Jeshaun Jones on his decision to return for a sixth season, connection with Taulia Tagovailoa

If it ended up being his last game at Maryland, 152 receiving yards and a touchdown in a season-ending win over Rutgers last November would’ve been an electric way for Jeshaun Jones to end his college career. While Jones may have been unsure about whether he would return for a sixth season at the time, there was never much grey area from head coach Mike Locksley as he made his stance clear less than 30 minutes after the final whistle.

“My first recruiting job is to recruit Jeshaun to come back and play,” Locksley said in November. “He has another COVID year. I know it’s something he’s entertaining. This guy shows the toughness that you want, the resiliency, all pillars of our program and he’s a guy that leaves it all on the field.”

Entering an offseason where the transfer portal would swirl once again in the NIL era of college football, Jones bunkered down into decision mode as he and head coach Mike Locksley kept an open line of communication. But Locksley wasn’t the only one that Jones was transparent with as quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa had a similar decision to make.

“That was a big one for me. That’s my boy,” Tagovailoa added. “We kind of talked about it together, seeing what we wanted to do and stuff like that.

“We definitely had those conversations,” Jones added. “We talked in January, we talked during throughout spring ball, but we kind of let spring ball do its thing. And after spring ball, we definitely had another conversation. As long as we’re on the same page and that’s why we’re here. So, we’re all good.”

As spring ball inched closer, buzz began to grow that Jones returning for a sixth season was becoming increasingly likely before finalizing his decision heading into the summer.

“My brothers, the team, Lia and me getting another degree, which was huge,” Jones cited as a primary reason why he came back. “Those factors were huge. They played a big role in it. It’s just, I love this team. I love the brotherhood and the culture we’ve created. It’s like, why built it up to leave?”

Fast-forward to August and its Jones leading Maryland’s new-look receiver room. “I know Jeshaun Jones has played a tremendous role in that receiver room and kind of been the enforcer of our standard,” head coach Mike Locksley added.

“The opportunity to take the field with this team that we have this year is amazing,” Jones said. “And I just want to stay healthy and have a great year. I think we have the team to do it.”

Jones gives Tagovailoa a veteran piece with an established rapport, but he’ll have many others to shoulder the load with as portal additions Kaden Prather and Tyrese Chambers join Tai Felton as veterans in the room. Second-year receivers Octavian Smith and Shaleak Knotts also made a name for themselves last fall while five freshmen wideouts join the program this fall, giving credence to an efficient aerial attack.

“I think it’s huge and, especially what kind of player he is and the leader he is, I think that just helps our team that much more. Again, a lot of skilled players, a lot of talent on this offense.”

After head coach Mike Locksley made his emphatic statement at Big Ten Media Day, quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa doubled down on Wednesday.

“I think that was the biggest goal. I think the past couple years, we were in the process of it. We’ve got to be honest with ourselves and look at reality. And I think now we’re at that point where we can compete for championships and we can win a Big Ten championship. I think all the hard work in the years built up until now is what brought us to the place where are right now. That’s how we feel. We’re ready.”

Jones had no problem backing his quarterback.

“If he said that, then that’s how I feel too.”

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