The eighth installment of our Maryland football position previews features the team’s wide receivers.
The Terps’ talented wide receiver room last year helped form one of the best passing attacks in the Big Ten, as they ranked third in the conference in passing yards per game (259.8) and sixth in passing touchdowns (21). Even so, given the enormity of talent Maryland has accumulated at the position, the team’s passing attack left some to be desired.
However, with Rakim Jarrett, Jacob Copeland and Dontay Demus off to the NFL, Maryland’s wide receiver depth will feature a mix of young wideouts looking to break out, veteran transfers and a sixth-year leader in Jeshaun Jones.
Maryland’s 2023 wide receiver depth
|Jeshaun Jones||Graduate||44 Rec, 557 Yds, 4 TDs|
|Tai Felton||Junior||23 Rec, 309 Yds, 2 TDs|
|Kaden Prather||Junior||52 Rec, 501 Yds, 3 TDs (with West Virginia)|
|Tyrese Chambers||Graduate||51 Rec, 544 Yds, 4 TDs (with FIU)|
|Octavian Smith Jr.||Sophomore||12 Rec, 157 Yds, 2 TDs|
|Shaleak Knotts||Sophomore||5 Rec, 25 Yds (7 games)|
|Leon Haughton Jr.||Sophomore||1 Rec, 25 Yards (8 games)|
|Ryan Manning||Freshman||High School (3-star recruit)|
|Braeden Wisloski||Freshman||High School (3-star recruit)|
|Sean Williams||Freshman||High School (3-star recruit)|
|Ezekiel Avit||Freshman||High School (3-star recruit)|
|Josh Richards||Freshman||High School (3-star recruit)|
|Ricardo Cooper Jr.||Freshman||High School|
|Taylor Best||Freshman||High School|
|Alec Hughes||Freshman||High School|
|Parker Jones||Freshman||High School|
|Jaiden Fair||Freshman||High School|
|Robert Smith||Sophomore (RS)||N/A|
|Khalid Jones||Sophomore (RS)||N/A|
Jeshaun Jones headlines the group
Jones is set to lead Maryland’s receiving corps in his sixth and final season in College Park.
“He’s been through the ups and downs. He knows how to bring along the younger players,” offensive coordinator Josh Gattis said. “He’s a very dependable, athletic receiver. So being able to get him back, get him healthy and playing with tremendous confidence, we look forward to the return that he’s gonna bring us.”
Jones had a career year in 2022, leading the Terps in receptions (44), receiving yards (557) and receiving touchdowns (4). All three of those marks also ranked top-20 in the Big Ten.
His connection with quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa should also continue to develop as the tandem head into their fourth season together.
“We’ve kind of talked about it together, seeing what we wanted to do and stuff like that,” Tagovailoa said. “He’s one of our vocal leaders as well. Stepping into that role, now he’s leading the receiver room.”
The two most prominent returners behind Jones are junior Tai Felton and sophomore Octavian Smith Jr.
Felton started sparingly in his sophomore season and was often the fourth receiver called upon. He appeared in all 13 games, starting in six of them, tallying 23 receptions for 309 yards and two touchdowns. However, with the trio of Jarrett, Copeland and Demus all gone, Felton is in line for a much heavier workload.
Smith Jr. was the only freshman receiver to earn significant playing time in 2022. In his debut season, he hauled in 12 receptions for 157 yards and two touchdowns. The former four-star recruit should see tons of action this year as both a receiver and kick returner.
Finally, second-year wideouts Shaleak Knotts and Leon Haughton Jr. are the only other receivers who saw the field last year. The duo combined for six receptions and 50 yards last season.
Transfers will see significant playing time
While the wide receiver room lost some depth to the NFL, the Terps went shopping in the offseason and brought in two productive transfers, both of which are Maryland natives.
After receiving an offer from Maryland in 2018, West Virginia transfer Kaden Prather found his way back to College Park as a rising junior.
“It was kind of an easy decision, you know? I didn’t leave my decision to too many schools,” Prather said. “When it comes to the next level, they know where to look. Maryland produces wide receivers.”
Prather was ranked as the 10th-best wide receiver in the transfer portal by 247Sports following a promising sophomore year with the Mountaineers, during which he hauled in 52 receptions for 501 yards and three touchdowns.
Listed at 6-foot-4, 212 pounds, Prather is one of Maryland’s largest targets and should be an especially valuable asset in the red zone.
FlU transfer Tyrese Chambers, a native of Baltimore, Maryland, is another highly touted newcomer.
In his first season at FIU, Chambers established himself as an elite deep threat and ranked second in the nation with an average of 23.9 yards per reception. He also broke FIU single-season records for receiving yards (1,074) and touchdown receptions (9).
Chambers’ production decreased last year when he hauled in 51 receptions for 544 yards and four touchdowns, but it’s clear his talent remains. In Maryland’s 2023 Red-White Spring Game, Chambers looked dynamic, tallying 37 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
“This has been my dream school since I was a child, and it took me a couple years to get here, but I’m finally here,” Chambers said in the spring. “Receivers got to make plays, man. Receivers [are] a big part of this offense, and I’m just thankful and blessed to be one of those guys.”
Maryland also has 10 freshmen receivers joining the team, double the amount from last year. With so much experience in the receiver room, though, it’s hard to imagine any of them becoming a primary option.
Braeden Wisloski is the highest-rated recruit of the bunch and the most versatile player. He brings experience as both a receiver and running back from high school and could be another special teams weapon.
“A really talented room. A lot of unknowns, but I say [it’s] eerily similar to what the running back room looked like a year ago,” head coach Mike Locksley said. “I think we’ll be pleasantly surprised with the production we’ll get, especially out of the two [transfers].”