Randy Edsall and the Maryland football coaching staff face the same challenge every year: How do you get a top prospect from Maryland or Washington, D.C., to stay home rather than choose a bigger, more prestigious football program like Alabama, Penn State or Florida?
Maryland's staff has landed highly coveted local prospects like wide receiver Stefon Diggs and offensive lineman Damian Prince in recent years, and NBA star LeBron James' decision last week to return to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers could help the Terps' pitch to local recruits.
"LeBron is making the hometown movement cool,” Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley tweeted this weekend.
LeBron is making the hometown movement cool. Could've stayed in Miami where it's built or build it himself in Cleveland!! #MarylandPride— Michael Locksley (@Coachlocks) July 12, 2014
James, arguably the best basketball player of this generation, left the Cavaliers to sign with the Miami Heat in 2010, but he chose to return to Cleveland last week rather than re-sign with the Heat.
In an essay written for Sports Illustrated, James cited a desire to bring a championship to Cleveland, which hasn’t won a title in any major sport since 1964.
In football, Maryland and Washington produce blue-chip talent yearly. The problem has been that those prized local players typically decide to play their college football somewhere other than Maryland.
During the last 10 years, the Terps have missed out on top local prospects including wide receiver Derrick Williams, running back Ben Tate, linebacker NaVorro Bowman, cornerback Joe Haden, wide receiver Arrelious Benn, offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandijo and many others who have gone on to excel in college and eventually play in the NFL.
But Edsall and his staff are beginning to sell players like Diggs and Prince on the idea of building something special at their hometown school.
"I could of went anywhere,” Diggs tweeted Sunday. “I stayed home. Cause it felt right.”
Several of the top local players in next year's recruiting class have already committed elsewhere, but Maryland is still in the running for offensive lineman Isaiah Prince (Eleanor Roosevelt), quarterback Kai Locksley (Gilman) and offensive lineman Quarvez Boulware (Friendship Collegiate Academy), among others.
All three are rated as four-star recruits by both Rivals.com and ESPN. There are also 15 2016 prospects from either Maryland or Washington ranked as four-star recruits by ESPN, and none of those players have committed anywhere yet.
Top-rated uncommitted local recruits in the Class of 2015
Isaiah Prince, OT (Eleanor Roosevelt)
6-foot-6, 270 pounds; Ranked as a four-star prospect by ESPN and the No. 2 player in Maryland
Pat Allen, OT (Franklin)
6-foot-6, 282 pounds; Ranked as a four-star prospect by ESPN and the No. 3 player in Maryland