COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Terps sophomore running back LoLo Harrison addressed the elephant in the room last Thursday after spring practice as quickly as the shifty back's jump-cuts elude defenders in crowded backfields.
Stepping into a crowd of media that nearly engulfed the Terps mighty-mite at the practice field, Harrison dove right in about last fall's suspension after his soft pellet gun shooting incident on campus. The one which cost him three games and the bowl, nearly his UMD career, and a Terps freshman rushing mark.
Said the former DeMatha back and true freshman starter in two games last fall, who in a total of nine games rushed for 633 yards and 5 touchdowns, the former being just 57 yards shy of LaMont Jordan's all-time Maryland freshman rushing mark set in 1999:
"First I just want to apologize for the negative light I placed on the University, my coaches, and the fans. I know it was really hard for everybody when I was no longer with the team for the period of time that I was," a determined Harrison said. "I just want to say I am really appreciative to the University, Dr. [Wallace] Loh, my coaches, everybody that fought for me to be back to the University. And be back on the team and playing the game that I love."
Harrison, the fleet-footed one who flashed on the scene as a rookie last fall (see his 7.2 ypc clip), formed a great one-two punch with sophomore Ty Johnson, all before his rookie campaign unwound amidst the shock of the on-campus incident along with fellow Terps frosh and DeMatha alum D.J. Turner, who was also suspended for the final games.
Harrison had never met with the Maryland media before or since, and he put the onus on himself. The community -- from former priests and teachers and former Terrapin coaches and even top civic leaders -- all wrote letters of recommendation during his appeals process, noting this was an aberration for the church-going youth who had never slipped up off the field before.
"I means a lot because it really got to me how fast everything was almost taken away from me," Harrison continued. "And it put an emphasis on me to just work as hard as I can, and just stay focused on what I have to do."
Harrison had plenty of time for soul-searching, and the verdict could have been far worse, ie expulsion, which probably would have meant he and Turner would have played their last games at College Park. Now, Harrison is battling Johnson for the top spot again, while Turner is making big plays in camp as the No. 2 slot receiver behind senior Taivon Jacobs.
"I feel like it has definitely matured me because like I got into something really early into my career and now I just can't have any more slip-ups," Harrison said. "I just have to be mature and stay away from any more foolishness."
Harrison is also fine-tuning his game on the field, working to be a more patient back as well as better in pass-pro.
"I feel like I did a pretty decent job last year, but I still have a lot to prove," he said. "I proved I am pretty shifty and I can score touchdowns, but I feel there is still a lot people want to see from me and some people still doubt me.
Said D.J. Durkin last week:
"Lorenzo is having a really good spring. He's a dynamic guy with the ball in his hands. He showed that in games last year as a true freshman. He's good in practice and a tough guy to tackle. He's a physical runner, low center of gravity, and he's powerful. Our big focus for him this year is being better in pass protection as well as knowing when the big run isn't there, putting his foot in the ground and gaining positive yardage. Changing direction and some of the things he does to make guys miss, we'll take losses on some of those situation. But he'll learn more and more with more experience and familiarity, and he's going to be a tremendous player."
Harrison said he likes the pace and diversity of the offense this year with the multi-back system, while he said of QB Caleb Henderson, "he is having a really good spring, and I am looking forward to seeing him continue to keep progressing thru the spring and into the fall."
The sometimes once pudgy high-schooler said he has "better weight now at about 192 pounds, and looks more streamlined this spring. Of course, he said the best unit in camp has been the Terps O-line.
The other thing he missed out on was that rookie mark, which he easily would have eclipsed if not for the suspension.
"I was pretty conscious of it because people kept telling me you are almost there, almost there, and you will probably break it this game" Harrison said. "So when I got suspended it hurt me, but it also hurt me because I wasn't out there for my team."
Technically, he is also using the spring to fine-tune "my techniques, like staying on my tracks when I get the ball, tightening up my hands a little bit, and making sure my hand placement is good on my blocks and things like that," he said.
Best of all, he has even more motivation, and that says a lot since he is one of the best backs at yards-after-contact that has come through College Park in years, always churning out the hidden yards thru second effort.
"Of course I got to that point I was wondering which way things would go," he said of his fate last winter. "But I knew Coach Durkin had my back, and I kept praying, and I knew the whole University had my back."