For Caleb Rowe and Levern Jacobs, developing chemistry has been easy. You’d be hard pressed to find two players who spend more time with one another than Rowe and Jacobs; the two are roommates. Being in such close quarters with another player has one of those intangible effects that has very tangible benefits on the field. They have it easy in that they have time to bond all the time.
“Levern is a great player and athlete,” Rowe told me last week following the Clemson loss. “And he’s also my roommate, so me and him have a great connection. And he’s been working hard, even when he wasn’t playing.”
The on-field chemistry is obvious: in the three games where Rowe has been the primary quarterback, Jacobs has 253 yards on 12 receptions and two touchdowns. The two know the tendencies of one another, and they read each other very well. When Rowe throws a ball high, Jacobs is already in the air ready to grab the ball and take off running. When Jacobs is teetering on the sidelines running a route, Rowe knows where to place the ball so Jacobs can comfortably make the catch. They’re brothers on the field, and they both know how to take advantage of their own inherent abilities.
“We get along well,” said Jacobs. “We talk in the room, we always talk about what we’re going to do if we’re on the field together.”
These second team reps also extend the Rowe chemistry to guys like Nigel King and Amba Etta-Tawo as well. It wasn’t surprising that King had his best game against Clemson when Rowe was starting (5 receptions, 76 yards, 1 TD). He’s been getting reps with Rowe all year, and eight of his thirteen catches on the year have come from Rowe passes, even when Long and Diggs were in the game.
The same goes for Etta-Tawo. Of his 11 receptions on the season, eight of those have come from Caleb Rowe. His targets also increase dramatically when Rowe is in the game. Ibid for King and Jacobs, big time. The second team is now the first team, really. The Terps went from being a read-option team to a shotgun set, pro-style offense when that happened. Now, Brown is going to have to come in and bridge the gap between the two. Some read-option, some pro-style.
Things may not come as easy, though. In the five games that Brown has been the starter, Jacobs has 150 yards receiving, and his average plummets from 21 yards per reception to 13.34 yards per reception. This is, of course, not just attributable to a lack of chemistry. For one, Jacobs played those five games in the shadow of Stefon Diggs and Deon Long. He wasn’t the primary option, and Brown tended to focus in on his two big threats. Naturally, Jacobs went a bit underutilized due to the hierarchy of receivers. Same goes for King and Etta-Tawo. The offenses were just completely different, and that’s going to take some adjusting to.
In fact, of Brown’s 87 completions this season, only 10 have gone to guys not named Diggs, Long, or Jacobs. So when I say these receivers are new to Brown, the facts back it up. These new receivers may have been on the same team, but their roles are completely different and their expectations are as well. It remains to be seen whether their timing will be in synch with one another, and their heads on the same page. If not, we may see a fair amount of miscues from the offensive passing game.
But make no mistake, Brown is the starter for the Terps against Syracuse, regardless of chemistry or prior passes. Jacobs has earned the right to be the primary receiving option on this injury-depleted roster. His performances against some of the better defenses in the ACC has shown that. Brown and Jacobs (and King, and Etta) are still developing their chemistry together, but they’re going to have to do it in short order. And figure out which offense they want to run, fast.