Attrition is one thing. What happened to Maryland’s wide receiver corps this offseason can only be described as a mass exodus.
The Terps head into the 2015 season after losing their four leading receivers from a season ago, as well as another top target. Stefon Diggs and Deon Long went to the NFL. Jacquille Veii transferred. Marcus Leak and Juwann Winfree withdrew from school.
Between that quintet of departures, Maryland lost 160 of its 228 catches and 2,052 of its 2,863 receiving yards from last season, more than 70 percent of the total in each category. Replacing that is going to be a doozy.
The loss of Diggs and Long will obviously be the most painful for the Terps. They entered last season as arguably the Big Ten’s best wide-receiver duo, and though they didn’t quite live up to the hype, they were still important enough to make a big hole when they left. Diggs was bothered by an injury last season, sitting out the final three games of the regular season, but he still managed 792 yards and five touchdowns.
But for all the seemingly warranted panic over the loss of all these receivers, head coach Randy Edsall isn’t worried about it. He thinks the Terps are going to be just fine.
“I feel really good about our wide receivers,” Edsall said Monday during the team’s media day. “I see all this stuff that people are saying and everything else, and I kind of laugh at it myself. I think we have some pretty dynamic guys. I think we got some guys that have worked very, very hard.
“You take a look at Amba Etta-Tawo, this is his time now. He finally got the shoulder cleaned up, had surgery on that in January. He is more confident now. You have Malcolm Culmer, who has played, now he has a chance to be a No. 1. He has worked really hard this summer. Levern (Jacobs) is just as hungry as ever. Taivon (Jacobs), who is coming back and wants to play and worked his tail off. DeAndre Lane is bigger, faster and stronger. Then you add Will Ulmer, he is back and ready to go. Jahrvis Davenport and D.J. Moore are two young guys. Zac Morton, those guys are all guys that I am excited about. I think we have some playmakers there.”
Those are a lot of names being thrown at you by the head coach. Don’t worry if you don’t recognize them all because the nine guys Edsall mentioned in the answer to that one question combined for 11 catches last season and 10 of them came from one guy in Etta-Tawo.
Four of those receivers — Davenport, Moore, Morton and Ulmer — are freshmen with no collegiate experience. Culmer has caught two passes in two seasons, and Lane has appeared in four games in two seasons, catching no passes. Taivon Jacobs hasn't caught a pass, either.
So, even though there might be reason for excitement, as Edsall said, most of these receivers are unknown quantities.
Etta-Tawo made 13 starts in his first two seasons at Maryland, hauling in 31 passes for 500 yards in 2013 before getting just 10 catches last season.
And after season-long absences, the Jacobs brothers are looking to make an impact in a receiving corps that could use a couple guys to stand out. Like Etta-Tawo, Levern Jacobs had a big 2013 season, catching 47 passes for 640 yards and three touchdowns. But his 2014 season was wiped out due to a suspension. Taivon Jacobs, a higher-rated recruit than his older brother, has yet to catch a pass heading into his third season at Maryland. He redshirted in 2013 and was knocked out for the 2014 season with an injury in the season-opener.
“I’ve hurt for (Taivon Jacobs) because he is a great young man who works extremely hard,” Edsall said. “He wants to be out there and play. He has been dying to get out there and contribute more than what he’s been able to. But I believe that he will go out and have a really good year. He has worked hard to rehab and put himself in position to be out there. Pound for pound, he is one of the hardest workers that we have. I just want him to stay healthy and experience the success that he deserves based on how hard he works and who he is as a person.”
“Anytime you have something keeping you from the field it means you have something to work towards,” Taivon Jacobs said. “While sitting out you’re just anxious to get back. This is a big day for me after sitting out a year. I’ve waited so long, and it’s finally here”
It’s unknown how many of these guys, if any, can step in and have the same impact as the five guys who left. But they’ll be out there, that’s for sure, and taking passes from a new quarterback, too, as the Terps are also in the midst of finding a successor to longtime starter C.J. Brown.
There will still be passes thrown and passes caught. But it’ll be done by an entirely different cast than last season.