By Matt Bracken
The Baltimore Sun
8:00 AM EST, January 30, 2012
Start with a 2-10 season, add an exodus of players, and then subtract two coordinators. What you would typically get from those undeniably negative ingredients is a football recruiting class ranked among the lowest of any BCS-level program in the country.
Maryland’s 2012 football class, at one point in the recruiting cycle, seemed like it may be headed for such an unfortunate distinction. But during the Terps’ disastrous 2011 campaign, something unique happened to a program that may have appeared to be in turmoil: the committed prospects didn’t back out of their pledges. And then a former assistant returned to College Park and immediately improved the Terps’ recruiting fortunes.
Nobody will confuse Maryland’s 2012 group with classes at Alabama, Florida, Texas or any other Top 10 recruiting program. But considering how poorly things could have gone under those aforementioned circumstances, analysts say it’s a solid group that ranks favorably with all but the top ACC classes.
“If I had to give it a letter grade, it would be a B-,” said Rivals.com analyst Mike Farrell. “It’s not a good recruiting year in the ACC this year. Clemson didn’t have the year they had last year. They had a good year. Florida State had the best class and Miami is doing really well. But there’s a big drop-off after Virginia and Virginia Tech. Maryland is No. 6 for us. They’ve got some good players that I think can be contributors. Some of the big guys in the state so far, barring any surprise, [aren’t going to Maryland]. That’s got to be disappointing, but after a 2-10 season, [the class] can’t be any lower than a B-.”
CBS Sports Network recruiting expert Tom Lemming called it “a good, typical Maryland-type class. It’s not loaded with blue-chippers. They don’t have the elite guys yet. But they’re still in on them and everybody’s hoping they land a couple between now and Wednesday. The jury’s still out. Hopefully they get a few.”
Maryland is poised to sign a 23-man group on Signing Day, with two or three more prospects still considering the Terps. That Maryland remains in the mix for some of those players – most notably Good Counsel five-star wide receiver Stefon Diggs – is thanks in large part to first-year offensive coordinator Mike Locksley. The former Terps running backs coach -- who later served assistant coaching posts at Florida and Illinois before a failed stint as New Mexico’s coach -- made his mark on the Terps’ recruiting class almost immediately after he was brought back to College Park. His most notable coup was landing Good Counsel running back Wes Brown, a consensus four-star prospect who committed to the Terps during the Under Armour All-America Game on ESPN earlier this month.
“He is a great player if he stays healthy,” Farrell said of Brown, who also claimed offers from Florida State, Miami, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and Vanderbilt, among many others. “That’s the big question with Wes. He was injured on and off. He’s a big running back, very physical and has good speed.”
Terps special teams and outside linebackers coach Lyndon Johnson was the lead recruiter for Albert Reid, but Locksley also aided Maryland's efforts with the three-star running back from Friendship Collegiate in Washington. Farrell thinks it’s unlikely Maryland would have landed both local running backs had it not been for Locksley.
“Obviously you’ve got Wes Brown, who was a great boost, and Albert Reid, who was another boost,” Farrell said. “After Locksley started to get in there, they started to get more interest from the in-state kids. It was too late for them to really pull off any miracle with [Friendship Collegiate defensive tackle] Eddie Goldman, [Potomac cornerback] Ronald Darby and [Gilman athlete] Cyrus Jones. But Diggs is still out there and Locksley is going to help with him.”
Outside of Brown, Maryland – depending on the scouting service – has two other four-star prospects: Good Counsel offensive tackle Mike Madaras and linebacker Abner Logan of the Dexter School in Brookline, Mass. Lemming called Logan “the sleeper of all sleepers,” and Farrell lauded the future Terp’s “quick-twitch” instincts and speed. The highest praise for Logan’s game, meanwhile, came from 247Sports.com national recruiting analyst J.C. Shurburtt.
“He’s a physically advanced kid,” Shurburtt said. “Guys like that, if they’re quick learners in preseason camp, because of their physical gifts, he could step in and make an early impact. As far as us having him [ranked] higher than anybody else, we saw him a bunch last spring, and the film backed up what we believed. Coming from Brookline, Mass., it’s not the Tidewater or Miami or Houston or L.A. It’s not a college recruiting hotbed. I guarantee you if Abner Logan played in Atlanta, he would have offers from most of the SEC and probably all of the ACC.”
Linebacker was a clear unit of emphasis for the Maryland staff in the 2012 class. Logan is one of six linebacker recruits headed to College Park this fall. He’ll be joined by Brock Dean of Bishop McDevitt in Harrisburg, Pa., Dallas Griffiths of North Florida Christian, Stefan Houston of Clarksburg, Shawn Petty of Eleanor Roosevelt, and Avery Thompson of Grassfield High in Chesapeake, Va.
Farrell said the Terps “could hit a home run” if some of those linebacker commitments develop, “but each one has a weakness.” It’s a solid haul, the Rivals.com analyst said, but another position group in Maryland’s class impressed him more: quarterback. The Terps return just two scholarship signal-callers in juniors Danny O’Brien and C.J. Brown. To address that need, Maryland will bring in Caleb Rowe from Blue Ridge High in Greer, S.C., and Perry Hills from Pittsburgh Central Catholic.
“Perry Hills is a great runner and an OK passer,” Farrell said. “Caleb Rowe is a really good passer and an OK runner. They both can do things. [Maryland will] get their starter out of one of those two guys – not right away.”
Added Shurburtt: “Caleb Rowe, once he gets some strength, he’s certainly got a live arm. He’s tall and he can run the system. He’s a smart kid.”
As one might expect from a class currently ranked 40th in the country by 247Sports.com and 48th by Rivals.com, Maryland’s 2012 is group is heavy on under-the-radar prospects. Farrell likes three defensive backs in Anthony Nixon, a safety and teammate of Hills’ at Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Alvin Hill, a cornerback from Luella (Ga.) High, and Maret (D.C.) cornerback Sean Davis, "a kid who came out of nowhere and has a lot of athleticism." Former Suitland wide receiver Levern Jacobs, who did a post-grad year at Milford Academy in New Berlin, N.Y., and planned to enroll at Maryland this month, could also turn out to be “a very good recruit” for Maryland, provided he adds the necessary strength.
Shurburtt is also a big fan of Davis – “kind of a taller corner with good speed and good change of direction” – while Lemming likes the potential of the Terps’ two Baltimore-area commitments.
“A kid who I think is a very underrated player is Kenny Goins, the running back from Gilman,” Lemming said. “He had to back up Cyrus Jones all year. Gilman has always got good players. Kenny is a real good ball player. The kid Roman Braglio at McDonogh is a real good defensive lineman that will probably wind up playing defensive tackle. He’s got quick footwork and is aggressive and productive.”
Farrell, Lemming and Shurburtt all agree that Maryland’s 2012 class will build depth and could produce a few surprise success stories. But going forward, Randy Edsall will face myriad challenges on the recruiting trail. Maryland’s 2-10 season will almost assuredly be mentioned by rival recruiters to Terps targets. Adding Locksley to the staff was an important first step in terms of turning that negative tide. Now it’s up to the current Maryland roster to produce on the field, and make things easier for the Terps coaches when they go out to recruit future classes.
“They’ve got to win,” Farrell said. “One key going forward that will help more than anything is going to be winning. Period. The other thing is convincing people that Edsall is there for the long run. There haven’t been many situations where you’ve seen a coach on the hot seat after one season and had to change both coordinators. There’s a lot of pressure next year for him to win. They’re going to have to overcome a lot of negative recruiting, but 75 percent of recruiting is done before the season starts. Now it’s just convincing kids that 2-10 is not the way it’s going to be.”
Copyright © 2013, The Baltimore Sun