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Game at M&T Bank Stadium is Terps' latest push to increase presence in Baltimore

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In the mid-1980s, a Gilman offensive lineman named Mark Agent enrolled at Maryland to play football.

After that, years turned into decades before the Terps managed to take the next step with the Baltimore school. Longtime Gilman coach Biff Poggi said he can't recall another Greyhounds player committing to Maryland until fullback Kenneth Goins selected the Terps, arriving as a freshman last season.

Goins was followed by quarterback Shane Cockerille a year later. For Maryland, it's akin to a thaw after a long winter.

"We probably have 23 or 24 Division I kids in our program [currently]," Poggi said. "We're recruited nationally — Alabama, Michigan — but Maryland is right in the hunt, and it wasn't that way before."

As the Terps (3-0) prepare to play West Virginia (2-1) Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium, the hope among their coaches is that a new era has begun in Maryland's relationship with Gilman and other Baltimore schools.

Maryland had recruiting in mind when it scheduled this game.

"I think any time we can play up in Baltimore [it] is a good thing for us from the standpoint that the recruiting base and the Baltimore fans get a chance to see us," said Terps offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, whose son Kai is Gilman's quarterback.

The Terps will play again at the Ravens' stadium against Penn State on Oct. 24, 2015. Maryland coach Randy Edsall said he'd be happy if periodic, Baltimore-based games became a tradition.

"The venue, the recruiting — I just think it could be an advantage for us," Edsall said.

For years, Maryland had a reputation for missing out on top talent from Baltimore and other parts of the state. Edsall's arrival from Connecticut in early 2011 gave the program a chance to start fresh with Baltimore high schools.

Edsall and Maryland have tried to brand the Terps as the city's — and the state's — "hometown" team.

Maryland's football uniforms and field markings — which, in recent years, had highlighted the word "Terps" — now more prominently display "Maryland."

It's no coincidence that Maryland's flashiest uniforms are called "Maryland Pride." In 2011, the football team used its nationally televised opener against Miami to debut the uniforms — a dizzying combination of red, white, black and gold in a design evoking the state flag.

Thursday night, Maryland and Under Armour held an event in Harbor East featuring the marching band and cheerleaders to debut the latest iteration of those uniforms — Maryland Pride 2.0.

During spring practice, Maryland held a scrimmage on Dunbar's field as part of its outreach program to Baltimore. Gilman and Dunbar are both outfitted by the Tide Point-based Under Armour.

"It's good for us to engage the biggest city in the state," said Nathan Pine, Maryland's deputy athletic director for external operations.

Poggi said he didn't want to discuss why Maryland was bypassed by Gilman players for so many years.

It didn't help relations when a Maryland assistant coach allegedly gave cash to a top Gilman prospect, Victor Abiamiri, a decade ago. The NCAA placed Maryland on one year of probation in 2003, and the assistant, Rod Sharpless, lost his job. Abiamiri enrolled at Notre Dame.

Poggi seems to feel a trust with Maryland's program that wasn't there before Edsall arrived.

"We've known Randy a long time," said Poggi, whose assistant Keith Kormanik played at Boston College while Edsall was on the Eagles' staff.

Edsall "is a standup guy," Poggi said. "The kids are not going to go there and go loony and act like they've lost their minds. That's not going to be tolerated."

Goins, Maryland's starting fullback, didn't know much about Gilman's history with Maryland. But he knew he was the only Gilman player on the Terps when he arrived.

"We're just starting like a pipeline thing, maybe to get more people from our school to come here," Goins said.

Cockerille, a promising quarterback likely to redshirt this season, has said he wanted to play for his home-state school for as long as he could remember.

"We could both represent our high school as well as represent our state," Goins said. "It's cool to be able to do that."

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sunjeffbarker

MARYLAND (3-0) VS. WEST VIRGINIA (2-1)

When: 3:30 P.M.

Site: M&T Bank Stadium

TV: ESPNU

Radio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM

Series: West Virginia leads 26-21-2

Last meeting: West Virginia defeated Maryland, 31-21, on Sept. 22, 2012, in Morgantown, W. Va.

Line:

Maryland offense vs. West Virginia defense: West Virginia has won seven straight in the series. The last Maryland win was in 2003. Maryland's offense has surpassed 500 yards in each game this season. With Nigel King injured, Maryland will probably play redshirt freshman Malcolm Culmer extensively at wide receiver. West Virginia's defense is surrendering an average of just 13.7 points per game. "The big thing is that they create pressure with their front," Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said. "They've got some zone pressures they like to bring." West Virginia's defense has been better against the pass than the run. They are allowing 4.6 yards per rush.

Maryland defense vs. West Virginia offense: Maryland leads the nation in sacks at 4.67 per game. Linebacker Marcus Whitfield has 5.5 sacks. Maryland's challenge will be slowing down West Virginia's spread offense without injured cornerbacks Dexter McDougle and Jeremiah Johnson. Transfer Isaac Goins and freshman Will Likely will start. Redshirt freshman quarterback Ford Childress – the successor to Geno Smith -- passed for 359 yards against Georgia State. He is the son of former NFL Pro Bowler Ray Childress.

--Jeff Barker

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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