How Ty Johnson Became Maryland's Bell Cow

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The college running back takes a beating on every carry, and they're asked to just deal with it over the course of a game. But week by week, that contact eventually accumulates.

The college running back takes a beating on every carry, and they're asked to just deal with it over the course of a game. But week by week, that contact eventually accumulates. 

"You prepare five [running backs], and you hope by Week 11 or 12 you've got one or two left," offense coordinator Walt Bell told media Wednesday. 

Maryland's committee of talented running backs has helped them deal with that physicality, with all six co-starters in the backfield still contributing on a weekly basis. Still, sophomore Ty Johnson says even he's feeling "not the best, but like every other player in the country not everybody is going to be 100-percent." 

The bevy of talent in the backfield may be a staple of Maryland's offense, but Johnson has established himself as the bell cow back under Bell's offense. He earned the starting role after Wes Brown was served a three-game suspension, and he's made the most of his opportunity ever since. 

From promising to difference making.

The role of Johnson has changed dramatically since his freshman year. He was one of a few bright spots amidst a tumultuous 3-9 campaign in 2015.  The Cumberland, MD native rushed for 250 yards behind 35 carries, displaying a natural gift for speed and big-play ability along the way. 

This year, Johnson has 656 rushing yards behind 77 carries, averaging 8.5 yards per carry. His yards-per-carry stat ranks fourth in the country, and he's one of just two sophomores in the top five. Johnson's uptick in snaps and production don't directly correlate to the Terps' improved offense this year, but it's undeniable he's played a pivotal role in it. 

"He's much more patient. He's much more selective about when it's time to hit a home run," Bell said. 

In Maryland's Big Ten home opener against Purdue, Johnson exploded for runs of 56, 76 and 48 yards en rout to a whopping 204 rushing yards. His budding potential as a freshman has become a tangible difference maker on the field. 

Leadership can come from any age.

Veteran leadership doesn't necessarily have to come from the eldest members of a team. Bell made special note of Johnson's initiative to lead, and where he could be in a couple of years. 

"As he grows, I can really see him becoming a kid that makes himself into a leader of the football team by the time he's done," Bell said. 

Take his film preparation, for example. A foot might not seem like much of a difference, but it's game changing in the eyes of Johnson. 

"I look at film during meeting and before practice and I see my alignment is off by like maybe a foot or so, that plays a big part where I'm supposed to go," Johnson told media Wednesday. "Say we're running an inside zone play and my alignment is off, I'm either going to get there too fast or I'll get there too late and the hole closes."

And leadership isn't just about self-improvement, it's a collective effort.

"There will be some days where I'll be down on myself, guys going through things mentally, trying to get through practice," Johnson said, also noting the key to overcoming it is "trying to make sure everybody stays positive."

The Terps have the luxury of not having to rely on one alpa running back, but Johnson looks to be Maryland's go-to if they had to. 

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