Project 2014: The Wide Receivers
Image Credit: Washington Post
The 2013 season saw devastating injuries hit the Maryland Terrapins’ wide receiving corps. Stefon Diggs and Deon Long both went down with broken legs against Wake Forest, thus ending what could have been amazing seasons for both of them. The depth behind them was enough to propel the Terps into a bowl game, but fans are looking forward to seeing Diggs and Long on the same field again this season.
2013 Receiving Rank: 43rd (248.5 yards/game)
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Stefon Diggs – Junior
2013 Statistics: 34 catches, 587 yards, 17.3 ypc, 3 TD; 7 carries, 45 yards, 6.4 ypc, 0 TD
Diggs was a dark horse candidate for the Heisman Trophy entering the 2013 season. He had the skills, but many questioned what kind of numbers he would be able to put up with C.J. Brown at quarterback. Through the first few weeks of the season, he was playing the best football of his career. His yards per catch average was among the best in the nation, and his route-running was incredibly crisp. Unfortunately, he got pretty banged up in the games against Connecticut and West Virginia, and never really recovered until he fractured his fibula in the game against Wake Forest.
One underrated part of Diggs’ game is his role in the Terps’ option game. When he was fully healthy, Mike Locksley consistently brought him in orbit motion from the slot to the backfield and ran a form of the triple-option with Brandon Ross acting as the dive-man and Diggs as the pitch-man. He not only created big plays when he got the ball on the pitch, but also brought attention to himself, thus creating holes for Ross up the middle. Diggs will miss spring practice recovering from his injury, but will start at slot receiver for the Terps when they open up against James Madison on August 30th.
Deon Long – Redshirt Senior
2013 Statistics: 32 catches, 489 yards, 15.3 ypc, 1 TD; 1 carry, 18 yards, 18.0 ypc, 0 TD
When Deon Long arrived in College Park, he was hailed as just the complement the Terps needed to Stefon Diggs. Through the first portion of the 2013 season, he played just the role that fans were hoping for. Not only did he force defenses to key on both he and Diggs, but he also made some very good plays himself. His most memorable catch of 2013 was the incredible 47-yard catch he made against Virginia to set up what would be the winning drive for the Terps. His speed and toughness were both on display in the games he played last season, and fans should expect more of the same in 2014. He’ll also miss spring practice recovering from his broken tibia and broken fibia, but will start at split end for the Terps this season.
Marcus Leak – Redshirt Junior
2013 Statistics: N/A
2012 Statistics: 23 catches, 393 yards, 17.1 ypc, 2 TD; 1 carry, 1 yard, 1.0 ypc, 0 TD
After taking a season off due to family reasons, Marcus Leak is back in the fold at wide receiver for the 2014 season. He broke out in 2012 and became one of the more consistent receivers for the plethora of quarterbacks that the Terps were forced to use. He has very good hands, and should be able to take over the flanker position this season. He’ll see plenty of the field as the 3rd wide receiver, as Mike Locksley uses mostly 3-wide formations in his offense. He will be able to participate in spring practice, and will compete with Nigel King for that flanker position.
Nigel King – Redshirt Junior
2013 Statistics: 33 catches, 450 yards, 13.6 ypc, 4 TD
After Stefon Diggs and Deon Long went down with season-ending leg injuries last season, the Terps turned to Nigel King as the most experienced wide receiver on the roster. He played well down the stretch, and had a very nice catch on a 53-yard touchdown pass by C.J. Brown in the regular season finale against North Carolina State. He is a big target in the red zone, and led all Terps receivers in touchdowns with four. He’ll compete with Marcus Leak for the starting flanker position in 2014. Even if Leak wins the competition, I’d expect King to see a decent amount of playing time given his size and experience.
Levern Jacobs – Redshirt Junior
2013 Statistics: 47 catches, 640 yards, 13.6 ypc, 3 TD; 6 carries, 26 yards, 4.3 ypc, 0 TD
Jacobs led all Terps receivers in yardage last season with 640, and took over the starting slot receiver role after Stefon Diggs fractured his fibula against Wake Forest. It was a breakout season for Jacobs, whose biggest highlight was his 71-yard touchdown catch against Clemson. He will see more time on the field than any other backup receiver, as Mike Locksley uses a decent number of 4-wide formations in his offense, with Jacobs becoming the extra slot receiver along with Stefon Diggs. He also proved he can be a threat rushing the ball, as he took over the role of option pitch-man after Diggs went down. He’ll play the same role in 2014 as he did in 2013: backup slot receiver to Stefon Diggs.
Amba Etta-Tawo – Redshirt Sophomore
2013 Statistics: 31 catches, 500 yards, 16.1 ypc, 2 TD
Another Terps receiver who had a breakout year in 2013 was Amba Etta-Tawo. He took over the starting split end position when Deon Long broke his leg against Wake Forest, and showed glimpses of really good athleticism during the back half of the season. His route-running abilities left a lot to be desired, and his inconsistent hands led to a lot of frustrating moments for fans. But he also made a solid number of really good plays which should give him a lot to build on for the future. He won’t be relied upon too heavily in 2014, but will certainly be in the mix for a starting position in 2015 when Deon Long has moved on. For now, he’ll be Long’s primary backup at split end.
DeAndre Lane – Sophomore
2013 Statistics: N/A
A player who could have played a much bigger role than he did last season was DeAndre Lane. After the injury to Stefon Diggs, the Terps were in need of a backup slot receiver, a role Lane would have been able to fill perfectly. Unfortunately, he suffered from concussion symptoms almost all season and was unable to contribute beyond a 19-yard kickoff return against Old Dominion. He is incredibly speedy, and ran a 4.4 second 40-yard dash coming out of Catonsville High School. He also returns kicks very well, and could be in the mix for some touches there if necessary. More likely, he’ll see time on special teams and in mop-up duty at slot receiver. His days of heavy contribution are a year or two away.
Malcolm Culmer – Redshirt Junior
2013 Statistics: 5 catches, 59 yards, 11.8 ypc, 0 TD
When Nigel King went down with an injury against Connecticut, it was Culmer who took over the starting flanker position. He saw a decent number of snaps over the next few weeks until King reclaimed his starting spot. He wasn’t too impressive, but didn’t have too many bad moments either. He was a decent enough backup, but will likely be buried on the depth chart come 2014. He has very good speed, but will need to improve his route-running and his hands if he wants to move up the ranks at the flanker position.
Taivon Jacobs – Redshirt Freshman
2013 Statistics: N/A
The most surprising story of National Signing Day for the Terps in 2013 was Taivon Jacobs’ commitment to Maryland. He was originally committed to Ohio State, but flipped his commitment at the last minute to play with his brother Levern in College Park. Recovery from a leg injury forced him to redshirt in 2013, but he will compete for a role on the team in 2014. He’s very fast, as he ran a 4.4 second 40-yard dash coming out of high school. He may have to wait a few seasons to contribute at a high level for the Terps, but seems like the likely heir to the flanker position once Nigel King and Marcus Leak graduate. For now, he’ll see most of his action in practice.
Juwann Winfree – Freshman
2013 Statistics: N/A
The Terps’ lone wide receiver commitment of 2014 was Winfree, the 4-star recruit from New Jersey. Another player with great speed, he was clocked as having a 4.4 second 40-yard dash. It is unclear to me where exactly he fits on the field. He has decent size, so shouldn’t be limited to one position. He almost certainly fits on the outside, but whether that is at split end or flanker is unclear as of yet. I’d expect him to slot in at split end, as there is already a bit of a logjam at flanker. His speed and size should suit him well there, and he will likely compete with Amba Etta-Tawo for the starting job there once Deon Long graduates. For now, he’ll be 3rd on the depth chart at split end.
View the projected 2014 two-deep depth chart here.