Levern Jacobs caught a pass near the sideline during the Maryland football team’s practice Wednesday, and instead of running out of bounds, he went head on into traffic. It took two defenders to wrap up the junior before he ran off the field to remove his helmet and take a quick water break.
While he stood idle on the sideline, Jacobs’s younger brother, Taivon, emerged from a crowd of players to stand next to his brother, seizing a rare opportunity to be close to his blood amid the organized chaos of training camp. Taivon always has looked at his brother as a rudder on the field — he also plays wide receiver, dresses nearly identically and in this instance took his helmet off to unwind just like Levern.
“I’m very protective,” Levern, a junior, said after practice. “That’s my little brother. We’re two years apart, and we’re real close. I mean, we’ve never really been apart for too long. I pretty much try to keep him under my wing.”
Maryland’s wide receivers received abundant praise this summer, a group celebrated as one of the deepest units in the Big Ten and for featuring one of the country’s best tandems in Stefon Diggs and Deon Long. But Maryland Coach Randy Edsall called out Long during the third practice last week — and was candid Monday about the amount of work the unit needed to do. The Jacobs brothers, however, have emerged as two of the camp’s most promising performers, a rare sibling duo who play the same position and who could find themselves in key roles when the season opens against James Madison in two weeks.
“The two guys that I’ve been the most impressed with at the receiving corps so far are Levern Jacobs and Taivon Jacobs,” Edsall said during the team’s media day last weekend. “Those are the guys that I think have practiced the best so far when we’ve practiced. They’ve all worked very hard, and the truth is that we’re not looking for receivers who only catch the ball around here.”
That was high praise for a junior listed as a second-stringer entering camp and his kid brother, a redshirt freshman who has never caught a pass at Maryland. Both starred not far away at Suitland High and grew up dreaming about playing together in college, but each has created a unique identity in college. At 5 feet 11 and 180 pounds, Levern is crafty after the catch, has established a reputation for his leaping ability and practices with tenacity, as seen Wednesday during 11-on-11 drills. Taivon is two inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter. He has the best speed on the team, a former member of the U.S. Junior Olympic track team who stretches the field and will be an asset in both the passing and kick return game.
“He gives me my credit on speed, and I give him his credit on jumping,” Taivon said. “We both have something that we’re good at.”
Those skills were apparent even during youth league football, Maryland safety Sean Davis said. Davis grew up with the brothers and played peewee football with Levern in Silver Hill, and defending both of them on the field at Maryland is simply “dangerous,” he said.
“They’ve always been tight. You can definitely see how they look out for each other on the field. They have a better communication, I guess, within themselves than other wide receivers,” Davis said.
The brothers have been paired together on the field for much of the first-team reps over the past few days, and they usually line up next to each other in three-wide receiver sets. There have been moments during camp when Levern has had to pick up his little brother emotionally, he said. Sometimes Taivon will come down on himself for a dropped pass or missed assignment, and that’s when Levern knows he’s needed most. Over the past week and half of the preseason crucible, Taivon will stop by Levern’s dorm room for a few minutes at night just to be close to his brother.
“We both be extremely tired, especially after practice,” Levern said. “Even if it’s just 10 minutes or so, I mean, we just find time to be with each other.”