COLLEGE PARK ——Everything seemed to be going against Randy Edsall bringing in a respectable first recruiting class at Maryland.
A 2-10 record is typically a repellant for many prospective college players. Turmoil among the current players and coaching staff can also make even marginal talent shy away.
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The 24-player class was led by five four-star recruits: Good Counsel running back Wes Brown and offensive tackle Mike Madaras, linebacker Abner Logan of Cambridge, Mass., running back Albert Reid of Washington and offensive lineman Nick Brigham of Atlanta. Brown committed shortly after former assistant Mike Locksley returned as offensive coordinator.
"The thing that really stood out to me with this group was when you go out and sit down with these players, you see the personality that they have, you see the confidence that they have, and they want to be part of something special," Edsall said during a news conference at the Gossett Team House. "They wanted to come here and make a difference. That's what you want. People who want to make a difference."
Considering how badly his inaugural season went and where many national recruiting experts ranked the class shortly after the season ended — scraping the bottom of the ACC with Duke and Wake Forest — Edsall remained confident throughout and seemed justified by his defiance.
"I just think it just shows that it's about relationships and people believing in what we're doing here," Edsall said, when asked if he was concerned that the season's on- and off-field problems would lead to a lackluster recruiting class. "You just talk to the players, talk to the recruits, they all believe in what we're doing. I think that says it all.
"You don't worry about what happened last year. You just focus and say, 'Here's the plan, here's the vision, here's what we're going to accomplish as we go forward.' I just wish everybody was optimistic and positive as all these recruits that we signed today."
Asked how much of an impact Locksley, who replaced Gary Crowton, had on recruiting, Edsall said, "This whole recruiting is a team effort, it's not just one guy. Mike came in and had relationships and has ties and aided us in terms of where we were in the recruiting process. We were pretty far along with a lot of these kids. His influence with a couple helped."
Edsall gave a lot of the credit to recruiting coordinator John Dunn, who followed Crowton from LSU to Maryland.
"John did a tremendous job," Edsall said. "John is very organized. He's a good evaluator of talent. He's a good manager of people in terms of making sure we got the coaches going to the right places, scheduling me to go at the right time to see the players I needed to see."
Said Dunn: "They know Coach Edsall's values. They believe in the university, they believe in the academics. We did have a tough season, but these guys see what the future holds and the program we're establishing and the foundation we're building. … They can be the reason why we take this to the next level."
Dunn said that the overall ranking of the class — currently as high as 42nd after being much lower a month ago — is irrelevant.
"When we look at it, we have to look at who's the best quarterback for us in the realm of what we want to do, who's the best running back that fits what we do," Dunn said. "It's different. Georgia Tech doesn't recruit the same offensive linemen that other people do because of their scheme. When you look at ratings and look at stars, we have to do our own evaluation that applies to us in particular."
Edsall pointed out that 21 of the players were team captains and 20 of them were selected all-state. Nearly half — 11 — were from the Maryland-D.C. area, including from perennial powers Good Counsel (Brown and Madaras), Gilman (fullback Kenneth Goins) and Friendship Collegiate (Reid).
"It's going to be up to those guys to recruit their previous teammates to come here and keep that pipeline going," Edsall said. "We already told Kenny, he's got to start recruiting those juniors. He's already done it. The same thing with Wes and Mike. Albert's got to start recruiting those guys at Friendship. Those schools are going to have players each and every year."
Edsall is also holding out hope — though seemingly faint — that five-star wide receiver Stefon Diggs will join his former Good Counsel teammates with the Terps. Diggs, who is also considering Florida and Ohio State, is scheduled to visit Maryland this weekend before making his decision next week.
Edsall is not allowed to talk about Diggs, but said that he has three scholarships remaining.
"If there are players out there who can make us better, then we will go out there and pursue that," Edsall said.