Maryland football’s receiving game has been nothing short of impactful through the first three games of the season. The Terps have out-received their opponents 455.67 yards to 180.67 yards.
“This isn’t my first rodeo with having a lot of talented receivers in one room,” head coach Michael Locksley said. “One of the things I’ve always tried to do— what I know is something that they have kind of adapted to as well— as long as those guys get their targets and their touches, which means they get opportunities, they usually are pretty good, and this room has been really unselfish as have most of the rooms.”
Senior Dontay Demus Jr. has been leading the way with his 338 yards on 20 receptions. This is not the first season Demus Jr. is showcasing his talent in a Maryland uniform however, he continues to prove his versatility and explosivity as the season progresses.
This year, within the first five minutes of the matchup against Howard, Demus Jr. caught a touchdown pass for the sixth straight game in a row, dating back to his junior year. Six games with a receiving touchdown was the longest active streak in the Big Ten and the longest streak in program history dating back to at least 1985.
In the first two games of the season, Demus Jr. had a career-high 133-yard performance and a team-high 128 yards, respectively, also making him the first Terp to do so since current NFL receiver Stefon Diggs did so in 2013 and 2014.
“He’s built like a house,” Jeshaun Jones said about Demus Jr. “He’s 6-foot-4, 220 pounds and is blazing fast and can move really shifty as well. I don’t know how people plan to stop that.”
Although against Illinois Demus Jr. snapped his touchdown streak, he once again led the Terps in receiving yards totaling 77 yards on eight receptions. Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa targeted Demus Jr. 10 times as the receiver from Washington D.C. continues to be a reliable player for the quarterback.
Demus Jr. has made an appearance in all 32 games that Maryland has played since his freshman year in 2018. His gameplay has only elevated over the last four years as he has solidified his spot as WR1.
“He’s been Mr. Consistent for us the last few years,” Locksley said about Demus Jr. earlier this season. “But what I think you see now is, you know, the dividends from the work that he’s put in this summer.”
Demus Jr. performs not only on the field but also off as he helps develop the receivers who play with him.
Following the Howard game, sophomore receiver Rakim Jarrett discussed how Demus Jr. has assisted in elevating Jarrett’s game from high school to college and now from his freshman to sophomore year.
In his first season as a Terp, Jarrett’s performance earned him All-Big Ten honorable mention. He started in four games and had 17 receptions for 252 yards. Against Penn State, he had five catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns. His receiving yards that game rank third among freshmen in program history for a single game behind Darrius Heyward Bey who had 175 yards in 2006 and Diggs who tallied 152 yards in 2012.
Jarrett has already exceeded his four-game yard total from the abbreviated 2020 season, recording 259 yards on 16 receptions across three games.
This season, both Demus Jr. and Jarrett have two touchdown receptions.
Jarrett has totaled 16 receptions across three games and is averaging 86.33 yards per game. Against Illinois, Tagovailoa targeted Jarrett six times and the sophomore wideout grabbed the ball five times for 70 yards.
Headed into the first game of conference play, it seemed like Demus Jr. and Jarrett were going to continue to be the go-to guys for Tagovailoa but in the Illinois game, the entire receiving corps showed its depth of talent with Jeshaun Jones and Darryl Jones.
“It’s kind of like a pick your poison receiving group,” Jarrett said. “You got Dontay Demus [Jr.] stretching the field vertically with his size, I can get underneath with the mismatches and Jeshaun Jones, he’s kinda like a smooth guy in route running. So, pick your poison.”
When the defense tightens coverage on one of the receivers, it opens up the field for the rest of the unit and that’s what occurred against the Fighting Illini.
Although Demus Jr. and Jarrett had quieter games for the Terps than they did in their first two non-conference games of the season, Jeshaun Jones and Darryl Jones made an impact on Maryland football when it came to the receiving game.
Against Illinois, Jeshaun Jones had 70 yards for five receptions on six targets. His most notable catch in that game came in the final five minutes of the game.
Maryland’s offense was marching down the field looking to tie the game. On 2nd-and-10, Tagovailoa let one sail to Jeshaun Jones who made the 24-yard reception and got the ball deep into the red zone down on Illinois’ 10-yard line.
The Terps then went on to score the game-tying touchdown that set kicker Joseph Petrino up to nail a 32-yard game-winning field goal.
Throughout his time at Maryland, Jeshaun Jones has had some quieter performances after redshirting as a sophomore in 2019 due to an ACL tear but has been steadily increasing his performance and reestablishing his place in Maryland’s offense.
His freshman year, Jeshaun Jones made an impact nearly instantly. In the Terps’ first game of the 2018 season, he had three touchdowns- one receiving, one passing and one rushing-making him the first freshman to do so since Oregon’s Marcus Mariota did it in 2012.
He finished the season making appearances in all 12 games, scored seven touchdowns on 22 receptions for 288 yards and his five receiving touchdowns marked the most receiving scores by a freshman since Diggs did the same in 2012.
Ahead of the 2019 season is when Jeshaun Jones tore his ACL but when he made his return his sophomore year, he showed a lot of continued potential from 2018. The receiver had his first career 100-yard game against Minnesota at the end of October and finished the season with 11 receptions for 191 yards and a touchdown.
Jeshaun Jones currently stands third on the team with 123 yards, averaging 41 per game.
Right behind him is senior receiver Darryl Jones. Similar to Demus Jr., Darryl Jones has made an appearance in all 32 games he has been here for since his freshman season in 2018.
“We all just kind of want to see each other succeed especially guys my class like Darryl, Dontay and [Brian] Cobbs, we came in together and we kind of all want to see each other have the success that we’re having,” Jeshaun Jones said.
Darryl Jones finished his first year with nine receptions and 147 yards and completed his sophomore year with the same number of catches but upping the yardage to 158.
In his junior season, Darryl Jones earned his first start against then-No. 12 Indiana in which he had two receptions for 18 yards. Darryl Jones finished the season with eight receptions for 81 yards.
Now, in his senior season, in addition to the other three receivers getting touches and growing, Darryl Jones’ game is also progressing. Through three games, the 6-foot-3 receiver has already exceeded what he accomplished last season in five games as he has eight receptions for 82 yards.
The majority of those catches came against Illinois where Darryl Jones had a career-best five receptions that totaled 66 yards. He was targeted six times and had an average of 13.2 yards per reception.
Cobbs, who rounds out the wide receiver class that came in with Demus Jr., Jeshaun Jones and Darryl Jones, has had a quieter season than some of the other receivers but his commitment does not go unnoticed by Locksley.
“[Cobbs] is a star for us, and maybe not getting the touches or making a contribution that he would like,” Locksley said. “But, I see him still going out there, doing all the little things right and when he gets his opportunities, he’s prepared for it.”
This season, Cobbs has two receptions so far, one against Howard for 17 yards and one in Illinois for 11 yards.
Carlos Carriere, one of the captains named ahead of the Kent State game, is another receiver who has had a few touches this season. He had two catches for 26 yards and a touchdown in the Howard game.
Now, as the Terps face Kent State and then continue with Big Ten play, they have a group of solid wide receivers to rely on to open the field. On top of the impact the running backs and tight ends are beginning to make, this receiving corps continues to elevate Maryland’s offense and it will be a key part of Maryland’s gameplay as it enters the next portion of its season.
“We felt like we’ve had a pretty good group in past years and right now, we’re getting the opportunity to really show it off,” Jeshaun Jones said.