Edsall laughs off Terps' receiving losses

College Park,MD-8/10/15 --University of Maryland football players L-R #17 Josh woods, #84 Amba Etta-Tawo and #13 DeAndre Lane. University of Maryland football media day at Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium. Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun #4250
College Park,MD-8/10/15 --University of Maryland football players L-R #17 Josh woods, #84 Amba Etta-Tawo and #13 DeAndre Lane. University of Maryland football media day at Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium. Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun #4250(Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)


A reminder of what Maryland lost at wide receiver after last season was a purple blur streaking upfield in Canton, Ohio, late Sunday night, about 12 hours before Randy Edsall sat down to discuss his returning corps the next morning.


Former star Stefon Diggs, who made a name for himself on national TV in his preseason debut with the Minnesota Vikings, is gone. Fellow starter Deon Long is in camp with the Tennessee Titans. Marcus Leak left the program for personal reasons. Juwann Winfree withdrew from the university in June after being suspended indefinitely earlier that month. Jacquille Veii transferred.

But in the face of uncertainty, Edsall remained calm and confident in his pass catchers. Despite the losses, Maryland still returns talent and experience, and Edsall is counting on competition and desire to help offset the departed.

"I feel really good about our wide receivers," Edsall said. "I see all this stuff that people are saying and everything else and I kind of laugh at it myself."

Maryland lost nearly three-quarters of its receptions and receiving yards from a year ago. The Terps' returning leader in receiving yards is wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo (222 yards) and the returning leader in receptions is running back Wes Brown (21 catches). That's a significant amount of production.

Throw in a three-way race to replace C.J. Brown at quarterback, and it's hard to see the bones of a consistent passing attack.

But there will be a pair of familiar faces split wide for either Caleb Rowe, Perry Hills, or Daxx Garman to target. Both Levern Jacobs (suspension) and Taivon Jacobs (knee) return after prolonged absences. And that could help soften the blow of the losses.

"We kind of been the underdog kind of going off last year because a lot of teams, a lot of people, don't think we're going to be the same," said Taivon Jacobs, who suffered a knee injury on the first drive in the season opener against James Madison. "But it's kind of a good thing because it makes us push harder and makes us work harder to have that chip on our shoulder to want to do better and want to be better, to let everyone know that we're going to be better."

It's not the first time the receiving corps has had to step up, though. When Diggs and Long went down with injuries in the 2013 season, Levern Jacobs, Etta-Tawo, and Malcolm Culmer were all thrust into significant roles early in their careers. Jacobs finished the season with 47 catches for 640 yards and three touchdowns, including catching eight passes for 158 yards and a touchdown against Clemson. Etta-Tawo has 12 starts in his career, while Culmer started four games in 2013.


"We all have game experience now and that's a big part because you can't really teach anybody without game experience, and I think being thrown into the fire, that kind of shown us what we can do," Levern Jacobs said. "That kind of gave us a taste of what we can do."

When that trio was pushed into prominent roles two years ago, it was a young group. Now, they're veterans, and that experienced will be counted on. Etta-Tawo and Levern Jacobs are penciled in as starters on the preseason depth chart, while Culmer is battling with Taivon Jacobs for the final starting spot.

"These are guys who I've grown up with in the offense, and I'm very comfortable with these guys," Rowe said. "Honestly, these guys are being overlooked a little bit. These guys are good athletes who are going to make a lot of good plays this year. It's going to be a lot of fun throwing them the ball."

There's also some intriguing new pieces for the offense to work with. Taivon Jacobs has yet to be able to display his full range of skills after flipping from Ohio State to Maryland on signing day in 2013 as a four-star recruit by some services. True freshmen D.J. Moore and Jahrvis Davenport were four- and three-star recruits, while redshirt freshman Will Ulmer, a high school quarterback, has a year under his belt as a receiver.

With Diggs positioning himself to contribute on Sundays, and Long trying to join him, the expectations from the outside are low. But internally, the Maryland wide receiver corps is expecting to continue the production of the past few years.

And if they end up surprising some people in the process, that's fine with them.


"Everybody's kind of doubting us, and I think we're going into the [preseason] knowing that and that's going to give us the extra motivation, and that's all we really need," Levern Jacobs said. "I think we're going to do something special on offense."