By Michelle R. Martinelli
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — In Maryland’s first few games this season, it would have been easy to forget Levern Jacobs was still on the team.
The wide receiver — who led the team last season with 35 total receptions for 425 yards — has been largely silent this year, not catching the ball until the third game against Central Florida. But despite the Terps’ 31-10 loss to Minnesota on Saturday, the senior played his breakout game for 2016.
With freshman quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome moonlighting as a starter, Jacobs grabbed 10 receptions for 82 yards against the Golden Gophers, including a third-and-six, 20-yarder in the fourth quarter during the team’s first scoring drive of the game.
But when asked what he thought about his performance Saturday, Jacobs paused to for a moment.
“I’m not really pleased with the way I played against Minnesota,” he said. “I might have had a lot of catches, but it’s the little things that I have to work on, like my blocking. I think I missed a lot of key blocks in the game that could have opened up a bunch of big run plays. But it’s definitely a game I can build on.”
Pushing receivers to block downfield has been a big emphasis of coach DJ Durkin’s in his first season at Maryland.
But Durkin said he and the coaching staff have singled Jacobs out, challenging him to improve his blocking.
“He’s a very talented guy but didn’t always play with that type of effort, that type of determination, and that was something that really from early on, we’ve addressed and continued to stay on him about,” Durkin said.
“We’ll continue to do that because it’s a fun thing to see him develop, and you can see the confidence in him when he walks around. You know when you’re giving good effort and helping your teammates — when you’re doing the right thing — you carry yourself a certain way.”
Durkin added he’s proud of how Jacobs has embraced this added responsibility, while Jacobs credits his success to going against the Terps’ defensive backs in frequent perimeter drills.
Jacobs said he was able to take his “game to a new level” by blocking more because people know he can catch the ball. But they don’t expect him to take out a cornerback or safety.
“It’s kind of fun when you see the play progress,” he said. “Like when you’re blocking downfield and you see the big runs that our running backs have — like Ty [Johnson] and Wes [Brown] — it’s kind of fun seeing them excited when you’re making a big block.
“It might be a little bit more fun blocking than it is catching the ball.”