His season derailed by suspension and injury, Rutgers wide receiver Leonte Carroo hasn't matched the production he put up a year ago when he earned first-team All-Big Ten honors.
But when the Scarlet Knights host Maryland on Saturday in both teams' regular-season finale, the Terps know they'll have to be on high alert against Carroo and the Rutgers passing attack.
Carroo was a significant part of a passing attack that burned Maryland in Rutgers' 41-38 comeback win last season in College Park. Carroo had six catches for 104 yards and two touchdowns with a long catch of 42 yards.
Last season, Carroo had 55 catches for 1,086 yards and 10 touchdowns.
"Going from last year's game, being there live and in color, he just seemed so much stronger than most of our guys," defensive coordinator Keith Dudzinski said. "He was able to kind of — I don't want to say bully us — but he was able to big-boy us a little bit."
This season, Carroo has struggled to stay on the field at times. He was suspended for the first half of the season opener against Norfolk State for breaking curfew during the preseason. He announced his presence in that game with three touchdown catches that covered 129 yards, all after halftime.
But after Rutgers' 37-34 loss to Washington State on Sept. 12, Carroo was charged with simple assault and suspended indefinitely. He missed the next two games before the charges were dropped and he was reinstated ahead of the Scarlet Knights' 31-24 loss to Michigan State on Oct. 10. In his return, Carroo had seven catches for 134 yards and three scores.
"When he's been on the field, he's shown the ability to make plays for them, and I know for a quarterback to have a safety net like him -- a guy you know you can count on if you put the ball up in his vicinity -- that he'll go make plays for you," interim coach Mike Locksley said. "He's proven that time and time again and they are a big-time offense with him in the game and he's a guy that for us, we have to pay a lot of attention to."
Carroo has 32 catches for 626 yards and nine touchdowns this season, which leads the Scarlet Knights in all categories. Quarterback Chris Laviano has been shaky at times this season with 12 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, and he hasn't thrown a touchdown pass since Carroo had three in a 55-52 win over Indiana as part of a seven-catch, 157-yard day.
Carroo has been dealing with a high-ankle sprain since mid-October. It caused him to miss half of Rutgers' loss to Ohio State after he caught three passes for 55 yards, and he missed the next two games. In the past two games since his return, he has eight catches for 99 yards. Between suspension and injury, he has missed four games and parts of two others.
"He's a great wide receiver," middle linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. said. "When he's not on the field, you notice. When he is, he plays a huge part of their offense. He's just great at what he does. He's good for the offense."
The Maryland secondary has been burned by opposing wide receivers at times this season. Bowling Green's Roger Lewis had 15 catches for 200 yards and two touchdowns in September, and last weekend, Indiana's Simmie Cobbs Jr. had nine catches for 192 yards.
The Terps could be without top cornerback Will Likely, who missed practice earlier this week with an ankle injury. That would leave some combination of cornerbacks Sean Davis, Darnell Savage Jr. and Jarrett Ross to help contain Carroo. Dudzinski also said the Terps could have a safety playing zone on Carroo's side of the field to help shadow him.
Safe to say, no matter where Carroo is, the Maryland defense will be watching.
"He's a playmaker at receiver," defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson said. "He runs good routes, he's a fast guy, gets open."