Midway through the second quarter Saturday, Maryland football’s Jeshaun Jones sprinted right and lofted a fluttering, wobbling duck toward the corner of the endzone.
When wide receiver Taivon Jacobs slid to haul in the catch, a 20-yard completion that established a 17-point edge over No. 23 Texas at FedEx Field, Jones thrust his arms into the air. The serviceable throw gave the freshman wideout three touchdowns on his first three college football touches, helping lift the Terps over the Longhorns.
Entering the year, questions surrounded Maryland’s receiving corps after DJ Moore left for the NFL. Jacobs, a sixth-year senior, was figured to be the go-to option. But there was a mass of unknowns below him — Jahrvis Davenport and DJ Turner, listed as starters on the Terps’ depth chart released last week, combined for 18 catches and 155 yards last year.
Yet it was Jones, the No. 118 receiver in 247Sports’ class of 2018 rankings, who emerged as a playmaker in multiple facets of the game in the season opener, proving to be a valuable piece of interim head coach Matt Canada’s offense.
“The trick play down in the red zone — we had it, we kind of auditioned it,” Canada said. “We had three or four guys throw it in practice [and] his was the best. … He won. That’s how it went. He did a great job.”
Jones was listed as a third-stringer on the depth chart, before his record-breaking debut made headlines and earned him Big Ten co-Freshman of the Week honors.
On Maryland’s opening drive, Jones took a handoff on a jet sweep, broke a tackle in the backfield and cut upfield, finding a seam in the defense for a 28-yard score. Later in the first quarter, quarterback Kasim Hill found Jones deep for a more traditional 65-yard touchdown reception, with the wideout running past Longhorns defensive backs to the end zone.
“Obviously Jeshaun had a great game today, and I’m very happy to see that,” Hill said. “But I think all of the young guys are doing a great job of learning the playbook, executing and going about their business.”
Saturday’s win showed Canada’s offense in full, including frequent pre-snap movement, a barrage of jet sweeps and ample rotation of players. Eleven different players ran the ball Saturday, and 10 had a reception. Plus, Canada rotated between his two quarterbacks and swapped offensive lineman at times, utilizing numerous players against the Longhorns.
Running backs and tight ends caught passes, wide receivers ran the ball and Jones threw a touchdown pass, showing Canada’s willingness to get creative.
“He is versatile. He’s a very good football player,” Canada said. “It was really good for him; good for our football team.”