Maryland coach Randy Edsall has never downplayed the significance of landing players from Gilman, Good Counsel and Friendship Collegiate Academy in the Terps' 2012 recruiting class.
During Edsall's Signing Day news conference last February, the coach praised all three local prep powerhouses and opined for pipelines from each program to College Park. After this weekend, it appears that Edsall's dream for one of those schools has come true.
Offensive lineman Derwin Gray, outside linebacker Yannick Ngakoue and inside linebacker Cavon Walker – all of whom star for Friendship Collegiate in Washington – committed to the Terps this weekend. FCA coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim – who also coached incoming Maryland running back Albert Reid – said he "wasn't surprised" that three of his top players decided on their hometown school.
"It was done over a two-day span," Abdul-Rahim said. "They all made up their mind. It wasn't really a [coordinated] type of deal. They all have their motives for why they did it. It just so happened to time up during the weekend. All of them felt strongly about Maryland from the beginning."
News of Gray's pledge to the Terps broke late Friday. He immediately became the most highly ranked player in Maryland's 2013 class. 247Sports.com ranks the 6-foot-4, 291-pound lineman a four-star prospect, the No. 4 offensive tackle nationally, the No. 35 player overall in the 2013 class, and the No. 1 player in D.C. Gray picked Maryland over offers from Florida, Tennessee, Nebraska and Rutgers, among many others.
"He's a prototypical left tackle," Abdul-Rahim said. "He's probably one of the most athletic linemen that they're going to have up there. … He's not just a finesse pass blocker or just a bulldozing run blocker. He's got a good combination of both. With all the wide-open offenses, I think it's probably in the tackle's favor to be more efficient with the pass. But I think he'll be able to block whoever's running in front of him. He can easily be a huge tight end. He's got great feet."
Ngakoue was the next Friendship Collegiate player to announce his commitment to Maryland. A 6-foot-2, 240-pound linebacker, Ngakoue is a four-star prospect, Rivals.com's second-ranked player in D.C., the No. 232 player nationally and the No. 15 OLB recruit in the country. The rising senior chose Maryland over Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Oklahoma, Penn State, South Carolina, Tennessee and "pretty much every school" in the country, according to his coach.
"He's a physical specimen," Abdul-Rahim said. "At 6-2, 240, he can move around. He plays in space well and can play a lot of positions. He's a can't-miss prospect in the eyes of recruiters because [he can fit into] every type of scheme. You can see him fit in [anywhere] with the amount of offers that he had. He's a very serious, all about business type of kid. He's going to have the right mindset from the beginning. You're not going to have to worry about him, his maturity or anything. He's all about business."
The final piece of Maryland's FCA puzzle was Walker, who revealed his choice Saturday. The three-star prospect and 247Sports.com's No. 4 player in D.C. picked the Terps over Purdue, North Carolina State and Northern Illinois. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound inside linebacker missed his junior season with a fractured foot and would have likely received much more recruiting interest had he been healthy in 2011.
"He's a high-energy kid," Abdul-Rahim said. "He's an extremely good pass rusher. He's just got a level of intensity to him – he's very intense. He keeps his game on a high level. I think he's a very energetic kid. … He had been offered by Maryland before his junior year. They were the first school to recognize him with a Division I offer. That kind of stood out to him. Before some other colleges came in, even before some of the coaching changes that just happened at Maryland, Randy Edsall had offered him. That meant a lot to him."
The commitments of Gray, Ngakoue and Walker pushed the Terps' seven-man 2013 class to the No. 32 team ranking in the country, according to Rivals.com. Abdul-Rahim is confident that his three players will do their part to help Maryland and live up to their star billing.
"All of them have a good chance to play early if they do what they're supposed to do," Abdul-Rahim said. "A lot of them look like college players right now."