Some recruits might look at the growing pains of Maryland's football program as a negative. But Jalen Brooks, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound linebacker from North Gwinnett High in Suwanee, Ga., has always seen the Terps' struggles as an opportunity.
"The biggest thing [that set Maryland apart from other schools] was the rebuilding phase it was going through," Brooks said. "With Coach [Randy] Edsall and [outside linebackers coach Lyndon] Johnson both at the University of Connecticut, I learned about how they completely changed the program and built it from the ground up and how successful that school has been. Talking to Coach Edsall, he's trying the same thing at Maryland in a much quicker time period."
Brooks decided to become part of the rebuilding process Monday, committing to the Terps a week-and-a-half after visiting College Park for the first time and picking up a Maryland offer.
"It feels like a great, great decision," Brooks said Wednesday. "I like the school a lot. … I wanted to commit [on my visit], but Coach Edsall told me to take some time and think about it with my family. On Monday I made it official."
Brooks picked the Terps over offers from Air Force, Ball State and Navy, among others. Kentucky, Mississippi State, North Carolina State and Wake Forest were among the other interested FBS programs. A 3.7 student, Brooks also had scholarship opportunities from many Ivy League schools, including Harvard and Yale. The future Terp plans to major in marketing and business at Maryland.
"To be honest, almost all doors should be open to him," said North Gwinnett coach Bob Sphire. "Jalen is an outstanding student and just a quality young man. You don't have to worry about the periphery stuff."
Sphire welcomed Brooks into his program three years ago, and was immediately impressed by his versatility and his work ethic. So was Maryland offensive line coach Tom Brattan, who recruits Georgia for the Terps and began pursuing Brooks in the spring of his junior year. Brattan came to North Gwinnett for a spring practice this year.
"Tom just really likes how [Brooks] developed and what he saw on the practice field," Sphire said. "[The recruiting process] was just getting ready to explode on him. Maryland kind of got in there and pulled the plug before everybody else was ready."
In Maryland's 3-4 defense, Brooks is expected to play the SAM linebacker -- a position that's almost identical to the role he plays in high school.
"I'm familiar with the position and know that the coaches won't have to teach me much. That'll give me an advantage coming in actually playing the same position for four or five years. That's a definite selling point."
Said Sphire: "He can play out in space and he can play in the box. That's kind of a rare combination for someone 6-3, 220 pounds."
Brooks said he was happy to avoid most of the stress of the recruiting process by making his decision roughly three months after it started. In Maryland, he found a program with "a good mix" of academics and athletics. And he found a football team ready to embark on a new era.
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"I'm just really excited to be a Terp and ready to be part of this rebuilding process," Brooks said. "I'm looking forward to coming up there as soon as possible."