Former Maryland running back Anthony McFarland Jr., who is currently preparing for the 2020 NFL Draft, says his fresh legs — which stem from a healthy competition in the Terps’ backfield — will help him at the next level.
McFarland was a highly-regarded recruit when he committed to Maryland, but he redshirted in 2017 since he was working his way back into shape after breaking his fibula early in his senior year at DeMatha in 2016. He then got the bulk of the team’s carries in 2018 and shared carries with Javon Leake and Tayon Fleet-Davis in 2019.
The 5-foot-9, 198-pound McFarland totaled 245 carries during that two-year period. Meanwhile, top draft prospects like Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor (926 career carries), Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins (725) and Georgia’s D’Andre Swift (440) all toted the rock far more than McFarland.
“It’s definitely a good deal because I feel like even though I played in college, I don’t have a lot of wear and tear on my body,” McFarland said on Glenn Clark Radio March 19. “I feel like that helps me a lot coming into the next level and the pros, that I’m coming in almost kind of with fresh legs. I’m not a guy that has so many carries in my career, so I feel like that’s the good side of things.”
McFarland is thankful for a deep running back corps that lightened his load at Maryland. McFarland was the Terps’ top player in 2018, running for 1,034 yards, four touchdowns and a 7.9-yard average on the ground. But Fleet-Davis carried the ball 75 times, and Ty Johnson (now with the Detroit Lions) carried it 66 times. That kept McFarland fresh throughout the season, and he had his best game as a Terp against Ohio State in November 2018:
In 2019, McFarland battled a nagging ankle injury while running for 614 yards and eight touchdowns, while Leake broke out — he ran for 736 yards, eight touchdowns and a 7.2-yard average. McFarland ran the ball 114 times; Leake, 102, and Fleet-Davis, 63.
“The thing about running back, man, is that every play you get hit somewhere. You’re getting hit every single play. Not a lot of people understand the wear and tear running backs take,” McFarland said. “I feel like nowadays [in football], people are trying to have two backs, three backs, just to help that one back out that’s playing and that’s starting and getting a lot of reps.
“I feel like a lot of teams should do that. It makes you become closer. That’s how we became closer in the running back room. We always said, ‘We’re going to help each other out. You need a breather, I can come in there.'”
McFarland became particularly close with Leake, who is also going through the NFL Draft process now. (Both were at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.) In addition to pushing each other on the field, McFarland and Leake compete off the field. McFarland said the two play Madden and NBA2K, with McFarland better at Madden and Leake at NBA2K.
“It’s definitely a good thing to have the support and guys like Leake going through this whole process,” McFarland said. “It’s something we can talk about years from now. We can be 30 or 40. ‘Remember when we went to the Combine together? That was a tough process.’ I feel like it’s something that we always have something to talk about, that we actually went through this process together. We don’t know what the future holds for us, but we know this is the beginning and this is where we start.”
McFarland ran a 4.44 40-yard dash at the Combine, fourth among running backs (Taylor was tops at 4.39). Now, McFarland is in a holding pattern like the rest of the draft prospects due to COVID-19. Pro days and visits to team facilities have been canceled, but the draft is still slated for April 23-25.
McFarland says hearing his name called in the draft has been his goal since he was 5 years old.
“I feel like when that day comes, it’s probably going to be one of the best days ever because it’s something I worked for my whole life,” McFarland said. “All the sacrifices that my family has done for me, just getting me to where I need to be with workouts, putting me in the right school and just putting me in the best position, putting me around good football players where I can learn from them, good or bad.”
McFarland discussed some other topics as well …
On Terps head coach Michael Locksley:
“I think he’s in a good spot. Just him coming in as a first-year head coach, just doing what he can, working with what he had to work with, I feel like he’s in a pretty good spot. I know he knows the ins and outs of DMV recruiting. He does a hell of a job in recruiting, so I’m not really worried about him not getting the kids – Stefon Diggs. … I’m not really too worried about that because the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Coach Locks is that he’s a recruiter. I feel like he’s going to do a good job and I feel like he’s going put the program in the right position to succeed.”
On local recruits coming to Maryland:
“That’s one of the reasons I committed, because I knew when I committed I wasn’t just doing this for me. I wanted to show other kids around the area that are playing youth ball, who were brought up the same as me growing up, I wanted to show them you don’t have to go to these big-name schools to accomplish your dreams. Not even just Maryland, anywhere where you feel like you can succeed at and any school that you feel like has your best interests, you can excel and do all the things that you want to do, then go to that school whether it’s D-I, D-II or D-III. I really believe that if you put your mind to what you really want in life, no matter who you are, that you’re going to succeed at what you want to do in life. I just wanted to show kids around the area that you can be in your backyard at the University of Maryland and still have a chance to go to the NFL.”
On being confused for Booger McFarland’s son, also named Anthony:
“It’s something I’ve been getting since I was a little kid. I always got that. People would come up to me before I even knew who [his son] was, they would be like, ‘Are you Booger’s son?’ And I’m like, ‘Who is that?’ And then I’d look it up and I’d be like, ‘OK, he’s got the same name as me.’ But I’ve been getting that for awhile. It’s definitely not going to end anytime soon.”
For more from McFarland, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox