Welcome to our Maryland Football Position Previews, where the Testudo Times staff previews each position group ahead of the season. Our series begins with the most anticipated group of positions: wide receivers.
After a 2021 season plagued by injuries yet still ending Maryland with the third-best passing offense in the Big Ten (305.7 yards per game), there’s a lot of fuss about the Terps’ wide receivers as one of the best groups in the nation. CBS Sports ranked Maryland’s wide receiver room as the third-best in the country, behind USC and Ohio State. With some key returnees and an influx of new talent — along with the continued development of quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa — the Terps’ passing game has the potential to make banging numbers in 2022.
Maryland 2022 wide receiver depth
|Dontay Demus Jr.||Senior||28 rec, 507 yds, 3 TDs (5 games)|
|Rakim Jarrett||Junior||62 Rec, 829 Yds, 5 TDs|
|Jacob Copeland||Junior||41 Rec, 642 yds, 4 TD (with FLA)|
|Jeshaun Jones||senior||18 rec, 224 yards (6 games)|
|Markus Fleming||Second Year (RS)||18 Rec, 197 Yds, 1 TD (6 Games)|
|Tai Felton||second grader||5 rec, 51 yds (5 games)|
|Kai Holloway||novice (RS)||N / A|
|RobertSmith||novice (RS)||N / A|
|Shaleak knot||student in the first year||High School (4 Star Recruit)|
|Perry Fischer||student in the first year||High School (3 Star Recruit)|
|Octavian Smith Jr.||student in the first year||High School (4 Star Recruit)|
|Leon Haughton Jr.||student in the first year||High School (3 Star Recruit)|
|Shane Caroll||student in the first year||Secondary school|
|Khalid Jones||second grader||Transfer from Shepherd University (Division II)|
At full strength, the wideouts of the terps are as dynamic as any
In four games last season, Dontay Demus Jr. had established himself as one of the nation’s most prolific wideouts and led the Big Ten in receiving yards. But in the Terps’ fifth game against Iowa, Demus suffered a cruciate ligament rupture on a kickoff return that ended his season and possibly his collegiate career. However, when he was transported away, Demus announced, “I’ll be back!” to his watching teammates, and he made good on that promise when he announced his intention to return to Maryland for a fifth year in December. It remains to be seen when Demus will return to full strength, but if he can fight back and be ready in the early weeks of the 2022 season – or even in time for the season opener on September 3 – his presence will certainly create what Terps’ passing game is all the more difficult to defend.
“Dontay is ahead of schedule,” head coach Michael Locksley said Tuesday. “There is an expectation that we will see Dontay Demus play in the first game.”
Demus is one of the most dangerous receivers in the country when available, as evidenced by his Honorable Mention All-Big Ten selection last season despite only playing four full games.
“He’s a great young man and I think the leadership he offers is very well documented. The guys on our team really respect him,” offensive coordinator Dan Enos said of Demus. “He’s a great player but the competitiveness he brings and the leadership he brings are things that will really serve us well from a coaching perspective.”
Rakim Jarrett led the team in receiving yards, receptions and touchdowns in 2021 and returned for his junior season this fall. Jarrett, a former five-star recruit, was pushed into the role of the team’s top receiver after Demus fell on October 1. He performed well and showed on multiple occasions why a good 2022 season from him could see an early exit from Maryland to the NFL Draft. Two-time All-Big Ten honorable mention Jarrett needs to cement his reputation as one of the conference’s top receivers and is certainly able to do so with the collection of talent around him that should create opportunities. He was named to the 2022 Biletnikoff Award watchlist, given annually to the nation’s top pass catcher.
Jarrett and Demus were ranked as the ninth-best receiving duo in the country pre-season by 247Sports.
Just a week after Demus went down with a season-ending injury, Jeshaun Jones suffered a leg injury that ended his 2021 season. Jones, who also suffered a cruciate ligament injury ahead of the 2019 season, has been a more than solid play for the Terps when he’s healthy and can give the team a major boost as a secondary or tertiary option in his senior season. He expects to play a big role in 2022.
Perhaps the most intriguing addition to Maryland’s offense this season is Jacob Copeland, a transfer from Florida. Copeland was the Gators’ leader in receptions, yards and touchdowns last season but chose College Park after Florida made a coaching change. In his first game action in Maryland, Copeland was named the Spring Game Most Valuable Player after amassing five receptions for a total of 70 yards. His speed can top a defense and he poses a big threat downfield. If he works with Tagovailoa and plays alongside Demus and Jarrett, Maryland will be among the most menacing passing teams in the nation.
A corps of Demus, Jarrett, Jones and Copeland will be Maryland’s primary wide receiver group going into the 2022 season, but depth is paramount to a football team’s success. Aside from those four, Tai Felton and Marcus Fleming are the only two returning wideouts to have significant playing time prior to last season’s Pinstripe Bowl. They’re part of a talented group of underclassmen that includes four-star rookies Octavian Smith Jr. and Shaleak Knotts. It’s yet to be seen what their roles will be this fall, but the roster of talent under the command of Wide Receivers coach Gunter Brewer is as good as any in the Terps’ roster.
With great power comes great responsibility
Nearly 70% of Maryland’s offense came over the pass last season, and with the loss of primary running back Tayon Fleet-Davis, that number is likely to increase in 2022. When passing play doesn’t go as expected, Maryland’s offense could struggle to outperform opponents. However, the explosiveness of Maryland’s wide receivers can allow them to rival some of the top teams in the Big Ten and even knock out a team most consider superior.
“Coach Enos does a great job filming a game plan where everyone is involved and everyone has a chance to be explosive,” Brewer said of the depth of his unit. “That’s what you want in a reception corps. There’s not just one of them, there are three or four that can jump up and play at any time… I think the potential of this group is unlimited.”
There is no doubt that the wide receiver group is the most talented and one of the most important on this year’s Maryland Football Team. This is nothing new, however, as the Terps have consistently recruited and developed elite receivers – most recently highlighted by current NFL stars Stefon Diggs and DJ Moore, who have continued a long line of Maryland wideouts in the professional ranks. With productive seasons, Demus, Jarrett and possibly Copeland all have the potential to have their names heard in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Before they get to that point, however, Maryland wide receivers need to show the nation why they’re considered one of the best pass catcher groups in college football. They will no doubt be the focus of each team’s weekly prep and will most likely be faced with a variety of packages to throw them off their game.
Jarrett expressed confidence in himself and his teammates to rise to the challenge. “I think we can definitely be the best in the Big Ten,” he said. “All the pressure that comes with trying to live up to other people’s expectations … I think that’s definitely a privilege and I like it.”