COLLEGE PARK — The process of replacing and moving forward without key players has become common practice for Maryland's football team since Randy Edsall took over as coach in 2011.
Now, the Terps will look to sophomore wide receiver Jacquille Veii and others to help fill in for junior receiver Stefon Diggs, who is suspended for Saturday's game against No. 12 Michigan State and could miss the remainder of the season after suffering a lacerated kidney against Penn State on Nov. 1.
Maryland survived without both Diggs and fellow starting receiver Deon Long for the final six games of last season, as Levern Jacobs, Amba Etta-Tawo and Nigel King each stepped into bigger roles and posted a combined 82 catches for 1,136 yards and eight touchdowns during that stretch.
The hope is that Veii, a converted running back who has become a multidimensional and versatile threat within the Terps' offense, can step up and produce in a similar fashion.
Quarterback C.J. Brown said it is possible that others besides Veii could play in the slot without Diggs in the lineup, but Veii will start there Saturday night. Long, Marcus Leak and Etta-Tawo also could see an increase in targets in Diggs' absence.
"When somebody's not out there, it just gives someone else an opportunity to step up and show what they can do," Edsall said, "and all of our players know that we have a tremendous amount of confidence in them."
The offense will not change too much, Brown said. The Terps consistently called for quick passes to Diggs in hopes of allowing him to use his speed, athleticism and elusiveness to create big plays in space.
Like Diggs, Veii has the speed and ability to elude and outrun defenders in the open field while also possessing the vision of a running back to be able to spot holes or creases to exploit within a defense.
"Jacquille will have to step up and fill that role, but he's been doing a great job all year, and we've been working every day in practice," Brown said. "So we're getting very comfortable and just making sure he's seeing what I'm seeing, and the communication stays open."
Veii was switched to wide receiver during the summer because Maryland had three other running backs in contention for carries in the backfield.
While Veii is still new to the position and may lack the refinement of a trained and skilled wide receiver such as Diggs, he has proven capable of making big plays while catching six passes for 80 yards and a touchdown in addition to the 93 yards and two touchdowns he has picked up on 14 carries.
Veii caught a 26-yard touchdown against West Virginia on Sept. 13, outworking a Mountaineers defender on a 50-50 ball near the corner of the end zone.
Veii also had four catches for 78 yards during the Terps' 52-24 loss to Ohio State on Oct. 4, including a 60-yard catch-and-run during which he nearly outran a Buckeyes defender for a touchdown down the left sideline before being tripped up at Ohio State's 4-yard line.
"We're going to miss [Diggs]," left tackle Michael Dunn said. "But at the same time, that's how football is. You might not have somebody with you, so I've been really impressed with how Jacquille Veii and some of the other wide receivers have been stepping up, and they've been playing well.
"They're all experienced. It's not like anyone's going to see action for the first time, so we're all confident in everybody we've got. They wouldn't be playing if we weren't confident in them, so I'm sure they're going to have great games."
NOTES: Edsall declined to comment on Diggs' injury. "I'm not talking about injuries," Edsall said. "I never talk about them. We'll find out who is available. Stefon is suspended for this game, and we'll see who's available by the end of the week." … Sophomore DeAndre Lane (Catonsville) and junior Daniel Adams are listed as co-backups to Veii in the slot with Diggs out. … Cornerback and punt returner Will Likely will replace Diggs as the Terps' primary kick returner.