There were reasons why running back Ty Johnson could’ve left the Maryland football team to pursue his NFL dreams.
The Terps went 4-8 last season and failed to make a bowl game for the second time in three years. Beloved offensive coordinator Walt Bell took a job at Florida State. Wide receiver DJ Moore bid farewell following a breakout campaign and shot up draft boards.
After Maryland lost to Penn State by 63 in November, Johnson spoke in a low voice as he pledged to talk with his family about his next step.
But with the hope of improving upon a down junior year, as well as the chance to earn his degree in the fall, Johnson remained with the Terps. He reported to the first day of spring practice Monday.
“There were a lot of things pulling me to leave,” Johnson said. “But I’m glad I decided to come here, and now it’s 100 percent all the way through.”
At this point last season, Johnson was riding high from a 2016 campaign in which he ran for 1,004 yards and averaged 9.1 yards per carry.
Instead of bringing that momentum into his junior year, though, he managed 875 rushing yards and 6.4 yards per carry last season. He caught five passes compared to 16 the year before, likely inflicting further damage on his draft stock.
Before Bell left for Florida State, his running back-by-committee approach threatened Johnson’s ability to bounce back in 2018. Johnson never carried the ball more than 18 times in a contest under Bell, meaning he would’ve had limited opportunities to regain his sophomore form.
Under the guidance of new offensive coordinator Matt Canada, however, the equation is different. Canada, who recently ran the offenses of LSU, Pittsburgh and North Carolina State, indicated a willingness to lean on his lead back rather than split the workload among three or four rushers.
“The best player plays,” Canada said.
While Canada is still getting to know his personnel and hasn’t crafted a concrete offensive scheme, Johnson figures to remain a key fixture in the backfield. That might extend to the passing game, where the senior hopes to take advantage of more two and three running back formations to increase his production through the air.
Johnson knows an explosive final season in College Park could propel him to a selection in the 2019 NFL Draft.
“I just thought one more season of developing and getting school out of the way wouldn’t be such a bad idea,” Johnson said. “So here I am.”