Spring Football Preview IV: Receivers

Spring practice begins March 4 and in anticitation of it we are breaking down all the positions. Next up are the receivers.

Gone are former Maryland players Stefon Diggs, Deon Long, and Daniel Adams to graduation/early NFL entry, while moving positions this month is slot Jacquille Veii to running back.

Meanwhile, on the shelf this spring is sophomore speedster Taivon Jacobs (knee) and junior Amba Etta-Tawo (shoulder).

So add receiver to the Terps' thin spring depth positions, while it’s a unit that has underachieved badly the last two seasons for any numbers of reasons.

But there is good news for second-year receivers coach Keenan McCardell, and that is the return of junior Levern Jacobs, the unit’s top all-around threat who could be primed for a breakout year. Before being suspended for a year for off-the-field reasons in 2014, the shifty Jacobs was the Terps "go-to" guy when Diggs and Long both went down to injury in 2013.

Jacobs didn’t bide his time idly while sitting out last season, often recognized by Randy Edsall for his work toiling on scout team. He’s fast, quick, can change direction in a hurry, and isn’t afraid to go across the middle and take contact. His maturity after a year away from the game may bode well for a group that needs leaders.

Last season, last-second departures (Nigel King), suspensions (Jacobs), injuries (Diggs), suspension again (Diggs), suspension yet again (Juwann Winfree), and overall underachieving (see drops, poor route running, blocking, etc.) dogged the unit from much consistency at all.

Leading the returning group is junior Marcus Leak, who caught 20 balls for 297 yards and 3 touchdowns, but has rarely lived up to full expectations at College Park. He had seven starts last season and shined the most at USF with touchdown grabs of 10 and 44 yards, while he had four catches for 93 yards and a score at Syracuse. Beyond that, he was ‘AWOL’ too often, for a man his size, athleticism and potential.

After him, the rookie Winfree (10 catches for 144 yards, 2 scores) was impressive in his debut season, but he tripped up off the field and was in the suspension doghouse for the last two games. He had a 30-yard touchdown grab at Indiana as his collegiate first, and loads of potential if he stays focused. And the 'one to watch,' very possibly this spring, is redshirt freshman slot Will Ulmer, a quarterback when he arrived a year ago, who is an electric athlete and could be a break-out kinda guy. He is also getting a shot on return teams.

Juniors Etta-Tawo (9 catches, 204 yards, 1 touchdown) and Malcolm Culmer (1 catch, 5 yards) hope to get more consistent next fall, but Etta-Tawo will watch from the sidelines this month.

The Terps signed an impact-type in four-star wideout D.J. Moore out of Philadelphia, while shifty slot athlete Jahrvis Davenport can’t be overlooked, either, if the upperclassmen slip up anymore.

Adams graduated and moved on with a year of eligibility remaining, but his two costly third-down drops in the Foster Farms Bowl kinda summed up the season as a whole for a star-crossed unit far too often.

Not lost on the season was the inconsistency at quarterback, and that impacted the receivers corps no doubt. But it’s high time the unit stepped up after all the four-star signees in recent years. Imagine, Diggs, Long and King could all be with NFL clubs in the spring, but you may not know it by looking at the receiver production of late at College Park.

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