The Maryland football program has high expectations as they enter their first season in the Big Ten. The ACC days are long gone and it’s time for the Terrapins to look towards a very bright future.
One of Maryland’s most constantly talked-about positions is wide receiver and for good reason. Former Good Counsel star Stefon Diggs decided to start the Stay Home Movement, and commit to Maryland over offers from just about every major school in the country. Diggs had a monster freshman campaign in which he caught 54 passes for 848 yards (15.7 yards-per-catch) and six touchdowns.
If Diggs wasn’t enough firepower for the Terps, Maryland was able to land talented wideout Deon Long from the JUCO ranks (Iowa Western Community College). Before suffering a season-ending leg injury, Long grabbed 32 balls for 489 yards (15.3 yards-per-catch) and a touchdown.
When the Terps lost their top two dynamic wideouts, the next-man-up effect set in. Obviously, fans didn’t know what to expect with Levern Jacobs, Nigel King, and Amba Etta-Tawo being the top three options at the position. As the season progressed, we found out just how good these guys can be.
Jacobs was a relatively unknown commodity as a sophomore. The Temple Hills native only caught seven passes during his freshman season. However, Jacobs went on to shatter his career bests with 47 catches for 640 yards (13.6 yards-per-catch) and three touchdowns in 2013.
Jacobs led the Terps in receiving and displayed the mentality of a veteran wideout. His ability to shed tacklers in the open field was spectacular as he is such a shifty player. Jacobs also runs a very nice slant route, which brings up the memorable Clemson game where Maryland opened the game with a 71-yard touchdown pass from quarterback C.J. Brown to Jacobs for the early score.
Etta-Tawo is another wideout that impressed throughout 2013. Coming into the season, not a ton was expected from the redshirt freshman. However, Etta-Tawo was extremely dependable all season long. He displayed his potential as a strong possession receiver, who will go wherever he needs to catch the football. Whether it was in traffic or leaping through the air, the ball was coming down in the Georgia native’s mitts.
Despite Jacobs and Etta-Tawo being the two wideouts that were talked about extensively last year, King had a successful season in his own right. The Raleigh native had a team-high four touchdown catches and was the perfect compliment to guys like Jacobs and Etta-Tawo. King had a stretch of four consecutive games where he caught at least five passes. 21 of his 33 grabs were made during that period and the Terps ended up losing three of those four contests to the likes of Clemson, Syracuse, and Boston College. King may not be a huge impact player, but he’s shown that he can be counted on to make big-time plays during his first two years in College Park. That was evident back in 2012 when he grabbed a pass down the sideline to put Maryland in field goal range to potentially beat NC State. I won’t bring up that result for obvious reasons.
While it was clear that the Terps had five good wide receivers on their roster in 2013, there will be even more in their inaugural season in the Big Ten.
Marcus Leak missed the entire 2013 campaign for personal reasons. He temporarily withdrew from school, but is back and plans to play football again. Leak will be a junior and should see decent playing time for the Terps once again. The Charlotte native established himself as a down-field threat during his sophomore season, and even more important, was able to lend a helping hand on a pass that was intended for Diggs back in 2012. Leak became one of then-starting quarterback’s Perry Hills’ favorite targets before both were injured in the second half of the season.
Then you have the likes of freshman Juwann Winfree and redshirt freshman Taivon Jacobs. Both are unproven commodities, but have a very high pedigree.
Winfree comes in as a highly-touted recruit from New Jersey and provides another dimension to the Maryland offense. With potentially six wideouts ahead of Winfree on the depth chart, a redshirt season may be in order for the incoming freshman. Regardless of if he plays in 2014, the talent of Winfree is off the charts.
Winfree was a four-star recruit and a top 300 player, according to 247Sports. The Englewood product has decent size at 6’2, and is incredibly elusive in the open field. Winfree caught 33 passes for 733 yards and eight touchdowns during his senior high school season. He also has a great pair of hands that help him keep the acceleration going as he heads downfield.
It’s absolutely incredible that a guy like Winfree may have to redshirt his first season at Maryland. That’s how deep this receiver group. Winfree definitely should see a bump up the depth chart in a year or two. Long will be gone after the 2014 season, and Diggs could declare early for the NFL Draft. Jacobs and King will both be seniors by the 2015 season, so Winfree could be one of the top options for the Terps.
Taivon Jacobs seems to be the forgotten man on this depth chart. However, he did impress during spring practice. Jacobs is a former four-star recruit that flipped his commitment from Ohio State to Maryland on National Signing Day in 2013.
On the field, Jacobs may be small in stature, but has a great deal of talent. The Suitland product has incredible speed, which helped him quite a bit while playing safety in high school. He is always able to find that second gear when he needs to make a key play. One of Jacobs’ key assets is that he is a wizard in the return game. That facet of the game could let him see the field as a redshirt freshman. Coach Randy Edsall may not want to risk getting Diggs banged up and could summon Jacobs to help out cornerback Will Likely in that department.
It’s amazing the amount of depth that Maryland has at the wideout position. There are seven guys that are capable of starting at the Division I level. Obviously, there are not enough footballs to go around, but most of these guys will see the field quite a bit. As we know from watching this team over the past two season, injuries happen A LOT and that’s why you have depth on your football team. If C.J. Brown is able to stay healthy and upright, the Terps could be very explosive in their first year in the Big Ten.