Less than a week into fall camp, Mike Locksley experienced his first major setback as the head coach at Maryland.
The program announced on Tuesday that sophomore receiver Jeshaun Jones suffered a torn ACL during practice on Monday. The injury will keep Jones sidelined for the entirety of the 2019 season, a significant blow to the Terrapins’ offense.
Jones was magnificent in his debut for Maryland last season, registered a rushing, receiving and passing touchdown on his first three touchdowns in an upset win over Texas in the season opener. He finished the year with 288 yards on 22 receptions and an additional 173 rushing yards. Jones accounted for eight total touchdowns.
Jones is exactly the type of explosive player that makes Maryland’s offense so difficult to defend. His absence will certainly be noticeable in the passing game for the Terrapins this fall.
Maryland is still relatively deep at the receiver position and there are plenty of options Locksley can plug into the role Jones would’ve played — though it may not be quite the same talent level just yet. The issue, though, is most of the receiver group is fairly young and inexperienced.
They’ll have to grow up fast.
Dontay Demus and DJ Turner are the most productive receivers returning on the roster, combining for 26 catches for 437 yards in 2018. Darryl Jones and Brian Cobbs saw the field last fall too, but both recorded fewer than 10 receptions. Those four guys represent most of the experience the Terps bring back.
It’s not as if the cupboard is completely bare, but what is on the shelf is relatively new.
Jones’ injury also creates more opportunity for incoming four-star receiver Isaiah Hazel, one of the to 35 receivers in the 2019 recruiting class. Three-star Pittsburgh product Dino Tomlin may be able to elbow his way into the rotation, as well.
Depth isn’t a concern, giving Locksley some options at receiver. And whether a few guys separate themselves over the next few weeks or Maryland has to implement a frequent rotation, the Terps aren’t in a situation where they’ll be scrambling to fill the position.
How those six players handle a bigger role and more touches is the biggest question now. Because with the top returning receiver gone, someone — or a group of receivers — is going to carry a heavier workload.
Another positive for Maryland is that it’s in a pretty good situation at the quarterback spot. Adding former Virginia Tech starter Josh Jackson under center should allow the offense to operate a little smoother, even without one of its top playmakers. Jackson’s consistency with the Hokies — completing over 60 percent of his passes over his career — will make life a lot easier for those young receivers.
So will a strong rushing attack. Maryland still has Antony McFarland Jr. and Javon Leake in the backfield, both showing explosiveness at times throughout their careers. If the Terrapins can establish a consistent run game, it should open up the passing game.
Not to mention, both guys could be utilized as pass-catchers out of the backfield, as well. The sample size for both in that category has been minimal, but utilizing their speed in that aspect of the offense could also open some things up in the intermediate and deep passing attack.
There are plenty of ways Maryland can counter the major blow it suffered this week.
Losing Jones is significant for the Terrapins. He would’ve been one of the top targets in Maryland’s passing attack and his versatility could’ve been used in a variety ways. The Terrapins have options, though.
Those options are just going to have to step up quicker than anticipated.