COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Terps senior defensive end Andre Monroe, the grizzled vet who arrived at the Terps media session on Sept. 13 after the WVU loss with a shaggy new beard, calls sophomore slot receiver Jacquille Veii "special."
Monroe has seen it all, moving positions three times and knowing what it's like to be a playmaker (see his 9.5 sacks a year ago), so has some perspective.
"I like to think of Jacquille as a playmaker big-time," Monroe said. "I see him running and it's kinda, 'go get money.' That's Jacquille. He's one of the ones that makes a lot of plays in practice and there are some things you step back and say, 'oh, wow.' Special, special, he's very special."
Amidst the frustration and meltdown of Saturday's last-second loss to West Virginia there were also some glimmers of hope. On offense, none more so than the converted slot Veii, who had been looking to get comfortable in his new home on the game-field, and finally did so after some early-season struggles.
Veii, the former defensive back signee who played running back as a true freshman last season, but was moved to slot receiver midway through camp this year (fortuitously ahead of the losses of both receivers Levern and Taivon Jacobs weeks later), broke out against West Virginia both on offense, where he actually played both receiver and running back, and on special teams. He starred on each on a day the Terps needed more offensive stars.
"I was kinda skeptical at first what might happen," Veii said of the camp move to slot. "But I trusted my athletic ability, I trusted God, and he allowed me to do the things that I did."
Veii, who is a tremendous athlete with East-West lateral ability not many Terps possess, looked strong in camp from the start at his new receiver spot, catching fluidly and doing a lot of damage after-the-catch. But coming into the season, he dropped a ball in the opener while he had only one reception (for four yards) heading into Saturday's West Virginia showdown. The spot was seemingly wide open, with the unit down three players since late summer, but Veii was still struggling to run good routes, with blocking and with taking on defenders in the physical game, he admits.
But on a day (and a season) the Terps receiver corps could be making more physical, 50-50 plays with the ball in the air, Veii delivered his first career touchdown against the Mountaineers with just that. Collecting a beautifully thrown toss from backup Caleb Rowe in the left corner of the end zone, the diminutive 5-9 Veii went up and got separation after a nudge from the defender and snagged a ball with all the physicality the Terps are looking for.
It was an improbable play for Veii, reaching up in traffic over WVU safety K.J. Dillon for the 26-yarder to put Maryland back in business, down just 28-20 with 40 seconds left in the first half, an opening half that saw Maryland start in a 28-6 hole. He came down with the ball as strong as he went up for it.
"Coach [Mike] Locksley called the play up, and it just so happened the DB was a little bit late on his switch," Veii said. "The ball was up there, it was '50-50,' so I just went up and got it. And I came down and I was like, 'I got the ball in my hands.' It was very exciting.
"But I just came in and did my job and did what I was assigned to do and good things happened. Hopefully they will continue to happen. But Caleb threw a great ball, back shoulder, I just went up and came down with it, and that was that."
Veii stepped in the backfield as well, what with sophomore Wes Brown not playing due to a coaches' decision, and had one carry for 3 yards while he was also used as a decoy on a few option keepers by C.J. Brown.
Rowe was not at the Terps media session after the game, but C.J. Brown chimed in on the sophomore Veii and his big play.
"That was huge for him. That was a huge boost for his confidence," C.J. Brown said. "Caleb made a great throw, great read, and put it up there and he made a play. That was huge for us going into the half."
Then, later in the game, Veii came up with a big fumble recovery on a Terps punt that WVU's Jordan Thompson muffed and Veii recovered on the WVU 9-yard line with a little over 11 minutes to play. It was another key, sudden-change play Veii was involved with, though unfortunately the Terps' offense stalled in the red zone and came away with a Brad Craddock 30-yard field goal at 11:14 to play.
"I just beat him on the release, and I was hustling down there," Veii said. "And the returner, he didn't look like he was going to fair catch it, so I said, okay, so I just kept on running and he muffed it. The ball was right there so I just fell on it. Coach always tells us to fall on it if you can't get a clean pickup."
Veii said of life at receiver that he still needs work on "all the little things, the intricacies, the technical things I am still learning. I just want to be really technically sound," Veii said. He said the receiver unit has kept working through the adversity, and changing cast. He said his hands are still '50-50' at times when it comes to making big, contested grabs like yesterday, while he said the quarterbacks and receivers have to keep working on their timing in practice to get more continuity down, "so C.J. can trust us and know whenever we're going to be in the spot the play is designed to have us in ."
Veii was holding onto the ball for a while after his first career touchdown, and hopes it's a keepsake soon.
"Hopefully I get to keep it. It's my first one and I have been waiting for that for a long time. So hopefully they let me keep the whole ball," said the Antigua-born Veii, who starred at The Avalon School in Gaithersburg, Md.
It was a dramatic loss that both Veii and the Terps plan to bounce back from. He said one more play could have done it.
"It hurts a lot because we work so hard as a team and everybody was stepping up making plays," Veii said. "But West Virginia was great, battled back, and they didn't give up either and they just made the game-winning play when it came down to it."
Veii also said he felt good, and the Terps looked good, in their new uniforms Saturday at Byrd, and the crowd was rocking.
"The uniforms were great. Whenever Under Armour comes out with something new we are always excited," Veii said. "And it was really nice for them to put something together so we could honor the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 and the battle of the fort."
Tiny Veii Packs a Big Punch
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