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Maryland receivers Levern and Taivon Jacobs could have a big year in Walt Bell's Terps spread offense

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The Terps' talented brothers never had much of a chance to thrive last year, but this year should be better.

Taivon Jacobs.
Taivon Jacobs.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

It is no secret that the Maryland Terrapins’ offense over the past several years has been, to put it mildly, lackluster. Under former head coach Randy Edsall and former offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, the offense in recent memory has been frustratingly inefficient and at times downright perplexing. In a conscious attempt to avoid beating a dead horse, here are just a few stats from last football season that particularly stand out:

  • Maryland quarterbacks threw 29 interceptions last year, most of 128 FBS teams by a comfortable margin.
  • Maryland turned the ball over 3.2 times per game, also unsurprisingly good for last in the FBS.
  • Maryland ranked 104th in passing yards per game (177.6).
  • No Maryland receiver eclipsed 425 receiving yards or three receiving touchdowns on the season

The Terps’ offense wasn't much of an offense at all. But the Edsall era is behind us, and Randy has a new front office job with the Detroit Lions. As such, I feel even more comfortable stating I could not be happier he will not be pacing the sidelines waiting to ream out a Terrapin player after making a spectacular win-sealing play (as he found a way to do even in his very first game as the Terps' head coach).

Prior to last season, even with Edsall still at the helm and Locksley running the offense, I believed Maryland receivers Levern Jacobs and younger brother Taivon were poised for breakout seasons. The Terps were in desperate need of playmakers to step up after the departures of Stefon Diggs and Deon Long. While each Jacobs brother finished last season in the top three on the team in both receptions and receiving yards, neither had a particularly great year as a bystander of the comically awful quarterback play and head-scratching play-calling.

With a new coaching staff in place, Levern and Taivon should lead the Maryland receiving corps in 2016. Older brother Levern led the Terps last season with 425 receiving yards, 35 receptions, and three touchdowns. When Diggs and Long both went down with season-ending injuries halfway through the 2013 season, Levern became an integral part of the offense. He finished the year with 47 receptions for 640 yards and three touchdowns.

In new Maryland offensive coordinator Walt Bell's spread offense, these numbers should grow. In stark contrast to Maryland’s offense in 2015, or lack thereof,  Arkansas State averaged 448 yards of offense per game and scored 41 points per game (ranked 10th nationally). Granted, this was achieved while playing in the Sun Belt conference and not the Big Ten, but this style of play comes as a breath of fresh air and should result in higher productivity for Levern.

Arkansas State wide receiver Tres Houston was consistently targeted in the red zone last season, and led the Red Wolves with 10 touchdown receptions. Levern Jacobs, typically lining up in the same position Houston would, could garner similar red zone attention from the Maryland quarterback in 2016.

Bell’s offense at Arkansas State was fact-paced, keeping defenses on their heels and often catching defenders out of position. The Red Wolves relied heavily on short and quick screen passes, something the Terps often ran under Locksley.

The difference will be these short passes under Bell will not be the same predictable bubble screens to an outside receiver for a gain of no more than three yards. The Red Wolves’ screen passes were much more elaborate and forced opposing defenses to maintain their sights on several different players, instead of being able to collectively focus on one or two players as defenses against the Terps last season seemed able to do so frequently.

The elusive Taivon Jacobs, at 5’9 and with breakaway speed, should absolutely thrive in this type of offense, whether it's as the beneficiary of short passes from Maryland's weak-armed quarterbacks or down the field with a harder thrower like Caleb Rowe. He and Jacobs have had occasional success together on deep passes, in the event Maryland decides to hunt the big play in the midst of a lot of shorter throws.

How the Terps will fare in 2016, and specifically how the offense will look, is of course entirely speculative at this point given the significant (and welcome) changes to the Maryland coaching staff. What is more certain is that the Jacobs brothers should both be highly involved in it.