After struggling to retain some of the top high school players in the state, the University of Maryland went elsewhere to fill its needs, and is expecting at least 21 national-letter-of-intent signatures today.
In mid-December, Maryland's recruiting class was ranked No. 19 in the nation by Rivals.com, but has since dropped to No. 29 with the recent change of heart of a highly touted offensive lineman. A top-30 ranking is respectable after back-to-back 5-6 seasons, but recruiting experts agreed the expectations were higher for Maryland during a year in which there was an abundance of talent in the state.
"There were certainly high expectations for them," said Miller Safrit, a regional recruiting analyst for Scout.com, which had the Terps' 2006 recruiting class ranked 28th nationally. "Obviously they missed out on a lot of the guys they targeted.
"It's certainly a very interesting issue," he said. "It definitely does not look good on the outside looking in. You've got the top nine guys in the state of Maryland leaving the state and the Terps were in there with a lot of guys, including [offensive lineman] Antonio Logan-El."
The Terps lost seven of the top nine football players in Maryland to Penn State. The other two went to Auburn and Georgia.
Still, several sought-after players from the Terps' backyard are expected to sign with them today. The main question is if former Randallstown defensive end Melvin Alaeze -perhaps the best player in this year's recruiting class - will be among them.
Alaeze signed with Maryland in February 2005, but had to attend Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., to qualify academically. The National Letter of Intent is only binding for one year. He retook the SAT Saturday, and is still waiting to hear about his grades.
"I'm not considering any other school," Alaeze said yesterday. "I'm just going to keep working hard, do what I need to do to get in there at Maryland.
"As of right now, I'm not too sure when I'll be there," he said. "I'm just waiting on the [NCAA] clearinghouse."
Athletes have until April 1 to sign their letters of intent.
Mike Farrell, a recruiting analyst for Rivals.com who focuses on the Atlantic Coast Conference, said much of Maryland's drop-off in the national rankings can be attributed to Logan-El's recent decision to renege on the oral commitment he gave to Maryland as a sophomore. The 6-foot-4 senior at Forestville High School angered Terrapins nation last week when he announced his decision to attend Penn State at ESPN Zone at the Inner Harbor.
"When you lose somebody like that from your class, it's certainly going to affect your ranking," Farrell said. "That's the main reason for the slide. The other reason is Penn State is taking everybody."
"You lose kids in your home state, that's going to start a trend," Farrell said. "They're going to have to work harder next year to get the state back."
The other top in-state recruits expected to sign with Maryland today are Pha'Terrell Washington, a four-star defensive back from Westlake, and Drew Gloster, a 6-foot-2 tight end from Good Counsel who was first offered a scholarship from Penn State.
Adrian Moten, a linebacker from Gwynn Park, is the only other in-state player ranked among the top 20 who is headed to Maryland, according to Rivals.com. On the flip side, though, Maryland got two quality athletes from Pennsylvania. Jeremy Ricker, from Bishop McDevitt in Harrisburg, is rated a four-star quarterback and the sixth-best player in Pennsylvania. And Da'Rel Scott, who could be a running back, is a four-star athlete from Plymouth, Pa.
With Alaeze at defensive end, Maryland's only concern would be its interior defensive line. The Terps could use Alaeze and Brian Whitmore, a defensive end from Chesapeake, Va., on the outside, but lost four-star defensive tackle Phillip Taylor of Gwynn Park to Penn State.
Also among the Terps' top recruits were Bruce Campbell, a four-star offensive lineman from New Haven, Conn., and Adrian Cannon, a wide receiver from Pontiac, Mich.
Sun reporter Lem Satterfield contributed to this article.