As the Maryland football team was leaving its hotel before last week’s game against Penn State, head coach Mike Locksley texted freshman wide receiver Rakim Jarrett challenging him with one simple message.
“I sent him a text saying, ‘hey we brought you here to make plays’,” Locksley said.
Jarrett took his coach’s challenge to heart, igniting the Maryland offense with explosive plays that energized them and served as the catalyst for its impressive first-half offensive output. Against the Nittany Lions, Jarrett finished with five receptions for 144 yards and two touchdowns. Those two touchdown receptions were the first of Jarrett’s young career–another positive sign from Maryland’s historic win over Penn State Saturday night.
As a result of his stellar performance, the young standout wide receiver was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week. In addition, Jarrett became the first Maryland true freshman wide receiver to have two touchdowns and at least 100 yards in the same game since Stefon Diggs in 2012.
However, Saturday night’s performance is no surprise to Coach Locksley and his staff. Jarrett entered the 2020 season with lofty expectations. As the No. 20 overall player in the 2020 recruiting class and the No. 2 overall wide receiver, Jarrett was the Terps highest ranked recruit since Diggs in 2012.
Before committing to Maryland, Jarrett initially accepted an offer from head coach Ed Orgeron and the defending National Champion LSU Tigers. After reconsidering, the Landover, Maryland, native opted to stay close to home and play for the Terps- a testament to the freshman’s character, according to coach Locksley.
“When you make a decision to come to Maryland when you could go anywhere in the country, it shows what kind of character you have,” Locksley said. “Anybody that knows Rakim Jarrett knows that he’s a kid who believes in himself, believes in his ability.”
Not only is Jarrett confident in his own abilities, but the players and coaching staff have great confidence in him as well. Through the first three weeks of the season, Jarrett’s involvement in the offense has steadily increased as he’s built a stronger rapport with sophomore quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa.
“Rakim is a super hard worker,” Tagovailoa said. “He’s just a baller, he loves to learn, and he loves to grow. He’s always open to take information and for him he’s never satisfied with anything. He’s always going to get better, whether it’s a release, a route, or catching.”
Oct. 30 against Minnesota, Jarrett’s immaculate hands were on full display with several impressive catches after Tagovailoa escaped pressure. However, against the Nittany Lions on Saturday afternoon it was Jarrett’s pristine route running and blazing speed that were evident for the nation.
On each of his touchdown receptions, Jarrett faked out the Penn State secondary. Each play, Jarrett faked like he was cutting to the outside and then with quick footwork cut back inside–an impressive display of route running from the young wideout. Then once he gained separation, Jarrett saw open space and beelined across the field to the end zone.
In addition to those two catches, Jarrett also came up clutch in the ladder stages of the first half. With Maryland facing a critical 3rd and 6 opportunity with 1:10 remaining in the first half, he found a soft spot in the Nittany Lions zone defense.
Jarrett caught the ball just past the first-down marker and displayed exquisite footwork with one powerful cut to the outside breaking a tackle for a 29-yard gain. That pivotal conversion helped to set up Maryland’s touchdown with less than a minute remaining in the first half.
Maryland’s lineage at the wide receiver position is well documented with players like Diggs, DJ Moore, Torrey Smith and Darius Heyward-Bey. With explosive performances like Saturday night, Jarrett is on the path to becoming one of Maryland’s next great receivers and an integral part of the offensive game plan moving forward.