There was a time in the offseason when Taivon Jacobs broke down. He had sat out his true freshman season in 2013 while recovering from a knee injury. And in the season opener in 2014, Jacobs suffered another knee injury on Maryland's second drive after making his first career start and missed another season.
For four months, Jacobs said in August at Maryland's media day, he was in shock. Again, his college career would have to wait. And then one day he started crying.
From that day on, Jacobs told himself he could come back from his injuries and that he would be back from them. Jacobs will get a chance to finally show off that hard work and perseverance against South Florida on Saturday. Coach Randy Edsall elevated the sophomore to a starting wide receiver spot in hopes of boosting an offense that looked lethargic on offense to start the season.
The Terps are looking to stretch the field with their speedsters, and Jacobs, a former track star at Suitland, possesses the burst that could stress opposing defenses. And for him, it doesn't matter whether he's getting the ball deep or working underneath the defense — he just wants the ball.
"I did this for a living," Jacobs said Wednesday. "I've been doing this for about 15 years now and I just feel as though I'm a playmaker and everybody in that room is a playmaker, so getting the ball in our hands, any type of way is going to be special, so it doesn't really matter to me. I can run deep routes. That's a gimme. I feel as though that's easy. Bubble screens, slants, all that. It's all similar and it's all the same honestly."
After the success of Maryland's running game in its season opener against Richmond, Bowling Green loaded the box and forced quarterback Perry Hills and the Terps to try to go deep. They struggled to establish anything in the 48-27 loss. So Maryland shook up its depth chart, elevating Jacobs and freshman D.J. Moore to starting wide receiver spots while giving quarterback Caleb Rowe the opportunity to start over Hills.
So far Jacobs has just one catch for 12 yards, and it came on a jet sweep in the season opener against Richmond. The former four-star recruit who flipped from Ohio State to Maryland on National Signing Day 2013 hasn't had a chance to show off his deep speed yet.
"We need to get Taivon involved and going a little bit because he does have legitimate speed to stretch defenses, whether it's with the post, the comebacks, the deep routes outside to take advantage of the speed matchup," offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said.
Edsall and the Terps have been focusing on the "vertical passing game" this week, with the hope that the combination of Levern Jacobs, Taivon Jacobs and Moore's speed with Rowe's arm strength can help open up the running game.
When he was sidelined, Jacobs watched videos of Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson to motivate himself. Peterson tore his anterior cruciate ligament late in the 2011 season but returned nine months later better than before and won the NFL MVP Award. That was Jacobs' motivation to return.
"If he can do it, I can do it," Jacobs said in August. "I felt like he's a dog, he's a beast. I feel like I've got to be a dog and a beast. I've got to have it inside me that I want to be better than what I was."
After sitting out two years because of injury and playing a small role in two more games, Jacobs finally has the chance to step up and show what he can do for the Terps, who are hoping he has a big impact that ripples across the offense.
"He's a fast guy," Rowe said. "He's able to go deep. I feel very comfortable with Taivon and he knows what he's doing. He catches just about everything you throw to him. I'm real fortunate to have guys like that on my team."