Nigel King wears No. 3 on his jersey. In that regard, the sophomore is indeed the Maryland football team’s No. 3 receiver. Just don’t call him the third receiver or third option or any derivation thereof. He really, really hates that.
“Yeah,” he said, smiling and shaking his head in Gossett Team House on Tuesday afternoon. “I do.”
King understands. He does. Stefon Diggs shattered all manner of expectations as a freshman last season, setting several program and ACC records along the way. Deon Long transferred from Iowa Western Community College amid equal hype and delivered a 100-yard, one-touchdown debut game last Saturday against Florida International. King? He has 10 career receptions and had just one against the Panthers. So sure, call him the No. 3 receiver. Just know he takes serious umbrage.
“I mean …that’s what people are going to say, but I don’t feel like that’s the case,” King said. “I feel like however the ball’s spread around, it can be spread around. One game I can be the leading receiver. I don’t agree with that term. I feel like we have three receivers, and all of us are starting, so we have equal opportunity. It’s just what Stef did last year, and the hype Deon had coming in, they’ve done a little more than I have, so that’s expected. But I don’t really like being called a third receiver. I understand it, I just don’t agree with it.”
King, who cornerback Dexter McDougle said has been nicknamed “Peanut,” was targeted just twice on Saturday, both by backup quarterback Caleb Rowe. Rowe overshot King out of bounds on a fade route and hit him with an across-the-body strike for 21 yards. Other than that, King spent the afternoon blowout blocking for quarterback C.J. Brown and running routes opposite Diggs and Long, who combined for 208 yards and two touchdowns.
Both Coach Randy Edsall and offensive coordinator Mike Locksley shrugged off the idea that Saturday was somehow indicative of King’s evolving role within the offense, though it’s entirely possible the Raleigh, N.C., native may receive just two targets one game but become the featured wideout in others.
“I don’t think it was something that was planned,” Locksley said. “The one thing with the receivers, depending on the types of coverages they’re playing, that kind of dictates it. With Stefon we have the ability to move him around. With Nigel he just wasn’t targeted on a bunch of things.”
King came on strong last season, particularly over the final four weeks, catching four passes for 72 yards against North Carolina in the finale. He graded among Maryland’s best performers during spring practice and summer camp.
“He’s as talented as those other two in my opinion,” Locksley said. “Again, he didn’t get a lot of targets last week, but he’s very capable of being a go-to guy for us. I think we targeted him down in the red zone with the fade that we threw out of bounds. I don’t think he’s any different than those other two.”
Asked specifically about King on Wednesday’s ACC coaches’ teleconference, Edsall instead launched into a broad generalization about “contributing to the success of the team” and how “the bottom line is, do we win or lose.” King should have more productive games against more defensively sound teams, which will focus their perimeter coverage more heavily on Long and Diggs.
“My mind-set is to do whatever I can to help the team win,” King said. “If passes come to me, make the catches and do what I need to do. Me worrying about that, it’d be a more selfish manner and it wouldn’t help the team much. I know it’ll come. We’ve got possibly 12 more games left. This is the first game. It’s the least of my worries right now.”
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