Maryland wide receiver Deon Long made his public debut in a Terps jersey during the team’s open scrimmage over the weekend, giving the fans in attendance a glimpse of how he can help the team this season — as long as he stays on the field.
He sped away from cornerback Jeremiah Johnson for a 65-yard reception on the very first play, and he later scored a touchdown with a leaping grab over the back of corner Dexter McDougle.
The scrimmage was Long’s first practice back from a two-week suspension imposed by the University (rather than the football program) for violation of university policy.
Those two weeks were nothing compared to the circuitous route the receiver took to get to Maryland.
Long played high school ball just twenty minutes from the university’s campus, at Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C. A four-star wide receiver prospect back in 2009, he received offers from West Virginia, Duke, Illinois, Michigan State, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse — but he didn’t get a scholarship offer from the Terps.
He spent his first year out of high school playing football at Hargrave Military Academy before enrolling at WVU, but his stint in Morgantown lasted a mere five months. Long then transferred to New Mexico, where his high school coach, Craig Jefferies, had been hired as the receivers coach.
In his first season, Long led the Lobos in receiving yards, set a school and conference record with 378 all-purpose yards in a single game, and made the Phil Steele Postseason All-Freshman second team. It was an illustrious start, but after the Lobos fired coach Mike Locksley midway through the season, Long decided to leave also.
He landed at Iowa Western Community College, where he was immediately eligible to play, and he wasted no time making a name for himself in the junior college ranks. He had 1,625 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns and was a first-team Junior College All-American, and the IWCC football team, started only four years ago, picked up its first national title.
The Terps hope Long will again make an immediate impact on his new school after coming full circle in the last four years.
With the significant exception of the uncertain quarterback situation, he’s set up for success: he reunited with former head coach and current Terps offensive coordinator Locksley, and he has another game-changing receiver, Stefon Diggs, lining up opposite him.
Back in February, Long told The Washington Post he’s still very familiar with Locksley’s overall playbook:
“For the most part, I remember everything. We haven’t even gotten on the field yet, but seven-on-sevens, the hand signals and all that, it all comes back to me.
Diggs was one of the few consistent bright spots for last year’s Terps, finishing the year with 1,896 all-purpose yards. A freshman season like that gets opponents’ attention, and Long knows he’ll be able to draw some of the defense’s focus away from Diggs, which will ultimately make them both more dangerous.
“I’m just going to make them throw me the ball, too, so we can be that outside-inside threat,” he told the Post.
Depending on who’s throwing to them, Diggs and Long have the potential to be one of the top receiving duos in the ACC, which could be a big boost to local recruiting efforts.
They both grew up about a half-hour from the University. Long played for four different teams, at different levels, around the country before landing back in College Park, while Diggs, despite having offers from some of the nation’s top programs, never left.
They’re extremely talented and each has shown he can carry a team, but with both of them on the field, neither should have to this season.