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Maryland football’s receivers seemed talented in 2016, but didn’t get the ball enough

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D.J. Moore was as improved as anyone could have expected, and headlined the unit.

NCAA Football: Quick Lane Bowl-Boston College vs Maryland Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland football lost to Boston College in the Quick Lane Bowl on Dec. 26. With the regular season now firmly in the rear view, it’s time to enter postseason analysis mode. We’re doing a position-by-position evaluation of the team. Let’s look at the wide receivers and tight ends.

The players

Name Yr Pos G Rec. Yards Avg. TD Rec./G Yards/G
Name Yr Pos G Rec. Yards Avg. TD Rec./G Yards/G
D.J. Moore SO WR 13 41 637 15.54 6 3.2 49
Teldrick Morgan SR WR 13 43 497 11.56 4 3.3 38.2
Levern Jacobs SR WR 13 41 439 10.71 2 3.2 33.8
DeAndre Lane SR WR 11 13 156 12 0 1.2 14.2
Malcolm Culmer SR WR 13 5 37 7.4 0 0.4 2.8
Avery Edwards SO TE 13 1 23 23 0 0.1 1.8
DJ Turner FR WR 8 2 19 9.5 0 0.3 2.4
Derrick Hayward JR TE 13 4 17 4.25 1 0.3 1.3
Jahrvis Davenport SO WR 4 1 2 2 0 0.3 0.5

The numbers

Offense Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Offense Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Passing S&P+ 97.2 69 100
Passing Success Rate 38.10% 83 40.90%
Passing IsoPPP 1.3 3 1.49
Adj. Sack Rate 56.6 18 100

What we thought would happen

Alex predicted that 2016 would be a strong season for the Terps’ receiving corps, in part because most of the production from the year before was coming back and it’s virtually impossible for a passing game to remain as inept as Maryland’s was in 2015.

It is strikingly not likely that Maryland will complete less than half its passes again, or that it’ll go a second straight year without a 500-yard or 40-catch receiver. These things will change, because no amount of pessimism outweighs the unlikelihood of that kind of futility following Maryland for too long. (Wow, we’re tempting fate.)

He pegged Moore, Morgan and the Jacobs brothers to be Maryland’s top four targets this fall, with a number of other players also making an impact.

What actually happened

Moore, Morgan and Levern Jacobs made up the clear-cut top three. All three surpassed 40 catches and they at least averaged over 500 yards between them. The trio caught 12 of Maryland’s 15 passing touchdowns.

However, there wasn’t as much depth here as originally thought. DeAndre Lane caught five balls against Howard and just eight the rest of the season. Malcolm Culmer was quiet all year, tallying just five receptions. Jahrvis Davenport wasn’t expected to be a srar, but his numbers are still below where most thought they’d be.

None of Maryland’s running backs caught that many passes from the backfield, either, so the reception distribution is pretty glaring.

And then there’s Taivon Jacobs, whose injury-plagued year is certainly the strangest subplot to Maryland’s season that doesn’t involve BB guns. The redshirt junior was sidelined in camp with an injury that was never disclosed. It seemed liked he’d return at some point, but as the season wore on it became apparent he wasn’t coming back. No reason was ever given for it. It’s hard to imagine him not being good enough to see the field, as he was third on the Terps with 21 catches and 264 yards in 2015. This makes it three of four seasons completely missed for the younger Jacobs—one by redshirt, two by injury—but he should have a chance to get back at it as a senior in the fall.

Also, we’d me remiss if we didn’t mention that Etta-Tawo was phenomenal in Dino Babers’ offense at Syracuse. He finished the season with 94 catches, 1,482 yards and 13 scores, highlighted by a five-score game against Pitt on Nov. 26. I picked him for SB Nation’s All-America team, where there are zero Maryland players to be found. Etta-Tawo obviously wouldn’t have put up those numbers at Maryland, but he’d surely be a regular weapon in an offense that couldn’t have enough playmakers.

What’s going to happen next

Moore is coming back, and that’s reason to rejoice. But Morgan, Jacobs, Lane and Culmer will be gone, which creates some uncertainty about the depth of this unit. Among receivers with catches in 2016, only Davenport and Turner are returning. This position’s certainly ripe for a grad transfer.

It should be better than that, though. Taivon Jacobs has eligibility left, and if he’s healthy he’ll probably be the No. 2 wideout behind Moore. Jacquille Veii will also be eligible after redshirting 2016. Tino Ellis, a four-star receiver prospect who played a lot of corner as a freshman, could very well switch back to offense or even play both ways. Thee team also has five three-star freshmen coming in: Carlos Carriere, Jayden Comma, Sean Nelson, Jalen Browder and MJ Jarrell, all of whom are at least 6’2 (Cariere is 6’5). They’ll add some size to a unit that really didn’t have much of that.

Maryland is also retaining all of its tight ends. Hayward will be a senior, Edwards a junior, Andew Isaacs a fifth-year senior and Noah Barnes a sophomore. Andrew Park, a three-star prospect, could factor into that mix as well. It’s unlikely any of them becomes a frequent receiving target—only the best tight ends put up big numbers in college, really—but it’s certainly a valuable position.

Receivers’ singular impact on games is often limited, as they all need someone to throw them the ball. If the Terps’ signal callers are effective, then the wideouts’ numbers should be good. Moore is the one guy who can make plays by himself, which will be invaluable. So even though a significant portion of Maryland’s receiving corps won’t be back in 2017, there’s reason for some optimism.