COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen put on a nice brown suit and a fancy tie and broke out his best smile yesterday for a room full of reporters. Then, for nearly an hour on national signing day, he tried to get people to focus on the recruits the Terps got this year, as opposed to the ones they did not.
There were no real surprises in the 2006 Maryland recruiting class, which Friedgen officially introduced inside the Gossett Team House. The Terps signed 22 players, including Baltimore high school stars Melvin Alaeze (Randallstown) and LaQuan Williams (Poly). But there also was the understanding, mostly unspoken, that back-to-back 5-6 seasons have taken a bit of a toll on the Terps' recruiting efforts, at least locally.
Though Maryland's class was ranked a respectable 29th nationally by Rivals.com, nine of the top 10 high school players in Maryland signed with out-of-state schools.
"I never get disappointed with the kids you don't get," Friedgen said. "You can't do anything about that. Obviously, I'd like to have kids stay here. But they've got to make their choice, and we've got to go on our way, too. We'll continue to recruit the state as hard as we possibly can ... but now it's a little tougher because of the success we've had. More people are in here recruiting."
Friedgen was quick to point out that the class doesn't technically include quarterback Josh Portis, who transferred from Florida and is enrolled at Maryland and participating in informal workouts, and that Portis' addition would improve the Terps' ranking significantly.
Portis, one of the country's top-rated dual-threat quarterbacks two years ago, spent the fall backing up Gators quarterback Chris Leak and will be eligible for the 2007 season.
"We think he's going to be a heck of a quarterback," Friedgen said of Portis. "He's got a strong arm and he's very athletic. We're very excited about him."
The Terps' main concern is making sure Alaeze will be able to enroll at Maryland in the fall. Alaeze, a 6-foot-3, 280-pound defensive end, signed a letter of intent last year but didn't qualify academically, and instead enrolled at Virginia's Hargrave Military Academy last fall.
Alaeze recently took the SAT again, hoping to raise his score. "I don't know if I'm allowed to comment on it, but he's close [to scoring high enough]," Friedgen said.
Running back Morgan Green, another player who signed with the Terps in 2005 but failed to qualify, also attended Hargrave in the fall and is now enrolled at Maryland.
The Terps also signed one of Pennsylvania's best quarterbacks in Jeremy Ricker, a three-year starter at Bishop McDevitt in Harrisburg, and got their first recruit from Colorado, offensive lineman Evan Eastburn.
If there is a sleeper in this year's class, it might be defensive back Taji Thornton (Homestead, Fla.) or wide receiver Da'Rel Scott (Plymouth, Pa.).
Not only was Scott, according to Friedgen, the "fastest kid in Pennsylvania," but he is also a good student.
"If they've got good grades and they can run fast, I'll take them," Friedgen said. "We'll find a place for them to play. Because God only made so many of them."