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USA TODAY Sports
It was virtually a three-man show last season when it came to the receiving corps in College Park. Seniors Levern Jacobs and Teldrick Morgan, along with sophomore D.J. Moore accounted for 64 percent of Maryland’s total receptions and 12 of the Terps’ 15 receiving touchdowns.
Morgan, a fifth-year senior transfer from New Mexico State, played in all 13 games and started 11 at wideout while leading the Terps with 43 receptions. He was also a reliable return man who came in handy once senior cornerback Will Likely was lost for the season with a torn ACL. Morgan finished the season third in all purpose yards (782) for the Terps.
But it was Moore who was the only receiver that started every game for Maryland and he proved to be the Terps’ most dynamic pass catcher with a team-leading 637 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns. The Terps didn’t take a ton of shots deep down field, but when they did it was quarterback Perry Hills usually looking Moore’s way. He’s not very tall but he’s thick. He’s not necessarily blazing fast but he’s quick and runs good routes. Moore possesses the talent and build to be more than just a deep threat, but last year he showed he has no problem getting behind defenses, averaging 15.5 yards per reception.
Moore’s big-play ability was on full display in Maryland’s loss at Nebraska where he hauled in a career-long 92-yard touchdown reception from freshman quarterback Max Bortenschlager. He also finished the season second behind running back Ty Johnson for most all-purpose yards (1,026) for the Terps.
Jacobs finished with the same number of receptions as Moore (41) and really got his game going in the second half of the season. After recording only three receptions for 20 yards in the first five games, the senior quickly became one of Maryland’s most reliable targets in the passing game.
Who’s going to step up behind Moore?
Two-thirds of most of Maryland’s receiving production last year--Jacobs and Morgan--are graduating and won’t be back next season, leaving a huge void on the depth chart behind Moore. Luckily for the Terps, they should be able to replace seniors with more upperclassmen.
A trio of seniors gives Maryland pass catchers with some solid potential on the roster, and spring practice will be the first look at which wideouts are closest to earning a starting job alongside Moore.
Taivon Jacobs, younger brother of Levern and a former Ohio State recruit, could be the fastest man on campus but he had to rehab a knee injury that forced him to miss all of last season. If Jacobs isn’t the fastest player on the team, it could be fellow senior Jacquille Veii, who has been clocked in the 40 at 4.42 seconds.
Neither Jacobs (5-foot-11) nor Veii (5-foot-9) bring much to the table in terms of size for the Terps, but that’s where the third senior, 6-foot-2 Chris Jones--a former DeMatha Catholic (Md.) wideout and transfer last year from Iowa Western Community College--comes into play.
Jones is a former three-star prospect who originally signed a letter of intent to play for Wisconsin, where he was recruited by current Terps wide receivers coach Chris Beatty. He possesses an excellent combination of size and speed and could be the best candidate to line up on the outside along with Moore.
Junior Jahrvis Davenport and sophomore DJ Turner could also emerge as factors in the passing game, particularly out of the slot. In the fall, the Terps will introduce six more wideouts to the roster from their 2017 recruiting class, including four from Georgia, one from Florida and a four-star (Tahj Capehart) from Virginia. Some of the freshmen will surely end up redshirting, but a few could play next season and add to Maryland’s depth in the receiving corps.
Starting to pull more pass catchers from the south is nice, but Turner and Jones will remind us once again just how valuable the Maryland-DeMatha pipeline is. Last year in spring ball, it was apparent to everyone watching that Moore had made huge strides from his freshman to sophomore season and was ready to take over as Maryland’s leading receiver. But it could be Turner and Jones who make some noise this spring, and they are both products of the high school that happens to be a short jog away from College Park.
Jones and Moore on the outside with Turner in the slot is a combination of skill sets that could be highly effective for the Terps in 2017. Jones and Turner’s ability to make plays, along with field stretchers like Jacobs and Veii being rotated in, should take some heat off of Moore and help him become the well-rounded No. 1 receiver he has the potential to be.