner, but has gained 20-plus yards eight times and 10-plus yards 20 times. He went over the century mark against Michigan State and has averaged over 5-yards per carry in every game this season. Harrison is already running like a veteran and it’s easy to forget that he’s only a true freshman.

While Harrison is the Mike Weber of Maryland, lightly-recruited sophomore Ty Johnson is the Terps’ Curtis Samuel. Johnson is a big play waiting to happen, averaging 9.20 yards per carry on only 69 carries.

On those 69 carries, Johnson gained 20-plus yards eight times and 10-plus yards 18 times. Just like Samuel, Johnson needs the ball more. Against Purdue, he racked up 204 yards and 2 touchdowns on only seven carries. In a victory against Michigan State, he rushed for 115 yards on nine carries, and against Indiana, Johnson ran for 142 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. Plain and simple, Johnson is a home run hitter who makes plays with the football in his hands.

This play below is spectacular. Johnson takes the speed option, splits two defenders, freezes the safety and scampers to the end zone. He is lightning quick and is a very elusive back.

Even though the Buckeyes have somewhat struggled against the run in the past five weeks, like Michigan, they should be able to get up early so Maryland would have to abandon the running game. Three of the last four games, they have allowed 120-plus rushing yards to opponents, including 148 to Northwestern and 236 to Wisconsin. If Maryland can somehow limit the Buckeye offense, they could attempt to emulate the Northwestern game plan of controlling clock and converting on third down. Northwestern ran 73 plays against the Buckeyes, which is one less than the 74 that Wisconsin ran against them -- the season high.

Maryland should not be competitive for all four quarters, but Durkin has two young running backs who should make a name for themselves on Saturday.