Wide receiver Jacquille Veii noticed an improved locker room atmosphere when he returned to the Maryland football team this year.
Veii spent the 2013 and 2014 seasons with the Terps. After one year at Towson, he came back to College Park, where he's enjoyed newfound chemistry under coach DJ Durkin. The second-year coach took a large step toward rebuilding the program when Maryland earned its first road upset against a ranked team since 2008 Saturday against then-No. 23 Texas.
As the Terps meet the Tigers for the second time in program history, Veii hopes to display his pass-catching abilities Saturday against Towson.
"I was hungry when I went to Towson, and I was hungry when I came in as a freshman," Veii said. "This is my last year, so definitely I'm hungry to showcase … what I've been working on for the past two years."
While Veii caught one pass for three yards against the Longhorns, the Terp's lack of wide receiver depth means he could contribute more in the passing game soon. Veii's skills lie more in just pass catching; his blocking and special teams contributions have endeared him to teammates.
Wide receiver D.J. Moore led Maryland with seven catches for 133 yards last weekend, while wide receiver Taivon Jacobs added 80 yards and a touchdown. DJ Turner impressed in the Terps' spring game, and he figures to garner targets moving forward.
But offensive coordinator Walt Bell said others, including Veii, would chip in as the season progresses.
"At some point they're going to have to play," Bell said. "You're not going to have the same three guys play 70 plays a game for 11 more games."
Veii began his college career as a running back. He became a wide receiver in his second season with Maryland. But he's received the most praise for his work on special teams.
During offseason camp, the Terps held a mock NFL-style draft for special teams players. The entire squad gathered for the event, and assistant coaches announced their picks in order.
Veii was selected first.
"That was pretty cool," Veii said with a laugh.
Bell said Veii showed athleticism when he returned from Towson, but didn't immediately execute plays with precision. Now, the Gaithersburg native is running tighter routes, a skill that could earn him more touches.
From the outset, though, the Terps lauded his work ethic.
Each week, Maryland coaches show the offense film of its top five or six effort plays of the previous contest. Videos of quality blocks often make the cut over important first downs or scores. The idea is to highlight contributions the players might have missed during the game.
Bell said Veii and running back Lorenzo Harrison are featured in the film session every time.
"[Veii is] the guy you want on your team," Bell said, "and if he's not on your team, you hate him."