Until earlier this month, Jacquille Veii, a graduate of the Avalon School in Montgomery County, played running back for the Maryland Terrapins. On Aug. 12, Terps head coach Randy Edsall moved him into the group of wide receivers as a slot man.
This is no easy task for Veii, who was mainly a running back throughout his career at Avalon and his freshman Terps season. Veii went from a crowded running back group to a wide receiver core that has been ordained by some pundits as the best in the Big Ten Conference.
“I played slot in high school but I didn’t run routes like I do here,” Veii said. “I usually just ran corners and go (routes). In my head, when I’m running, my body kind of feels awkward but then when you watch it on tape it’s like, ‘okay that looks natural,’ so I’m just trying to work and clean up my technique and mold my clay at receiver.”
According to Veii’s high school statistics, he amassed a total of 311 yards on 25 receptions at Avalon, with four touchdowns – including the longest pass from the line of scrimmage of any quarterback to receiver in Avalon’s history that led the Black Knights to their second consecutive conference title in Veii’s junior year.
By comparison, he had a total of 1287 yards rushing with 21 touchdowns.
The running back group features Brandon Ross, who looks to be the starter and the source of most of the carries in his junior season; Albert Reid, who has impressed in camp going into his own junior season; and Wes Brown, entering his second season out of Good Counsel High School in Olney, Maryland.
Edsall said after one practice that there would only be three backs that get carries, leaving Veii as the fourth back after questions about who would comprise the Terps backfield.
Veii will now be a part of a group of wide outs that include stars Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, as well as DeAndre Lane, Daniel Adams, Malcolm Culmer and Levern and Taivon Jacobs, who Edsall said have been impressive in camp.
The crowded group of wide receivers is talented enough for some to call them the best in the Big Ten and for some to call them the best in the country. Veii can be a threat in the slot if he is able to learn the position and utilize his speed that landed him a 4.3 40-yard dash in high school.
Veii impressed several people in his first day of practice at his new position, including his coaches and some fellow teammates.
“I didn’t even know he played slot. But I definitely think he’s great,” Terps senior linebacker L.A. Goree said. “He’s quick. He’s hard to stick. They had me checking him in one-on-ones. I did the best I could do, but [he’s got] 4.43 speed.”
“One thing is he’s a dynamic guy for us,” Edsall said. “You can’t play four tailbacks. You just can’t do it. Putting him out there, I think that helps us. It helps the wide receiver [group]. It gives us a guy that has a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm and can block. It enhances us from an offensive standpoint that we put him there.”
“I was excited, I was ecstatic, and I was just ready to come to work,” Veii said. “I know it’s going to be a challenge (to switch to the receiver position), so I just came ready to work. I was just listening and just taking what [Edsall] was saying to me and digesting it and thinking what I’m going to do to move forward and make plays and learn. The Lord did bless me with some confidence today and I owe it all to him. Without him I wouldn’t have made those plays I made today. He just blessed me with confidence today to go out there and make those plays.”
This also may be preparation for Veii to get in the habit of being a wide receiver for next year and the year after. Although the receiver group for the Terps is a crowded one, it is not an inexperienced one.
Levern Jacobs, Adams, and Leak are all juniors. Long is a senior, and Diggs, the star of the team who is on several preseason award watch lists, is a junior and will be eligible for the NFL draft after this season.
This may be one way for the Terps to prepare for life without their two best receivers, Diggs and Long.
The Terps play their first game at home against James Madison on Aug. 30. Their first Big Ten game will be away at Indiana Sept. 27, and their first home Big Ten game will be against top five-ranked Ohio State on Oct. 4.