COLLEGE PARK -- Just over a year ago, Maryland's wide receiving corps looked very different.
Nigel King has since transferred to Kansas and graduated. Stefon Diggs and Deon Long have gone on to the NFL. Marcus Leak has left the program. Juwann Winfree has left the program. Jacquille Veii, converted to a slot receiver from a running back, has transferred.
Yet throughout training camp this preseason, head coach Randy Edsall has remained adamant about one thing. He's not sure where narratives about a possible dropoff in production came from. And perhaps much of that has to do with one player returning in 2015 from suspension -- Levern Jacobs.
Jacobs was the player who, back in 2013, did his best to fill in once Diggs and Long went down in the same game with season-ending injuries. He was charged with second-degree assault before the start of the 2014 season, resulting in his suspension, before being found not guilty of the charge in December.
One year of work on the practice field out of the public eye and now he is back. Edsall maintains that the cornerstone of his receiving corps has changed.
"I think when you couldn't do something and play something that you really like, you end up having a better appreciation for what you're doing and what you have to get done in order to try to be better each and every day," Edsall said this week.
"I just see a level of maturity. I see the confidence level grow with him and I see a guy that appreciated things a little bit more."
Quarterback Perry Hills needs a go-to receiver and Jacobs has the potential to be that. During that 2013 season, he led the team in receptions (47) and receiving yards (640) despite only starting four games.
"I'm definitely hungry to be on the field Saturday," Jacobs said this week. "Missing a whole season last year, it's definitely tough for me but I think I did a pretty good job preparing to be back there on Saturday."
Expect there to be less of a reliance on the read-option with Hills under center, meaning he'll be looking for Jacobs, his brother Taivon, and fellow wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo with higher frequency.
Jacobs won Scout Team Player of the Week prior to Maryland's opener last season against James Madison and worked often against cornerbacks Will Likely and Sean Davis. That, he says, has prepared him.
"There's nothing," he said, "that I'm not ready for."
Maryland kicks off against Richmond at noon on Saturday.