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Terps have options other than Diggs, Long at wide receiver

In six weeks, Maryland's wide receiver group has gone from possibly one of the deepest in the country to depleted enough that converted running back Jacquille Veii could be the fourth man when Maryland goes to four-wide-receiver sets.

Still, Maryland does have some capable options at wide receiver besides Stefon Diggs and Deon Long.

Junior Marcus Leak was a full-time starter in 2012. Sophomore Amba Etta-Tawo had 29 catches for 482 yards and two touchdowns during the final seven games last season after injuries opened a bigger role for him. Coaches and players have also voiced confidence in Veii.

Veii is still acclimating to wide receiver and had at least one drop during Maryland's season-opening win against James Madison, but he is one of the Terps' fastest and quickest players and flashed some skills as a pass-catcher during preseason practice.

Promising redshirt freshman Taivon Jacobs won't play again this season because of the meniscus injury he suffered against James Madison. The Terps also won't have Nigel King, who transferred to Kansas in late July, or Levern Jacobs, who was suspended for the season.

"There's not going to be a drop-off," Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown said. "These guys have played. They've had success, and they know what is expected of them. I've played with all of them, so I know what they're capable of."

Leak will be the third receiver with Jacobs out.

Leak stepped in as the third receiver after Jacobs was injured last week. He finished with two catches for 17 yards, but there were two other times when Leak might have scored long touchdowns if Brown's throws had been more on point.

Leak took the year off from football last season. However, he had 23 catches in 2012 while averaging 17.1 yards per catch, and Brown said Leak has progressively returned to form after dealing with some rust during spring practice.

"I know he can go and do the job," coach Randy Edsall said. "He's done the job before. Now, he's got the opportunity to do it again, and I know Marcus will do everything possible to get the job done."

Etta-Tawo will be the top backup to Long and Leak at the Terps' two outside receiver spots.

Etta-Tawo has been inconsistent catching the ball since arriving at Maryland last year, but he averaged 16.1 yards per catch last season and produced some big plays during preseason camp as well.

"Amba's a guy who has played here a bunch," Edsall said. "So [like Leak], it's a guy who has experience."

Veii did not switch to wide receiver until mid-August. But Edsall believes he is "just going to continue to get better."

Jacobs' injury also creates an opportunity for a talented freshman like Juwann Winfree, who is now possibly one or two injuries away from seeing playing time.

Highly touted freshman Will Ulmer, who switched from quarterback Monday, will also get to compete for time.

But for now, Leak, Etta-Tawo and Veii will be the primary players depended on to help complement Diggs and Long.

"They've made plays before," Brown said, "and I expect them to continue to make plays."

mzenitz@tribune.com

twitter.com/mzenitz

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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