"Maryland was somewhat lost in the ACC," CBS Sports recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said. "Coming to the Big Ten sort of gives them a new beginning. They're an undefeated team now coming to the Big Ten and are no longer considered one of the doormats of the ACC."
In their final three seasons in the ACC, the Terrapins had a 13-24 combined record. They never ranked higher than fifth in the conference's Atlantic Division and made it to just one bowl game — a 31-20 loss to Marshall in the Military Bowl last season.
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Gearing up for a fresh start in a new conference, Maryland has hit the recruiting trail. 247Sports.com ranks Maryland's 2014 recruiting class — 16 incoming players who will join the Terps this year — at No. 7 out of 14 teams in the Big Ten. (One of the Terps' 17 signings, offensive lineman Larry Mazyck, has failed to make academic benchmarks for admission and will not enroll at the school.)
But Maryland hasn't just focused on this upcoming season. The program already has secured 16 verbal commitments for 2015, which 247Sports.com currently tabs as the No. 5 class in the Big Ten. Maryland's 2015 class also ranks 23rd in the nation, according to Rivals.com.
Many analysts agree that 16 commitments at this point of the year is an average number, given how programs want to get the majority of their recruiting done before Sept. 1 so they can focus on the next year.
But Mike Farrell, director of national recruiting for Rivals.com, recalled that Maryland had only six commitments this time last year. Despite the early surge in commitments this year, Farrell isn't yet sold on Maryland's 2015 class.
"I would say it's sort of a polarizing class. There's a lot of guys who are highly coveted, and there's a lot of guys who I think people are wondering if they should have taken them," Farrell said. "I think last year was a little better. I think the kids were less reaches. But coaches offer these guys out of camp and see things they like."
According to Rivals.com, Maryland's 2014 class features one five-star, three four-star and nine three-star recruits. Rivals.com lists two four-star and seven three-star recruits in Maryland's 2015 class.
But player rankings vary across recruiting sites, as do the opinions of analysts.
Of the 16 players in Maryland's 2015 class, 247Sports.com ranks one as a four-star recruit and 15 as three-star recruits.
"It's a deep class so far with three-star quality across the board," said JC Shurburtt, national recruiting director for 247Sports.com. "A lot of times people think three-stars are blah, blah, blah. But three-star is an above-average prospect. It's not a bad thing to have."
The new conference also has allowed Maryland to cast its recruiting net wider than before by going into Big Ten territory, primarily the Midwest, for commitments.
Mason Zimmerman, a class of 2015 commitment, will join the Terps from Whitehouse, Ohio. The 6-foot-7, 275-pound offensive lineman said Maryland's new conference wasn't a major factor in his decision to play in College Park, but he said he will enjoy playing against Big Ten teams that he has watched over the years.
"Being in the Big Ten, it's going to be really cool to play a bunch of schools that I've been growing up with, like Ohio State and Michigan," said Zimmerman, a 247Sports.com three-star prospect. "It kind of helped but really wasn't one of the big reasons. I didn't care what conference I played in."
Another class of 2015 Maryland commit from the home state of one of the Terps' future Big Ten rivals is four-star wide receiver D.J. Moore of Philadelphia, who announced his commitment last week. Rivals.com ranks Moore as the No. 7 prospect of his class in Pennsylvania and the 33rd-best class of 2015 wide receiver in the nation.
"It's a big get," said Brandon Huffman, a national college football recruiting analyst for FoxSports.com and Scout.com. "I think that's the kind of recruiting they need going into the Big Ten. He's not an in-state kid. He's a kid that's in the backyard of a Big Ten team they'll be competing against in Penn State. He's one of those landmark recruits that they certainly are going to need moving forward because you're going to want to beat your conference foes for recruits."
For Farrell, Maryland's success in recruiting bolstered by the move to a new conference will only go so far if the Terps can't win in the Big Ten.
"Maryland needs to win," Farrell said. "If they win early in the Big Ten then they're going to have a great opportunity to sell their program to more kids in Pennsylvania, moving into the Midwest while still focusing in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. But if they don't win, the move is not going to help."
Maryland football is currently in a period of "wait and see," Farrell said.
With fewer than two months from the start of Maryland's inaugural season in the Big Ten, Lemming sees the potential.
"I think Maryland has a great future, much more so now in the Big Ten than they did in the ACC because they can reinvent themselves," Lemming said. "Maryland is a sleeping giant."
twitter.com/dodgerthat(One of those 17 signings, offensive lineman Larry Mazyck, has since failed to make academic benchmarks for admission and will not enroll at the school.)