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Maryland football’s slot receivers hope to break through in a new offense

Wide Receivers Week moves inside to DJ Turner, Tahj Capehart and Sean Nelson.

maryland football-rutgers-spread-odds-bets Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

This summer at Testudo Times, we’re previewing Maryland football one position group at a time. We started with quarterbacks and spent last week on running backs, and now we’re focusing on wide receivers.

After an overview of the group on Monday, Lila wrote about Jeshaun Jones Tuesday and Thomas profiled the trio of sophomores Wednesday. Today, I’ll be taking a look the the slot receiver position, which could make a big impact in a quick-passing scheme.

DJ Turner, No. 1

Height: 5’9
Weight: 203
Year: Senior
Hometown: Glenarden, Md.
High school: Dematha Catholic

Tahj Capehart, No. 14

Height: 5’10
Weight: 183
Year: Redshirt Sophomore
Hometown: Virginia Beach, Va.
High school: Bishop Sullivan Catholic

Sean Nelson, No. 85

Height: 6’0
Weight: 180
Year: Redshirt Sophomore
Hometown: Fairburn, Ga.
High school: Langston Hughes

The background

Turner is the veteran of the group, as he signed on as part of the 2016 recruiting class. He was the No. 62 recruit in the country and No. 13 player in the state of Maryland, per the 247Sports Composite. He received offers from Army, Syracuse and Virginia, among others, before eventually coming to College Park.

Capehart and Nelson both joined on in 2017, DJ Moore’s last season with the program. The former was the No. 50-ranked receiver in the nation and No. 15 player in his home state of Virginia, while the latter was ranked as the No. 93 receiver and No. 64 Georgia prospect. Nelson committed to the Terps in May 2016, while Capehart flipped his commitment from Virginia Tech to Maryland on National Signing Day.

There hasn’t been a ton of production thus far.

Turner struggled to find targets often in his first two seasons. He played 20 games in 2016 and 2017, but that led to just seven catches for 51 yards combined. When Moore left, Turner — who took his No. 1 — had a mini-breakout, hauling in 13 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown.

Capehart appeared in seven games as a freshman in 2017, but he managed to snag just one pass for six yards. And then in 2018, he tore his ACL in spring practice and missed the entire season. Capehart was back on the field this spring, but he’s got some catching up to do.

Nelson appeared in just one game as a freshman in 2017 and was able to take a redshirt and retain a year of eligibility. Last season, he appeared in 10 games almost exclusively as a special teams gunner/blocker. He’s yet to secure his first career pass, but that could change this season.

There will be targets for these receivers in Mike Locksley’s offense.

Last season, Tua Tagovailoa was a Heisman candidate (might have won if it weren’t for injuries). As a sophomore, he threw the ball all over the field to a number of different weapons. Slot receivers were the benefactor of a ton of targets, and while receivers rotated through the position, Jerry Jeudy and Jaylen Waddle spent a lot of time on the inside — they combined for 113 catches, 2,163 yards and 21 touchdowns.

It’s not fair to expect anything close to that level of production this season. For starters, the Terrapins don’t have a quarterback like Tagovailoa, and the receivers aren’t five-star talents either. But the new regime has utilized the position frequently, and that could lead to a large workload for Turner, Capehart and/or Nelson.