SEABROOK – With the start of college football less than a month away, multiple prestigious preseason watch lists have two University of Maryland players listed as players to watch out for this season.
Redshirt sophomore running back Anthony McFarland was named to the Maxwell Award Watch List for the National Player of the Year and the Doak Walker Award Watch List for most outstanding running back. Senior defensive back Antoine Brooks was named to the Bednarik Award Watch List for the National Defensive Player Year.
McFarland exploded onto the scene during his redshirt freshman campaign, running for a freshman record 1,034 yards after sitting out all of 2017 recovering from a leg injury he suffered during his senior year at DeMatha Catholic High School.
The Second Team All-Big Ten performer was Maryland’s top running back by the end of the season and finished 2018 with four 100-plus rushing yard performances. After running for 107 yards against Temple, McFarland scored the first two touchdowns of his college career two weeks later against Minnesota, using his breakaway speed to score on 26 and 64-yard runs.
However, his best performances came later in the season. He for 210 yards in a 34-32 loss at Indiana on Nov. 10, and played even better against Ohio State one week later.
On the Terps second play from scrimmage against the Buckeyes, he sprinted 81 yards for a touchdown. Five minutes later, he scored from 75 yards out. McFarland finished the game with 298 rushing yards, just eight yards shy of Lamont Jordan’s single-game rushing record.
Despite the accolades, McFarland said during the Big Ten media days that he just does whatever he can to help the team and that he thinks he can be a lot better this season.
“Everything I do this year, from big runs to exciting plays, I do that for the team,” McFarland said. “Everyone keeps asking me about all the awards, all that stuff is cool but there’s nothing like going out for the team. I feel like being a team player, all the accolades (will) take care of it for itself.”
Meanwhile, Brooks heads into this season as the leader of a talented secondary and relatively inexperienced defense. He finished third on the team last year with 68 tackles, including a team-high nine tackles for loss.
“I feel like we’re preparing all the young ones,” Brooks said of the defense this year. “The Big Ten is a good, competitive conference, so everyone has to be ready to play too.”
Although he’s listed as a defensive back, Brooks is a playmaker all over the field, whether it’s blowing up a play in the backfield or the secondary. In last year’s season opener against Texas, he had a team-high 11 tackles and made the game-saving interception with 1:04 remaining.
The Lanham, Maryland native has one year remaining in a career that was hard to imagine when he came to College Park. During his senior year at DuVal High School, Brooks suffered a gruesome leg injury and Division I college interest mostly disappeared.
Then-Head Coach DJ Durkin immediately recruited Brooks after being hired. The DuVal alum did not hesitate to sign on to Maryland on National Signing Day.
“It means a lot to me honestly,” Brooks said about playing for the flagship school in his home state. “When I was a young man and I was always dreaming about college football, but playing at Maryland is kind of different…I’m just excited to even play for Maryland.”
He spent his freshman year on special teams, then scooped up a blocked kick and returned it for a touchdown to start his sophomore season in a season-opening win over Texas. After playing a hybrid linebacker/defensive back role the past two seasons, Brooks will play safety in new defensive coordinator Jon Hoke’s 3-4 scheme.
Both Brooks and McFarland attended Big Ten media days on July 18-19 along with Head Coach Mike Locksley and senior defensive back Tino Ellis. Maryland opens its 2019 season on Aug. 31 against Howard at Maryland Stadium.