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Juwann Winfree's suspension another blow to Terps' receiving corps

Juwann Winfree caught a touchdown against Indiana.
Juwann Winfree caught a touchdown against Indiana. (Michael Hickey, Getty Images)

COLLEGE PARK — The announcement came on Monday night, less than 48 hours after a smiling Juwann Winfree sat in the auditorium at Gossett Team House sharing his optimism and excitement for the future following the breakout performance of his freshman season.

Winfree's two-game suspension is a setback for the freshman wide receiver, one of the prized pieces of last year's recruiting class and an emerging contributor in the Terps' offense.

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The suspension is also another blow to the depth of the Terps' receiving corps, which has been depleted by Levern Jacobs' season-long suspension, Taivon Jacobs' season-ending knee injury and Stefon Diggs' kidney injury.

Maryland's athletic department suspended Winfree on Monday for violating the university's student-athlete code of conduct.

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"It's just always disappointing when your children, your players make poor decisions," coach Randy Edsall said Tuesday, later adding, "What we have to do is help him and guide him and continue to get him to understand the opportunities he has here at Maryland and what lies in front of him but [that] if you make poor decisions those things can be taken from you.

"He was progressing really well, and it's a shame he's not going to be with us the next two weeks. But we have other guys that can go in and do the job and make the most of the opportunity they're going to get."

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Winfree appeared to be in line for an increase in playing time after his performance against No. 12 Michigan State on Saturday, which included four catches for 80 yards and a 31-yard touchdown.

Instead, little-used redshirt junior Daniel Adams, who had two catches for 39 yards and a touchdown Saturday, will back up Deon Long at one outside receiver spot. Junior Marcus Leak and sophomore Amba Etta-Tawo are listed as co-starters at the other.

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Winfree could have been in the mix for time at that spot after both Leak and Etta-Tawo had issues against Michigan State.

Winfree got behind Indiana's defense for a 30-yard touchdown on Sept. 27, and he has 10 catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns for the season.

"I definitely see a lot of potential in Juwann," Terps defensive back Sean Davis said. "I watched him grow from him being on scout team to starting and scoring touchdowns for us. He's going to be a great player. He's got to keep working hard and stay smart and stay focused."

Losing Winfree weakens a Maryland offense that was held to seven points through three and a half quarters against Michigan State and has been limited to an average of 14 points in its past three games.

The positive news for Terps fans is that Maryland has yet to rule out the possibility of Diggs returning during the final two weeks of the regular season, although Edsall declined to say Sunday whether he expects the star junior to practice this week or play during the Terps' game at Michigan on Saturday.

Even if Diggs can't play, Maryland does have Long, a former five-star recruit who has 38 catches for 450 yards, as well as others such as Leak, Etta-Tawo and slot receiver Jacquille Veii who have made plays in the past.

Those players "have had success," Terps quarterback C.J. Brown said. "And I think the biggest thing is that we have depth. We have experience at that position. But at the same time, another guy's going to have to step up [with Winfree out].

"Last game, Daniel Adams stepped up and had two big-time catches. And it's unfortunate Juwann went down. We're going to lose him for a couple weeks or whatever. But another guy's just going to have to step up."

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