I was doing a radio show the other night and the host, while previewing the Terps upcoming season, spent what seemed an interminable amount of time rattling off the many names of receivers Maryland has returning for 2014. But he hadn't even scratched the surface, as I reminded him also of Levern Jacobs, Amba Etta-Tawo, Taivon Jacobs, DeAndre Lane and Malcolm Culmer, not to mention heralded four-star signee Juwann Winfree out of New Jersey. Whew.
Indeed, the Terps have an embarrassment of riches at the receiver spot, and it's excellent timing for new position coach Keenan McCardell, who took over this winter and has energized the already-wired group. It's a group that is Maryland's strongest unit, and one found on many Top 10 positional groups nationally boasting multiple future pros.
It's led by All-American candidate junior Stefon Diggs (6-0, 190) back strong after missing six games last year with a broken leg, but still posting 34 catches for 587 yards and three scores, second best on the team. Diggs is the Terps' electric ankle-breaker with all the moves.
Then there's senior Deon Long (6-0, 185), also back from a broken leg suffered at Wake Forest, who had 32 catches for 489 yards in seven games in 2013. He's Maryland's deep, home-run threat, more a straight-line guy with tremendous ability to high-point balls with his strong hands and leaping ability.
And don't stop there, as stepping in the breech last season when that dynamic duo went down was shifty Levern Jacobs (5-11, 180), the junior who led the team with 47 catches for 640 yards and three scores. And then there's North Carolina native and junior Marcus Leak (6-0, 210), another physical specimen with all the tools to be a terror over the middle, returns after a year's absence tending to family issues back home.
Also last year, with the injuries, youngsters like sophomore Amba Etta-Tawo (6-1, 200) and sophomore Malcolm Culmer (5-11, 185) gained valuable field time, Etta-Tawo responding with 31 catches for 500 yards and two scores.
And don't stop there, as ready in the bullpen is perhaps the speediest, shiftiest of them all, redshirt freshman burner Taivon Jacobs (5-9, 160), who nearly burned his redshirt last year. Jacobs, Levern's little brother, will play slot and see time in the return game this fall, the Terps taking advantage of his sub-4.4 40-yard-dash speed and moves. He shined on scout team last year, and head coach Randy Edsall nearly activated him following the injuries.
Then, lest we forget, the Terps have another shifty slot who logged time as a true freshman last year, cat-quick sophomore DeAndre Lane (5-7, 175), not to mention junior and former tight end Daniel Adams (6-2, 210), the New Mexico transfer who shined in spring camp with improved hands and hopes to carry it over to the fall with meaningful reps.
Throw in talented four-star signee Juwann Winfree, who reminds some of a young Torrey Smith, and there are skill guys galore at College Park this fall as the Terps enter Big Ten play.
The Terps did lose their best blocking and possession guy in junior Nigel King (6-3, 210), who hauled in 33 catches for 450 yards and four scores in 2013. He left school shortly before fall camp began for personal reasons.
With sixth-year quarterback C.J. Brown at the helm of the offense, and hopefully healthy throughout, the Terps should be able to spread the field with their zone-read look, work off playaction and take a lot of deep shots to their marquee wide-outs. With so many playmakers operating well in space after the catch, the offense should hum if Brown and the line can hold up.
As a unit, the Terps receivers are still working on becoming more physical blockers, which they began to a be a bit more of last season.
There's plenty of talent, and a good infusion of youth repping in, which should make for a good first year for McCardell and Co.
Fall Camp Positional Preview: Receivers
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