October 20, 2012; College Park, MD, USA; Maryland Terrapins wide receiver Leak Marcus (82) runs following his catch to set up a touchdown against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Byrd Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
@terpstationmd Speed, speed, speed. Good player.
— JC Shurburtt (@jcshurburtt) February 6, 2013
Though that quote is about the newest Maryland Terrapin wide receiver, Taivon Jacobs, believe me when I tell you that it applies to the entire receiving corps. I actually cannot remember the last time I was this excited about watching a Terrapins offense; the mere thought of it has me nervously questioning how it’s possible to even do better than what head coach Randy Edsall and offensive coordinator have done?
Taivon Jacobs was a firm commitment to Ohio State until recently, and when a coach like Urban Meyer is enamored with you enough to seek you out repeatedly, it’s almost a certainty that you ooze talent. Jacobs does exactly that, with his 4.4 40-yard dash, All-Met pedigree, and top-10 talent in the state of Maryland. His senior year at Suitland consisted of 1,065 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns, with scouts claiming he scored a touchdown every time he touched the ball.
Oh, and did I mention he also runs track for Team USA? Are you kidding me?
Pause for a moment, and take in exactly what the Terrapins are going to be working with next season. WR Stefon Diggs was arguably one of the best freshmen in the country last season, with 962 total yards offensively and six touchdowns. He has the quickness and shiftiness to lineup in the slot, the speed to burn defenses on deep balls, and the hands to catch anything in the middle. Defenses have to keep at least one or two guys on him at all times, lest they enjoy getting taken on a ride by the Diggs4Heisman train (he’s got 40-1 odds in Vegas, by the by). Alone, Diggs was a weapon.
Locksley knew this and wanted to ensure that defenses couldn’t just hone in on Diggs, so what did he do? He got Deon Long, the best JUCO wide receiver in the country and a 6’1, 205 lb. menace who had 1,600+ yards of receiving and 25 touchdowns on the year. He is fast, he is strong, and by all accounts a five-star caliber player with the ability to dictate the game to defenses. He is so good, in fact, that his coaches at Iowa Western C.C. didn’t even play him in the fourth quarters of games. Mind you, just because it’s JUCO ball doesn’t mean it’s bad ball at all; on the contrary it’s very, very good football.
Combine him with Diggs? We’re talking Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin-style offenses right off the bat. These two aren’t even question marks like most young receivers who haven’t played a snap of college football. They are proven commodities that are, barring injury, going to become a hassle for defenses abound the minute they swagger step onto the field. Diggs and Long have done it already, there’s no questioning it.
Then there’s Marcus Leak, another 6’1, 205 lb. receiver whose prowess last season was overshadowed by Diggs and the injury bug. Leak is the smart receiver of the bunch. Not necessarily the fastest (though he is plenty fast), not necessarily the most elusive (though again, plenty elusive), but he knows where to be on the field to get the ball. Leak runs routes like a veteran, and understands the flow of a football game.
Leak only played six games last season, but rest assured they were impactful. Four of those six games were for 60 yards or more, and two of those four were 90 yard performances. Mind you, he was playing hurt. Leak and Long are very similar wideouts who are going to be able to line up anywhere on the field, and even with just Long and Leak, an offense would be terrifying.
But the Terrapins have Diggs, Long, and Leak. It’s all about proven commodities, and the Terps have three of them.
So in comes Taivon Austin, the 5’11 speedster who can bust up any coverage by mere virtue of the hypersonic jets he calls legs. He is an Urban Meyer recruit who was booted out because Ohio State’s receiving corp was too full, not because he wasn’t talented enough. Think he’s going to benefit from playing with Diggs, Long, and Leak? He might be the biggest beneficiary of it, because there are very few corners who can one-on-one cover a guy with this much speed. He’ll get those matchups all game long, and that is mind-boggling to think what Edsall and Locksley can think of.
I won’t even get into the fact that before Wes Brown and Brandon Ross got injured, they were widely considered to be two top-tier running backs who were bruisers that also had breakaway speed. Their presence gives the Terrapins a running game that will force defenses to stack the box, and when they do that, the air raid will begin in full effect.
The Terrapins have so many options and looks that they may be able to get away with a linebacker at quarterback (maybe not). This isn’t just hype getting spewed out by some fanatical fan, this is actually a reality for the Terrapins. It’s a best case scenario reality, but even the worst case isn’t far off from the best one. There’s just too much proven talent on offense at the time. It’s something that Terrapins fans haven’t had in awhile, but believe me they can get excited about it now.
All I can say to the fans is: Get ready.
And to Maryland’s opponents? Good luck.