Oct 4, 2014; College Park, MD, USA; Maryland Terrapins wide receiver Jacquille Veii (34) runs as Ohio State Buckeyes defensive back Cam Burrows (16) defends at Byrd Stadium. Ohio State Buckeyes defeated Maryland Terrapins 52-24. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
When star wide receiver Stefon Diggs went down, fans immediately believed that the improving offense took a big hit. Losing a playmaker like Diggs hurts, and with quarterback C.J. Brown’s reliance on short passes to put the receivers in a position to fight for yards, Diggs had the best downfield vision on the team.
When Maryland released their depth chart for the upcoming Michigan State game, a familiar name was put in Diggs’ old position: converted-running back Jacquille Veii. When he came to College Park, Veii was a borderline two/three-star recruit that was almost Iowa-bound. Now in his second year with his team, Veii has an opportunity to shine and give this offense what they lack with Diggs sidelined for likely the remainder of the season.
During the 2014 season, Veii has six catches for 108 yards and one receiving touchdown, while also compiling 14 rushes for 93 yards and two touchdowns. While a combined 20 touches through nine games shows that he may not be the most experienced, his 10.3 yards-per-touch mirrors his athletic ability. Veii is a quick, shifty runner that hits open holes with speed. While he may not have the vision Diggs possesses, Veii has speed, quickness and a reliable catching ability.
In the West Virginia game, Veii started seeing his hard work pay off when he scored a 26-yard touchdown. In the Ohio State game, Veii was actually the leading receiver for Maryland with four catches for 78 yards, including a 60-yard run that was a just a few yards shy of a touchdown.
On those two plays, Veii displayed his offensive ability to maintain the same dynamic that Diggs provides: speed and great hands. In an offense that doesn’t rely heavily on deep passes and focuses more on the ball-handlers ability, Veii has the speed to blow by his defenders and strength to gain the extra yards after contact. With his agility, screen plays may be his most effective plays.
What Veii does struggle with is his blocking ability, as this season he had a tough time blocking the defensive line from getting to the quarterback. At just 5’9″, it’s understandable for someone his size to have issues consistently blocking 6’4″ defensive tackles that weigh 70-75 pounds more than him.
Nonetheless, Veii will now get a chance to go up against cornerbacks and safeties that are closer to his height and weight than the defensive linemen he saw as running back. While it’s certainly a concern, Veii’s blocking is not a liability. Remember, he’s just a sophomore and he has not seen ample amount of playing time in his career. Veii will improve as the end of the season nears, but offensively he can provide what Maryland so desperately needs.
Veii will not have to do it all himself. Maryland still has playmakers on the field. Running back Brandon Ross has shown his ability to do it all this season, though not consistently. Receivers Deon Long, Marcus Leak and Amba Etta-Tawo have all emerged as threats in the passing game. With little game film and experience, there is a possibility he can show Michigan State that he’s more than capable of gaining a large chunk of yards if the defense forgets about him. It will be a team effort to replace Diggs, but in Veii, there should be less worry about his ability to contribute every down for Maryland this season.