Maryland football has plenty of recruiting ground to make up on rest of Big Ten East

In the cruel and cutthroat world of Big Ten football, no one should have been surprised two weeks ago when Ohio State coach Urban Meyer stole top-flight recruits Dwayne Haskins Jr. and Keandre Jones right out from under the nose of his old friend and Maryland's new football coach DJ Durkin.

The Terps certainly weren't, since there had been rumblings that Haskins might bolt from the moment it became apparent former coach Randy Edsall would be fired last October. But the impact of a particularly painful string of recent decommits will be felt anew Wednesday when college recruits make their choices official on National Signing Day.


So, while we're on the subject of things that no one should be surprised by, Maryland football fans need to brace themselves for the likelihood that the Terps will be overmatched again this year by the beasts of the Big Ten East.

They probably would not have popped in 2016 if they had held all of their commits, but the potential of Haskins, Jones and the rest of "The Movement" figured to create a positive long-term narrative that would have taken some of the sting out of what was always going to be a developmental first season for Durkin.

The Terps were still going to take their lumps. Their division includes three of the conference's cornerstone programs (Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State) and none of them will be taking a step back Wednesday. They are all among the top four Big Ten recruiting classes, according to 247sports.com, along with East division rival Penn State (No. 3), while Maryland's recruiting class has slipped to ninth in the conference.

To fully understand that wide recruiting gap, consider that Ohio State (No. 1) is expecting 16 four-star recruits — including Haskins and Jones — and five-star commit Nick Bosa. Michigan (No. 2) has 12 four-star commits. Penn State has eight plus five-star running back Miles Sanders. Maryland has just three.

This year's Terps recruiting class ranks 47th nationally at the moment, which would probably be all right if those four East division teams ahead of them were not all in the top 15.

Of course, no one said it was going to be easy for Durkin to crack the Big Ten's glass ceiling in his first full-time head coaching position. In fact, there's room to wonder if it's realistic to envision Maryland as a conference title contender at any point in the near future.

The move to the Big Ten two years ago increased the program's national visibility and vastly improved the revenue potential of the athletic department. The university also took a big step toward enhancing its attractiveness to future football recruits by embarking on the construction of a glitzy new indoor practice facility inside Cole Field House with the help of Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank.

That's all good, but it will take a herculean effort by Durkin and his new coaching staff to overcome the historical recruiting advantages enjoyed by elite programs such as Ohio State and Michigan, conference powerhouses for more than a century.

Give athletic director Kevin Anderson credit for putting Durkin in a position to accept that challenge. Maryland's new coaching staff features former Virginia and Richmond head coach Mike London, former Ball State head coach Pete Lembo, former Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer and highly regarded young offensive coordinator Walt Bell. It is a group of coaches with solid recruiting and teaching backgrounds that should allow the Terps to make the most of the team's new and returning talent.

The new staff already has made inroads in one of the hotbeds of prep football talent, luring six 2016 recruits from Florida — four of which are three-star prospects.

Still, it's important to keep in mind that the Terps coaching staff has been a work in progress itself for just the past couple of months, so the time to really begin judging it from a recruiting standpoint will be at this time next year.

In the meantime, we're going to see what it can do with the remnants of last year's 3-9 team and a medium recruiting class.

It might not be pretty, but you've got to start somewhere.



Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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