Colby McDonald taking advantage to provide spark to Maryland’s rushing attack

Maryland knew they had a star to lead the backfield in 2023 with Roman Hemby building off a successful redshirt freshman season. Antwain Littleton has been able to carve a niche for himself as the Terps’ short-yardage back heading into the season, while the young tandem of Ramon Brown and Nolan Ray gives optimism for the future.

While Ray has been sidelined since his week one appearance and Brown was spotted back with the running backs during the open portion of practice this week, it’s been Colby McDonald who’s provided a spark for the Terps rushing attack, building off a season where he finished with just 140 rushing yards on 30 carries.

“I’m so happy to see what Colby has been able to do with the opportunities that he’s earned,” head coach Mike Locksley said earlier this week. “And I say not given because he’s been one of those guys maybe a year ago that found himself in the doghouse and, as I’d like to say, I use playing time to correct behaviors and you know what? He kept his head down. He kept plugging away and you know, [Antwain] opened the door for him when he got himself put on a bench and now Colby made some plays. We know that it’s almost like the freshman Colby is back, and he’s been practicing really well. So, we’ve got three guys there and then you throw in some of the other guys, the running back room is to me, it’s one of our strengths, and we have to continue to find ways to keep them all involved.”

Colby McDonald has noticed the difference between his sophomore to junior seasons.

“I’ve been working on finishing runs, like finishing all my runs to the best of my abilities, whether it’s third level cuts, or just finishing forward, and not just giving up on runs, giving my all,” McDonald said.

The former St. John’s (DC) running back enters conference play leading Maryland’s running backs in yards per carry (7.9) and rushes over 15 yards (5) to bolster a confident rotation.

“Honestly, I feel like last year I was getting in my own head so I feel like this year, I just left all of the bad stuff and all of the things that [were] going on out of my head and just kept my head down and work as hard as I can. And like I said, God’s timing is the best time.”

Despite punching in four touchdowns to seal last week’s win, the Terps couldn’t find sustained success with the ground game as McDonald led the team in both carries (10) and yards (75). Maryland’s rushing attack will look to bounce back against a Spartan defense that allows 125 yards per game on the ground, yet one touchdown.

“We know that the Spartan defense gonna come out and play hard. They’re not going to beat themselves, they’re going to come out, they’re going to know their keys, they’re going to try to blitz us, we know all that.”

While the passing attack has a chance to add to the woes in the Spartans’ secondary, Maryland’s rushing attack gives the offense a chance to find its groove early in East Lansing as they look to avoid another slow start.

“Usually in practice throughout the year, we have our times where we start slow in the beginning and we pick it up in the end and what we do in practice, we do in the game,” McDonald added. “So, starting out from the jump, just if it’s just walk through, being locked in. Getting ready to start fast. I feel like that’s how we can start fast and be mentally focused as well. Not overlooking the teams we play, just being ready to play.”

Colby McDonald and company will look to do so beginning at 3:30 PM on Saturday.

“The feeling is unreal, honestly, and it’s really time to, like, turn up the notch like that. We did really good in these non-conference games, but we know the conference games is the start of the journey. And like Coach Locks said, we talk about winning championships up here. Game one is to start. And yeah, every team we play is faceless and nameless but we got to take every game like it’s the Big Ten championship to get there, honestly.”

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