When we began the profiling yesterday of ACC players named to the 2013 preseason Maxwell Award Watch List, we began with a candidate from a team that will be enjoying their first official year as a member of the conference. The next player up on our list comes from a squad that will be enjoying their last. And if he can in any way duplicate or surpass his freshman season of 2012, then the Maryland Terrapins may indeed be “enjoying” this year.
Although the Terps were an underwhelming 4-8 last season, then freshman WR Stefon Diggs was one of the bright spots on head coach Randy Edsall‘s squad. Heavily-recruited coming out of high school, Diggs chose to stay home and play in his home-state of Maryland to the surprise of many. He certainly didn’t let anyone down with his true freshman efforts.
Playing the all-everything role for the Terrapins, Diggs’ play-making presence was felt immediately. He quickly became the go-to target in the stagnant Maryland offense. 848 yards and six touchdowns on 54 catches made the Gaithersburg, Md. native the leading receiver in his first year on campus. And had Diggs had a little more superior quarterback play executing plays along with him, he probably could have easily broke over 1,000 yards in 2012.
For as good as a receiver as Diggs was however, it may have been his special teams accolades that have people thinking he can be one of the best players in the country this year.
Diggs announced himself as one of the most dynamic kick/punt returners in the nation last season. Finishing the year with 221 punt and 713 kick return yards, the athlete soon became the one person in pads on the field that opposing coaches instructed their kickers not to send the ball near.
With any touch of the ball, Stefon Diggs is that person that can make anything happen, which is why it’s fairly obvious that he’s an addition to this list.
But, can he live up to the hype he’s created for himself based off of last season’s performance and make himself recognized as the best in the nation by the end of 2013?
Well, the fact that Diggs will not have a converted linebacker throwing the ball to him this year should help that cause. Senior C.J. Brown returns after suffering a torn ACL last August and will be the one slinging the ball in Diggs’ direction. With six players returning on the offensive line that started games in 2012, adding in that improved protection may elevate the passing game and push Diggs over that 1,000 yard receiving mark.
Special teams could potentially be one element of his game that may take a hit. With teams presumably learning their lesson from last season, they will try to avoid kicking the ball near the explosive returner’s vicinity whenever necessary. However, he’ll still have a few opportunities here and there to provide some special teams magic.
As much as people write off the Terrapins, no one should over look the dynamic this young man brings to the table. Unfortunately, should they under-perform once again this year, then most accolades for the sophomore will be overlooked. If Diggs were to have any chance at capturing this award by year’s end, it will definitely have to be a team effort to get him there.
Jack is the ACC College Football Writer for Rant Sports. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackJ14RS