With the loss of Prince-Tyson Gulley and Adonis Ameen-Moore to graduation, McFarlane and fellow redshirt junior running back, George Morris II, are now the focal point of the running backs room under offensive coordinator Tim Lester, who is entering his first full season as the primary play caller.
Under Lester, the Orange appears set to get back more to a two tight end set and run the ball between the tackles, which means McFarlane and Morris II will receive far more than their 63 combined carries for 292 yards from 2014.
Now that the offense has had a full off-season to get accustomed to Lester’s system, McFarlane said he feels that the offense is a lot simpler than former offensive coordinator George McDonald’s offense, which emphasized an up-tempo pace to run as many plays as possible.
“I like this offense [Lester’s] because we’re able to perfect the plays we have instead of trying to run a bunch of plays as fast as possible,” McFarlane said.
Under McDonald, the running backs rotated every second or third series which made it difficult for each individual player to get a feel for the flow of the game. Now that the offense is simpler – and in a sense slower – the running backs, whether it be McFarlane, Morris II or top recruits Dontae Strickland and Jordan Fredericks, will be able to get accustomed to the feel and pace of the game, which could lead to more explosive plays.
McFarlane showed glimpses of his explosion and game-breaking burst towards the end of the ’14 season when he received more touches game-by-game while establishing trust and confidence with Lester and head coach Scott Shafer. His best individual performance came on the road against Wake Forest when he carried the ball 10 times for a team-leading 114 yards, including a career-long 86-yard burst up the middle at the 7:16 mark of the third quarter.
Having carried that experience and confidence through the end of the ’14 season and into spring practice, McFarlane continues to impress, even receiving public praise from Shafer after the 7th spring practice last week in which Shafer said he was pleased with McFarlane’s performance so far based off of some good, long runs behind a new offensive line.
While public praise for his head coach and a strong showing in spring practice is a nice start to his junior season in blue and orange, McFarlane knows there’s much more to come from him. With a feature role likely locked up for next season, he knows he’ll be looked to in a leadership role now that he’s one of the veterans in the locker room.
“I’ve been waiting for this to happen for four years now,” McFarlane said. “I’m putting in extra work in the weight room, extra film sessions, extra work after practice on the field…I want to take advantage of this opportunity.”