COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Maryland redshirt freshman receiver Taivon Jacobs has a naturally upbeat demeanor, a smirk perpetually etched on his face whether he’s on the field, among teammates, or sitting idly in an auditorium waiting to be interviewed, as he was Aug. 11 for media day. But bring up the subject of his two-year-old daughter, Bailey Tince-Jacobs, and that slight grin stretches into a made-for-television smile.
Though he’s admitted it hasn’t always been easy raising a baby daughter, especially while in college and competing at the highest level of college football, Jacobs has chosen to focus on the positive. He said he’s matured immensely since coming out of Suitland (District Heights, Md.) two years ago, becoming more of a man while also appreciating the joys of child rearing.
This offseason, in-between workouts and camps, the 5-foot-9, 160-pound speedster returned home every chance he could to see Bailey.
“She’s going to be three in December, so I’m real excited about that,” Jacobs said. “Having her, it’s been great; it’s been a lot of fun. I haven’t been able to see her since camp started, but when we’re done I’m going back. It’s definitely been a life-changing experience for me, but it’s been fun and I’ve learned a lot about myself.”
Though one of the younger receivers on the team, Taivon Jacobs has oft been lauded for his maturity, practice habits and work ethic, perhaps a direct result of early fatherhood responsibilities. Head coach Randy Edsall has singled him out several times during fall camp, and during the Aug. 11 media day he cited Jacobs, along with his older brother, junior receiver Levern Jacobs, as the two wideouts who have really impressed him.
“I like to call Taivon, ‘Young Greatness,’ because every time I see him he’s working, working, working,” said veteran receiver Deon Long. “From gaining weight to route running to learning the game, he’s put in the work. He wants to be good. Taivon, he’s already very talented and a very good receiver, but he’s not satisfied – he wants to work and be great.”
Indeed, while Taivon Jacobs did devote plenty of time to his daughter, it’s not like he rested on his laurels. He and Levern Jacobs worked out together plenty this summer, the two pushing each other in footwork drills and in the weight room. Then, when they returned to College Park, Taivon, Levern and a few other select Terps hit the ladders and ran extra routes after team conditioning.
“We did the team workouts Monday through Thursday, but on Fridays me, Stefon [Diggs], Levern, Jacquille [Veii] and A.J. Hendy would go out to the field ourselves,” Taivon Jacobs said. “I feel like if you just do the bare minimum, the Monday through Thursday workouts, you’re not going to really improve yourself. You have to put the work in on your own when the coaches aren’t watching. That’s how you get better.”
“I think you see that with Vern [Levern] right now too. He’s come a long way since high school. Coming out, he really didn’t get too much exposure, but last year he had a chance to show what he could do and he made some plays, and had some big games against good teams. I think that really helped his confidence out and he’s looking real good right now, and he’s really been working hard.”
Personally, Jacobs said his route running and lower-body strength have improved immensely. He mentioned how raw he was coming out of Suitland, while he lacked the necessary strength to hang as a starting wideout in the FBS.
“Mainly I was looking for ways where I could improve myself and help the team, and getting my routes down, getting stronger and getting my vertical up were a couple things I’ve worked on,” Jacobs said. “You know, I’m more explosive now, and [the improved lower body strength] helps with my vertical leap. I’m able to jump higher, go up and get jump balls now. A couple days ago I had a jump ball with Will Likely and I came down with it, so I can get up a little bit now.”
While he’s been honing his patterns since the day he arrived at Maryland, Jacobs said new receivers coach Keenan McCardell has helped take him to another level. Jacobs called the former NFL Pro Bowler one of the most “precise” coaches he’s had, and he appreciates how hard McCardell has pushed him.
Jacobs gave the example of how a receiver is supposed to “break down” at the top of his route, either running a comeback or blowing by the corner depending on the coverage. The redshirt freshman mentioned how he didn’t really understand how to “sell” the break down prior to this year, but now believes he has a better grasp and is getting open more often.
“Coach McCardell is a very tough coach, he works us very hard, and he takes everything serious,” Jacobs said. “You know, he was on that next level, so when he tells us something we listen. We have our laughs and giggles, but when it’s time to work we get down to business.”
Currently, Jacobs is listed third on the depth chart, but if he keeps progressing he’s a sure bet to see plenty of action. Jacobs said he’s mainly an outside threat at the “Z” spot, but has worked in the slot as well. Plus he’s known as a standout returner what with his 4.3 40-yard-dash speed and downfield acceleration.
“I mainly play outside, but I still work inside. Coach McCardell, he wants us to know every position and be able to play anywhere, so I know slot too. There’s some formations where I have to run slot, so its helped a lot learning all the receiver positions,” Jacobs said. “And on special teams, I’m working behind Stefon and Will Likely on punt returns, and behind Will on kick returns, but if the coaches need me back there I’ll do my job and make a play. Special teams is something I love doing, so when my name is called I’ll get the job done.”
Those aren’t some idle statements either, talk uttered by someone who will be buried on the depth chart. Even the star receiver Diggs has taken notice of the younger Jacobs and has offered the utmost praise.
“He’s the fastest human I’ve ever seen run,” Diggs said earlier. “I’m going to tell you now, [Taivon Jacobs] is a name you want to know early because you will hear a lot from Taivon Jacobs.”
Said Deon Long: “Speed, quickness, a knowledge of the game – he knows every position on the field. And he’s a funny guy, always positive and brings a lot of energy. Taivon can be the total package.”
Jacobs is well aware he’s still far from the “total package,” however. Even after being lauded for his play during a recent scrimmage, Jacobs’ personal assessment was that “I did alright, it wasn’t my best.” He’s made some plays, he’ll attest to that, but there’s still plenty to do to reach the level of, say, a Diggs.
“I’m a young guy, and I still have work to do,” Jacobs said. “I have to keep working on my routes, my strength, my speed, and I have to be more vocal. I’m having fun with the guys and it’s been a great experience so far, but I still have a long way to go.”
Which could be said for the receiving corps as a whole. Edsall has called out his uber-talented group on a couple occasions, saying they need to pick it up to realize their vast expectations.
“As a group we’re still working. We have a lot of talent, but we just have to keep working for it and be consistent, and more vocal as a group,” Jacobs said. “But I do feel like we have the potential to be one of the best receiving corps in the Big Ten, and really, we could be the best in the nation. We just have to work for it.”
More work. Should be right up Jacobs’ alley -- and bring a smile to his face.
Jacobs Ready To Burst Onto The Scene
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