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Ex-Terp Jacquille Veii becoming go-to receiver at Towson

Ex-Terp Jacquille Veii becoming go-to receiver at Towson
Oct 4, 2014; College Park, MD, USA; Maryland Terrapins wide receiver Jacquille Veii (34) runs as Ohio State Buckeyes defensive back Cam Burrows (16) defends at Byrd Stadium. Veii transferred and now plays for Towson. (Tommy Gilligan / Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)

The Towson football team wrapped up Wednesday's practice just before rain from what had been Hurricane Patricia drenched Johnny Unitas Stadium. But the downpour didn't chase away Jacquille Veii.

For almost 30 minutes, the junior wide receiver ran laps the entire length of the field and practiced releases against a tackling dummy. Veii, a Maryland transfer who is widely known for being the first player to arrive at practice and the last one to leave, said he needs to make up time lost from lining up as a wide receiver, running back and defensive back at The Avalon School in Gaithersburg.

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"One, I'm trying to play catch-up," Veii said as water dripped from his hair and brow. "Two, I really, really want to perfect this craft and prove everybody wrong and really just work hard and accomplish that. If I can accomplish something great, there will be peace in my heart."

So far, Veii is faring well for the Tigers (4-3 overall and 2-2 in the Colonial Athletic Association), who weIcome Delaware (3-4, 2-2) on Saturday for a 2 p.m. kickoff. Veii leads the team in catches (28) and receiving yards (348) and has become redshirt senior quarterback Connor Frazier's favorite target.

"I think it takes a little bit for any quarterback and receiver coming in to get on the same page, but I think having him in during the summer ... obviously helped us out to get on track faster," Frazier said. "And I think we're continuing to grow, which is a good thing."

Physical growth has appeared to run its course for Veii, who is listed at just 5 feet, 9 inches and 187 pounds. But what he lacks in height is made up in speed as Veii, who is regarded as one of the fastest players on Towson, has been clocked in the 40 at 4.42 seconds.

"A lot of his catches are those speed sweeps that we run," wide receivers coach Mike Moyseenko said. "But we do those so many times to get the ball into his hands on the edge. He can take those the distance, he can get you 15 yards in the blink of an eye. So as an offense, we have tried to find ways to get the ball in space to him."

Veii said his height is not a roadblock and points to the success of one of his closest friends in former Terps teammate and current Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who is 6 feet and 191 pounds.

"One thing he taught me about size is that it really doesn't matter," Veii said. "You've just got to be a dog. It's like having heart. So I don't really buy into that. You've just got to be a dog and make plays when the time comes. And I look at all of the small receivers like [the Ravens' 5-9] Steve Smith and [the Denver Broncos' 5-11] Emmanuel Sanders and [the Arizona Cardinals' 5-10] John Brown, and it doesn't matter."

Despite his size, Veii has no fear about running across the middle. In Saturday's 28-21 win against then-No. 23 Villanova, Veii ran a seam route, leaped into the air, and caught a 21-yard pass from Frazier while being upended by a Wildcats player to convert a third-and-15.

But on the same drive, Veii was flagged for a personal foul for a punishing block on a defender, and head coach Rob Ambrose said Veii is still working on controlling his emotions.

"He can get really high, but too high to the point where he loses a little bit of focus and it's truly the little things that bite him in the rear end," Ambrose said. "But once we get him completely moving in the right direction and all the gears in place, you see flashes of 'Oh my God.'"

Ambrose said it has become nearly routine to look out the window of his office perched behind one end zone at Johnny Unitas Stadium and see Veii working on his releases or catching balls off the Juggs machine long after practice has ended. Frazier said Veii frequently asked Frazier to work on routes after they had already completed seven-on-seven drills in the summer.

Moyseenko, the wide receivers coach, said Veii reminds him of Diggs, whom Moyseenko coached at Good Counsel in Olney in 2011.

"Stefon was the same way," Moyseenko said. "Ultra-competitive, was never going to lose at anything – no matter what it was. It could have been a 10-yard race or a one-on-one rep or a game. He wanted the ball, he wanted to compete. Those two are really good friends. They talk on a regular basis, they spent two years together at Maryland, and I think Stefon has probably rubbed off on him a little bit."

Veii has led the Tigers in catches in three games and in receiving yards in two contests. But he said he is still not satisfied with his production.

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"There's always room for more for me," he said. "I always want more. I'm kind of greedy in that sense."

Veii declined to discuss any personal goals he has set, but in the short term, he conceded that there is one thing he would like to achieve.

"I really just want to get a touchdown," he said. "Let's start there. I just want to get a touchdown and get into the end zone. I haven't been in the end zone yet. So I have to get in there. That would put some icing on the cake."

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DELAWARE (3-4) @ TOWSON (4-3)

When: Today, 2 p.m.

Site: Johnny Unitas Stadium, Towson

Television: CAA.tv

Audio: CBS Sports Radio 1300 AM, TowsonTigers.com

Series: Delaware leads, 10-6

What's at stake: After dropping their first two games in the Colonial Athletic Association, the Tigers have won two straight, following up a 21-14 win at Stony Brook with a 28-21 upset of then-No. 23 Villanova a week ago. Towson, which improved to 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the conference, sits in a three-way tie for fifth place in the league with the aforementioned Wildcats (3-4, 2-2) and today's opponent, Delaware (3-4, 2-2). Since opening the season with a 1-3 record, the Blue Hens have won two of their last three, including Saturday's 31-14 thumping of 2014 CAA champion New Hampshire. Delaware has won six of the last eight meetings, including four consecutive games in Towson. On the flip side, the Tigers have won two of the last three contests. Each of the last four games has been decided by a touchdown or less.

Key matchup: The Blue Hens have been strong on the ground, averaging 249.7 rushing yards to rank second in the CAA. The attack has been powered by sophomore Kareem Williams (612 yards and six touchdowns) and redshirt freshman Thomas Jefferson (532 yards and two touchdowns). Delaware will pit its running game against a Towson defense that ranks third in the conference against the run, but did allow 176 rushing yards and one score to Villanova. The Tigers have surrendered 125.7 yards per contest and eight scores.

Player to watch: For the second straight week, Towson will face a redshirt freshman quarterback. After intercepting Villanova's Zach Bednarczyk twice and returning both for touchdowns, the Tigers will try to hamper the Blue Hens' Joe Walker, who has completed just 43.2 percent (48 of 111) of his throws for 440 yards and one touchdown. Walker has tossed five interceptions, but has rushed 76 times for 312 yards and one score. Towson ranks sixth in the league against the pass, but has given up 13 passing touchdowns.

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