When Maryland’s Kevin Dorsey looks at his fellow wide receivers during practice, the junior has visions of last season, when Torrey Smith led a potent unit. Seniors such as Quintin McCree and Ronnie Tyler make plays; promising freshmen like Marcus Leak look the part.
Like Smith, Leak wears No. 82 and “he has dreads, too,” Dorsey said. “He almost looks like Torrey. It’s almost like they didn’t leave.”
But three wide receivers are indeed gone. After graduating with one year of eligibility remaining, Smith decided to forgo his senior season and was selected in the second round of the NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens. Adrian Cannon and LaQuan Williams exhausted their eligibility, leaving the Terrapins with a relatively inexperienced unit that looms as one of the offense’s larger question marks.
Maryland has a rather large void to fill. Smith had more receptions (67) last season than McCree (21), Dorsey (18), Boykins (16) and Tony Logan (1) have combined for in their entire college careers. In total, 64 percent of Maryland’s pass catches last season were made by players who have departed.
With Smith last season and Darrius Heyward-Bey in 2009, Maryland’s wide receiving corps has been defined by recognizable stars the last few years. This season, they have a cast of somewhat anonymous players with a singular goal: prove critics wrong.
“With Torrey being the main focus, a lot of other receivers got overshadowed,” McCree said. “People don’t know who we are. They think we’re just young and inexperienced. That’s motivation every day: respect. That’s all we want is respect.”
By all accounts, Maryland possesses one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC in sophomore Danny O’Brien, who has received a number of national accolades during the summer. For the wide receivers, not so much. College football analyst Phil Steele ranked Maryland’s wide receivers as the ninth-best in the 12-team ACC.
For what it’s worth, McCree believes the first season under Coach Randy Edsall and offensive coordinator Gary Crowton will prove that Maryland has the league’s best wide receivers. The offense is expected to be more up-tempo this season to make use of the talents of the skill-position players.
“I know it’s the big question mark,” Maryland wide receivers coach Lee Hull said about his unit. “We have a lot to prove. The guys have kind of a chip on their shoulder. I know there are a lot of naysayers, saying the receivers can’t get it done. I know there are people putting pressure on me to get those guys going.”
Through two weeks of camp, Edsall and Hull concur that the unit has been a pleasant surprise, with veterans impressing the coaches and freshmen emerging as potential contributors this season. Above all else, competition has been fierce.
Dorsey, who caught 15 passes as a sophomore, is healthy after nagging foot ailments plagued him earlier in his career. McCree, who was third on the team with 16 receptions last season, is focused on being consistent after displaying flashes of potential as an underclassman. Tyler, who has great hands, ranks first on the team in career receptions (61) and receiving yards (720). And Boykins, a junior, has shown to be a steady receiver and effective blocker.
“He is our tough guy,” Hull said of Boykins. “He is going to do the dirty things.”
But others are making a push for playing time, as well. Edsall said Logan, who ranked third nationally in punt returns last season, has caught his eye and is “on a mission” to prove he can be a dependable wide receiver.
In past seasons, Logan said he would “do some great things the first few days [of camp] and then tail off. Now I’ve been doing it every day to show them I can do it in big-game situations.”
Devin Burns, a redshirt freshman who moved from quarterback to wide receiver, has made a lot of strides since getting his body in better shape for the position this summer, Hull said. And Leak, a true freshman, has already “shown a lot of flashes that he can be special,” Hull said.
Maryland is unlikely to see any of the wide receivers duplicate the exploits of Smith, who set a school record with 12 touchdown catches last season. But O’Brien does not expect a drop-off in production by the wide receivers as a unit.
“Obviously, we will have to prove it during the season because we did lose guys who proved it on Saturdays,” O’Brien said. “But the talent is here. I am just as confident in those guys as any that I have thrown to since I have been here.”