Maryland football is no stranger to exceptional wide receivers. D.J. Moore was a first-round pick by the Carolina Panthers just last year, joining the likes of Stefon Diggs, Torrey Smith, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jermaine Lewis to make an impact in the NFL at the position.
The Terrapins’ pass coverage was somewhat effective last season, finishing 42nd in the country allowing 206.5 yards per game through the air and posting a 101.0 Passing S&P+ on defense, which ranked 64th in the nation. They also allowed 100-yard receiving games to four different receivers across 12 games. After losing Darnell Savage Jr. at safety, the secondary could be vulnerable to big games once again.
Here are the opposing wideouts to watch out for this season.
Rondale Moore, Purdue (Oct. 12)
2018 stats: 114 receptions, 1,258 yards, 12 touchdowns
What a season it was for Moore, as he lit up the Big Ten as a freshman and put the nation on notice. His breakout performance came in the team’s stunning 49-20 upset of Ohio State, hauling in 12 catches for 170 yards and a pair of scores. At just 5’9 and 180 pounds, Moore showed he can hang with the best of the best, even with a slot-receiver frame.
Moore finished the year averaging 8.8 receptions (second in the nation) and 96.8 yards per game (12th), earning First Team All-American honors as an all-purpose player by the Associated Press. That’s because Moore is a multi-faceted talent, carrying the ball 21 times for 213 yards with two touchdowns and adding 744 yards in the return game.
Tyler Johnson, Minnesota (Oct. 26)
2018 stats: 78 catches, 1,169 yards, 12 touchdowns
Johnson earned Second Team All-Big Ten honors as a junior in 2018, breaking out in a big way to help lead the Golden Gophers to a bowl-game victory. After combining for 59 receptions, 818 yards and eight touchdowns in his first two seasons with the program, Johnson blew those numbers out of the water last season.
However, that success didn’t translate to the team’s game against Maryland. The Terps’ secondary kept Johnson completely under wraps, allowing just two catches for 12 yards in a 42-13 win. He passed up an opportunity to enter the NFL Draft after his junior season, and now as a senior, he could wreak havoc in the conference once again. At 6’2, 200 pounds, he has the size to take over a game completely.
JD Spielman, Nebraska (Nov. 23)
2018 stats: 66 catches, 818 yards, eight touchdowns
Spielman caught eyes as a freshman, and as a sophomore, he cemented himself as a top pass-catcher in the conference. His yardage dipped slightly, as did his yards per catch, but the then-sophomore racked up 11 more catches and six more touchdowns in the No. 2 role in the offense behind Stanley Morgan Jr.
Like Moore, Spielman is undersized. He stands 5’9 and weighs 185 pounds, but that hasn’t stopped him from finding the end zone in Lincoln. Morgan is now in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals, so in the second year of Scott Frost’s offense, Spielman will be the go-to target. He also added 273 return yards (including a punt return touchdown), making him a versatile weapon to keep track of.
K.J. Hill, Ohio State (Nov. 9)
2018 stats: 69 catches, 876 yards, six touchdowns
Ohio State’s offense was lethal last season, and that was due to the passing game especially. Dwayne Haskins was elite under center, and Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin combined for 23 touchdowns. All three are now in the NFL, as is fellow pass-catcher Johnnie Dixon.
Incoming transfer Justin Fields will now man the offense, and he’ll be flanked by Hill as his main weapon. He’s 6’0 and weighs 195 pounds, and he’ll be tasked with leading the offense and easing his new quarterback’s transition into the offense. Against Maryland last season, Hill brought in five catches for 64 yards and a score.
Jequez Ezzard, Howard (Aug. 31)
2018 stats: 40 catches, 1,064 yards, 12 touchdowns
Ezzard may be overlooked due to the size (or lack thereof) of Howard’s program and its competition, but the receiver was terrific in his sophomore season a year ago. As an FCS school, the team played just 10 games, but his stats would be stellar for a full schedule as well.
Like many others on this list, Ezzard is undersized at 5’9 and 190 pounds, but he found a way to dominate the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference nonetheless. Thanks to his speed, he was able to not only average a nation-high 26.6 yards per catch, but he was also able to find the end zone time and time again.
KJ Hamler, Penn State (Sept. 27)
2018 stats: 42 catches, 754 yards, five touchdowns
Hamler is the fourth guy on the list who is 5’9, but he’s the lightest by a sizable margin at 168 pounds. That frame lends to his incredible speed, which allows him to blow by defenders both on deep routes and after the catch. He averaged a hearty 17.95 yards per catch in his sophomore season, and as a junior, he could be in store for even a bigger campaign.
After facing Ezzard to kick off the season, Maryland may have its hands full with Syracuse’s Sean Riley (5’8, 175). He led the Orange with 64 catches and racked up 756 yards, and with Jamal Custis in the NFL, Riley’s role could expand even more.
And while Donovan Peoples-Jones may have received more attention, it was Nico Collins (6’4, 218) that led Michigan in receiving with 632 yards on 38 catches. He was able to find the end zone six times in 2018 as a sophomore, and with Peoples-Jones’ departure, his stats could make a sizable jump as the clear-cut No. 1 this season.