There will be no mistaking Maryland's 2013 football recruiting class with a 2012 group that was highlighted by five-star receiver Stefon Diggs and four-star running back Wes Brown. Star power like that doesn't pass through College Park every year.
But what the Terps' 2013 class might lack in star power, it appears to make up for in quality depth, local talent and a handful of potential instant-impact players.
Three national recruiting analysts used the same adjective when asked to describe Maryland's 2013 recruiting class, which will be unveiled Wednesday on National Signing Day:
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"It's a class that I think they can continue to build off of," said J.C. Shurburtt of 247Sports.com. "It's pretty solid, but you have to kind of look at who the players are and not just the rankings. It's 37th nationally, which is very respectable."
"It's solid," said Scout.com analyst Brandon Huffman. "I don't think it's spectacular. But I definitely think it's a solid class. Given the way the season has gone the past couple of years for Randy Edsall, it's about what they could expect."
Added Rivals.com's Mike Farrell: "I think it's pretty solid. Maryland is coming off a rough season where they finished on the losing side again with all the quarterback problems and bad luck they had. To finish in the middle of the pack in the [Atlantic Coast Conference] is pretty good."
Two big names
Beyond the apparent solidity of the Terps' incoming group, each analyst was also in agreement when it came to discussing Maryland's headliners. There's no Diggs in this group, but in Iowa Western Community College wide receiver Deon Long, Maryland has found what could be an ideal complement to the team's 2012 Most Valuable Player. Long, a Washington native who caught 100 passes for 1,625 yards and 25 touchdowns in leading Iowa Western to a National Junior College Athletic Association championship, has already enrolled at Maryland and will participate in spring practice.
"That kid is a player," Shurburtt said. "When you [play Maryland], you think, 'We've got to stop Stefon Diggs, first and foremost.' Stefon had a brilliant freshman campaign, especially in the return game. You have a player like Deon Long line up opposite him, then it becomes tricky. You have to decide who they're going to try to stop. Having another guy that's got that type of ability, I think is huge for Maryland. Assuming at quarterback they find somebody to get them the ball, I think that could really open things up for the offense, especially if a guy like Wes Brown continues to develop."
With a five-star rating from Rivals.com, Long is Maryland's highest ranked recruit for 2013. But right behind the No. 1 junior college prospect in the country in the Terps' class is another Washington native: Friendship Collegiate Academy offensive lineman Derwin Gray, Scout.com's No. 81 player nationally and a four-star prospect.
"I love Derwin Gray," Huffman said. "I thought he was the best offensive lineman I saw at the Under Armour [All-America] game. Guy is a freak of nature. He's a well put together kid. … [In addition to Long], Gray is the other guy I think has a chance to maybe contribute early."
Will Likely, a 5-foot-7 cornerback from Belle Glade, Fla., who has already enrolled in classes, and Andrew Isaacs, a 6-foot-3 tight end from Manchester, Conn., are Maryland's two other incoming four-star prospects.
Local successes and misses
Beating out several national football powers for Long (Alabama and Oregon were among the schools who called) and Gray (who picked Maryland over Florida, Florida State, Ohio State, Oklahoma and several others) should serve as notice that the Terps will continue to be a factor in the District, analysts say. Other D.C. players expected to sign Wednesday include at least two of Gray's teammates at Friendship Collegiate: linebackers Jermaine Carter and Cavon Walker. Yannick Ngakoue, another FCA linebacker and the No. 88 player in the country according to Rivals, was once committed to Maryland but is now considering Florida State and South Carolina in addition to the Terps.
"Maryland could end up with two of the top three prospects in the District and four of the top seven," Shurburtt said. "You look at it from that standpoint, [and] D.C. is starting to put out more and more excellent players on a yearly basis. Kids are transferring to go to school there. I think they've done a good job there, which should be no surprise with [offensive coordinator Mike] Locksley in town."
However, a year after landing Diggs, Brown and Mike Madaras, Maryland had some troubles with in-state prospects. The Terps landed just three recruits — Gilman quarterback Shane Cockerille (No. 13), Bishop McNamara safety Milan Collins (No. 20) and Wilde Lake lineman Moise Larose (No. 25) — in Rivals.com's Top 25 list of Maryland prospects. (They didn't make offers to many of the players on that list, and the five players on there from Eastern Christian Academy in Cecil County aren't homegrown Maryland kids.)
"After Diggs committed, every kid in Maryland was looking at Maryland. 'Oh, they're in my Top 5.' The season came around and it was just disappointment after disappointment after disappointment," Farrell said. "What other team in the history of football has gone through five quarterbacks? They had a linebacker throwing passes at the end of the season. They really struggled to respond. I don't think there's any blame there.
"It's a pretty good year in Maryland this year, but they weren't going to get [Good Counsel defensive back] Kendall Fuller. He was going to Virginia Tech where his brothers went. The Elkton kids you can't count against Maryland because they're from Delaware. I know they played in Maryland. [Good Counsel linebacker Dorian] O'Daniel (Clemson) is a guy I think they had a chance to get, along with [Gilman defensive lineman Henry] Poggi (Michigan). It didn't happen. [Losing McDonough offensive lineman Na'Ty] Rodgers hurts. I think they had a solid year, but they're not really focused on the guys that got away. I think in Derwin Gray and Deon Long, who's essentially an in-state guy, and a five-star guy at that, they're getting difference-makers. Just not as many as they need. Even an 8-4 season wasn't going to change the minds of many kids. It's going to take more than that. They need more consistency and quite a few winning seasons in a row before you start to see them keep everyone home."
In addition to Cockerille, Collins and Larose, the Terps are expected to sign four other in-state recruits: Catonsville running back DeAndre' Lane, Dunbar lineman Malik Jones, Annapolis Area Christian safety Elvis Dennah and Wicomico defensive end Derrick Hayward. Analysts say there are plenty of sleepers to choose from among Maryland's in-state and D.C. commitments.