ORONO, Maine — Nigel Beckford has led the University of Maine in rushing in each of his first two seasons.

Despite suffering a shoulder injury during the fourth game of the season last fall and missing two games, he still ran for 526 yards on 123 carries for a 4.3 yards per carry average. He also caught 17 passes for 171 yards. He ran for four touchdowns.

The shoulder injury required offseason labrum surgery.

Beckford, a junior who ran for 471 yards on 118 attempts as a freshman, saw his first meaningful contact since the surgery during Sunday’s intrasquad scrimmage and had several nice runs including a 25-yarder.

Josh Mack, a true freshman, also had some impressive runs to complement Beckford and Temple University transfer Zaire Williams. Williams suffered a minor knee ailment midway through the scrimmage and didn’t return.

First-year head coach Joe Harasymiak has stressed the importance of establishing a running game this season to sustain drives and keep the Black Bear defense rested. The defense was taxed a year ago and became susceptible to long plays, especially late in games.

“The defense and the offense have to be on the same page and work together,” Beckford said. “You can’t have the defense on the field all the time.”

Harasymiak noted that running backs take a beating in the Colonial Athletic Association, so it is imperative to establish a stable of at least three running backs.

After the scrimmage, Black Bear senior quarterback Dan Collins said “all of our running backs put on a great display of what we can do in the run game.”

Beckford said his shoulder felt fine.

“I hit the ground a couple of times. It didn’t hurt. They limited [my playing time] but I felt I made use of my reps,” he said.

Beckford, a 5-foot-9, 188-pound native of Bridgeport, Connecticut, is an evasive back whose quick feet and low center of gravity enable him to knife through small seams and turn minimal gains into productive yardage.

“His side-to-side cuts were pretty impressive — just the explosiveness of them,” said Harasymiak. “It was good to see. You could tell his legs were fresh. He’s got that cut and that burst than can really help you.”

Beckford said it was a positive scrimmage.

“The offense executed. We put some drives together and scored a lot of points,” he said. “I’m looking for a great year.”

He enjoys the new offense employed by Harasymiak and offensive coordinator Liam Coen.

“It’s different, but it’s fun for all the players,” said Beckford.

His goal for this season is simple.

“I just want to win,” he said.

Mack, a 6-1, 190-pounder from Rochester, New York, said he was pleased with his progress from the first scrimmage to Sunday’s second one.

“I was a little shaky in the first scrimmage. But it felt good today. It’s a big jump from high school to Division I. The guys are a lot faster and a lot bigger,” he said. “I was one of the biggest guys out there in high school. It was a walk in the park. It’s not like that here.”

He said the first couple of practices were “rough,” but he called his dad, who also was a football player, and his father’s encouragement proved to be beneficial.

“I’m more comfortable now. I’m progressing big time. My positional coaches and the offensive coordinator have helped me,” said Mack, the 2015 Rochester Co-Player of the Year.

“I’ve been very happy with Josh,” said Harasymiak. “It’s a huge jump for him. He is a combination of Nigel and Zaire. Zaire is more of a power back.

“When he’s out there for the first time [in a game], his eyes are probably going to open up. The speed is going to be a little different. We’re going to have to make sure we take care of him,” Harasymiak added.

Mack knows how important the running game will be this season.

“If you can establish the running game, it’ll open up the whole offense,” said Mack. “It’ll be hard to stop our offense because we’ve got a lot of playmakers and they have a lot of speed.”

Maine opens its season on Thursday, Sept. 1 at the University of Connecticut.