Next Man Up
When the recent news broke that sophomore wide receiver Juwann Winfree was no longer enrolled, another returning piece of the 2014 Maryland offense was lost. Less than two weeks before the announcement that Winfree was suspended due to violating the school’s student-athlete code of conduct, the Maryland offense suffered another blow. Would-be senior Marcus Leak, who was the Terps’ third leading receiver behind the also-departed duo of Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, withdrew from the university for “personal reasons.” Running back Jacquille Veii, who did a little of everything in the offense last year, announced in April he would be transferring from Maryland along with Albert Reid.
While Winfree played only a small role last season, he was bound to see significant playing time in 2015, particularly after the departure of Leak. The door was left wide open for a player such as Winfree who caught 11 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns in eight games last season. His suspension leaves Amba Etta-Tawo as the team’s leading returning wide receiver with 222 yards on 10 receptions in 2014.
This sets the stage for brothers Levern and Taivon Jacobs to run the show, which I believed they would do in 2015 even before the respective exits of Leak and Winfree. Junior Amba Etta-Tawo will also likely see a good amount of action in the Terps’ offense, as should junior Malcolm Culmer. Junior DeAndre Lane, who looked fantastic in the Terps’ spring Red-White game, should also figure into the offense in some way, yet it remains to be seen what his role will be. Will Ulmer and incoming recruit D.J. Moore could also potentially see game action in 2015.
Potential hybrid roles for Will Ulmer and DeAndre Lane in the Maryland offense?
Prior to last season, Ulmer made the conversion to wide receiver. The redshirt freshman was rated as a four-star recruit by ESPN coming out of high school. Interestingly, the local product (born in Silver Spring, MD) saw some snaps during the Terps’ Red-White game last spring, with most of his touches consisting of quarterback option plays. Watching him run these plays during the scrimmage, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the way then-head coach Ralph Friedgen used the versatile Josh Portis during the 2008 season as a change-of-pace quarterback to the virtually immobile Chris Turner. A similar situation could present itself in 2015 involving Ulmer and any of the three potential starting quarterbacks for Maryland (Caleb Rowe, Perry Hills, or Daxx Garman).
Something that has not been discussed is DeAndre Lane’s role in the Maryland offense, or even if he is to have one next season. Again, he looked great in the spring scrimmage, but he has seen next to no time on the field during his two years with the program and has yet to catch a ball. With the return of Taivon Jacobs, there might only be enough room for one 5’10” speedster in the Terps’ offense (Lane is actually listed at 5’8’’). As we saw last season with his use of Veii, Edsall is not opposed to mixing things up in the Maryland backfield, even with two formidable true running backs with experience at the top of the depth chart. DeAndre Lane was a running back in high school, and tallied a combined 2,774 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns during his junior and senior seasons. Don’t be surprised if Edsall sneaks Lane into the backfield for a couple carries throughout the season, much the same way he used Veii last year.
Diggs and Ellis announcement dates approaching
Perhaps the most intriguing offseason storyline regarding the Terps’ wide receiver position is whether or not they can land Trevon Diggs and Tino Ellis. Both four-star recruits are slated to make their announcement in the coming weeks: Diggs will announce July 4, and Ellis July 31. Maryland fans have no idea what to expect from this team next season, as uncertainty surrounds every major offensive position. But the anticipation of quarterback Dwayne Haskins (potentially) connecting with Trevon Diggs and Tino Ellis in 2016 would help any Maryland fan brave the storm if next season happens to be a painful one.
Can walk-on Michael Cornwell work his way up a wide open depth chart?
The 6’3, 210 pound receiver could be exactly what Maryland needs to fill the hole left by Leak. The receiver position is stacked with guys that have speed, but Maryland lacks a player with Cornwell’s height. The closest player to Cornwell’s 6’3 frame is Etta-Tawo, who is listed at 6’1. Maryland could certainly use a big target like Cornwell, especially inside the 20 yard-line. Check out his high school highlight video here.