Maryland running back Anthony McFarland's senior year at DeMatha Catholic High School in 2016 was supposed to be when the future Terp built on a high school career that had already made him one of the most sought-after running backs in the country.
McFarland was a versatile threat the year prior, accumulating 527 rushing yards, 386 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior. But McFarland suffered a broken fibula during a scrimmage against St. Vincent Pallotti in August 2016, which ended his Stags' career. He still ended up as the third-best all-purpose back in the class of 2017, per
247Sports' composite rankings
, but McFarland wasn't able to fill the role that was anticipated for him as a senior Stag.
"Anthony was a kid who, his first three years, he did what the team needed and sacrificed a lot," DeMatha head coach Elijah Brooks said. "We were loaded in the running back position, and so he helped us out by playing a lot of slot receiver and split time in the backfield. His senior year was going to be his year to kind of carry the load. When he got injured, it was definitely heartbreaking for him and everybody around him."
The injury -- and its byproduct -- forced McFarland to redshirt the 2017 season, his first in College Park, Md. McFarland said he put on about 15 pounds after his injury, and Brooks said "everybody noticed." McFarland, who was listed at 5-foot-8 and 208 pounds by the Terps last year, said he's back to his usual playing weight -- between 185 and 195 pounds.
McFarland explained why his senior year at DeMatha was a struggle and how he learned from it.
"When I was hurt, that was a depressing time for me so all I was doing was just lifting and just eating bad things, putting bad things in my body," McFarland said. "So I had to mature and get better and just understand that this game is going to end short for me if I don't treat my body right. So I started to treat my body right. I felt my twitches and everything come back to normal."
McFarland said he got his quickness back this winter, and his trademark explosiveness and elusiveness was on display during a
39-yard run in Maryland's spring game
April 14. He started off by running behind right tackle Jordan McNair, evaded two tacklers and then bounced to his left for the big gain. Others can attest to what he might look like when the games count in the fall.
"He's one of the most explosive players I've ever coached," said Brooks, whose DeMatha program won four straight Washington Catholic Athletic Conference titles from 2013-16. "A kid that when he hits a seam, he can go from zero to 100 very quickly. Now that he's down to size, now that he's fully healthy, I think Maryland fans can expect to see a lot of explosiveness from Anthony."
Terps junior defensive lineman Adam McLean compared McFarland to a 2018 NFL Draft running back prospect.
"He reminds me of Derrius Guice from LSU," McLean said. "He's a one step guy, and he's gone. Once he gets the linebacker level, not one guy can tackle him -- or two, to be honest."
McFarland is part of a running back room that has no shortage of talent. Rising senior Ty Johnson rushed for 2,129 yards and 14 touchdowns from 2015-17. Rising junior Lorenzo Harrison ran for 1,255 yards and eight touchdowns from 2016-17. Rising junior Jake Funk ran for four touchdowns last year and was a key special teams cog the past two years. Rising sophomores Javon Leake and Tayon Fleet-Davis both contributed on special teams last year.
"I feel like if we all contribute and make plays, I feel like nobody can stop us and we'll have the best running back group in the Big Ten," McFarland said.
It'll be easier to get them all on the field than it was last year. Then-offensive coordinator Walt Bell didn't typically have multiple running backs on the field at the same time, preferring to rotate running backs and limit their workload to keep them healthy. New offensive coordinator
Matt Canada said in March
that his personnel packages will depend on "who shows up and wins the jobs."
Given the talent in the running back room, two- and three-back sets seem to be a certainty; McFarland is a natural fit in the slot. From there, he could be a beneficiary of jet sweeps, a staple of Canada's offense.
"When Matt Canada came and kind of showed us how we were going to use our backs, I was kind of a little happy about it," McFarland said. "Kind of showing us off and not just trying to play one back, trying to have like three backs on the field at the same time. So you know, it's a pretty good deal. I'm excited about the offense."
Though McFarland hasn't played a game yet, the Hyattsville, Md., native has been ingrained with the Terps for some time thanks to his proximity to the program during his recruitment process. He said he made unprompted visits to College Park to check in with head coach DJ Durkin and defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, his two lead recruiters, or watch practice. Those visits, he said, made him feel comfortable at Maryland.
McFarland ultimately chose the Terps instead of Miami (Fla.) and Alabama shortly before National Signing Day last year.
"I always had a dream growing up watching [former Terps] Stefon Diggs, Vernon Davis, Shawne Merriman, a lot of guys -- just being from here and just doing big-time things," McFarland said. "I want to be like a role model to kids and show that you can do what you want to do in your backyard. You can win national championships in your backyard. You can win Big Ten championships in your backyard.
"You've just got to get everybody from here to stay home just like these other universities do get these guys to stay home and they come and just do great things. I definitely feel confident that we can do that here."