In April 2015, Jacquille Veii decided he needed a fresh start. He had joined Maryland’s football team two years earlier after a promising prep career at Avalon School, but his versatility had become something of a cross to bear in College Park. Initially arriving to play defensive back, he was moved to running back during his freshman season in 2013 before switching to wide receiver during his sophomore year. Later that spring, he was moved back again to running back, and by that point, he decided to transfer to Towson.
But even after Veii became Towson’s leading wide receiver as a junior in 2015 — he caught 44 passes for 505 yards — he could not fully escape his connection to College Park. He often kept in touch with teammates and wondered if he would ever have a chance to go back and finish what he started. When former Maryland coach Randy Edsall was fired and replaced by DJ Durkin in December 2015, Veii saw his opportunity to return. He returned to Maryland in early 2016, paying his way the first semester last spring and remaining patient while sitting out last season because of NCAA transfer rules.
“It was a little weird, because I was like, ‘Man, I was already here,’ ” Veii said of his return. “It was weird, and it was a good adjustment. I just stayed low, kept my head down and just did whatever they asked me to do.”
That sacrifice has paid dividends. Veii will be among Maryland’s top wide receivers to take the field for Saturday’s Red-White spring game in College Park. He wears uniform No. 84 and is a veteran player comfortable and focused on developing into the best wide receiver he can be, which is crucial given that three of the team’s top five wide receivers from last season graduated.
“Unique is definitely a good word for it,” Durkin said of Veii’s path back to Maryland. “Jacquille, we have high expectations for. You look at practices last year, he stood out. He was a guy that could certainly helped us a bunch last year. Obviously he had to sit out because of transferring, but really, fast dynamic speed. Competitive, works hard. I mean, he’s all the things you want.”
Maryland likely will use Veii in inventive ways within offensive coordinator Walt Bell’s system — he can line up out wide or in the slot, on jet sweeps, and also could spend time on special teams — but gone are the days of Maryland perpetually moving him to different positions. He showed flashes of electric playmaking at both wide receiver and running back during his sophomore year in 2014 — he caught 16 passes for 230 yards and one touchdown, and added two more touchdowns on the ground — but he never mastered either position.
“It just gives me stability and consistency, especially in my workouts and what I have to work on,” Veii said of his current role. “Instead of having to split time in workouts . . . having to do running back workouts and then flip and do wide receiver workouts because I didn’t know what I was going to be doing. It was kind of tough mentally.”
While Veii has leaned on the mentorship of former Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who has become a breakout star during his first two seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, his transition back into Maryland’s program has been eased by accepting teammates. That includes senior wide receiver Taivon Jacobs, who made a point to keep in contact with Veii during his lone season at Towson.
“We always talked, even when he left,” Jacobs said. “Him coming back, for me, was pretty much just that stepping stone for our offense. We gained a valuable member.”
Junior D.J. Moore likely will be Maryland’s go-to target this fall — he finished second in receiving a year ago with 41 catches for 637 yards and six touchdowns — and along with Jacobs, the Terrapins have two intriguing young wide receivers in junior Jahrvis Davenport and sophomore DJ Turner. Maryland also has six incoming freshman wide receivers that will compete for time in August.
And then there is Veii, who relished his role as a scout team player last fall and continued to work with the first team offense as it continued spring practice earlier this week. Saturday’s spring game won’t feature redshirt junior quarterback Caleb Henderson, who will be held out due to an ankle injury, but it should provide a glimpse at an improved passing game that staggered behind the running game all of last season. While Maryland had the Big Ten’s fourth-best rushing offense, averaging 199.5 yards per game, it threw for just 178.2 yards per contest.
Veii’s speed and athleticism should help improve the production this fall. He also will play his senior season with the comfort of his former teammates welcoming him back to the program with open arms.
“They understood my situation, and they respected it,” Veii said. “And they were just happy to have me back on the team.”