Washington — Among a group of four finalists that included the defending national champion (Alabama), the 2014 national champion (Florida State) and a school that recruits as well as either (Mississippi), the Maryland football team came in second for St. John's College (D.C.) star Terrell Hall's letter of intent Wednesday. Never had a runner-up finish seemed at once so insignificant and important.
While Will Ferrell's Ricky Bobby could perhaps best sum up the fruits of coming close in the recruiting wars — if you're not first, you're last — consider where the Terps once stood with the blue-chip defensive end. It wasn't until Maryland landed Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, Hall's point man at Alabama, as its defensive backs coach that Hall began to seriously consider the hometown team.
"When he went to Maryland, that really opened my eyes to Maryland," Hall said after picking up a Crimson Tide hat, not a Terps cleat, before a delirious crowd at his high school auditorium. "Like, OK, Maryland might be the school for me. Not even that Maryland might be the school for me, but I just know I'd be comfortable there."
It was hard to say no to Alabama, what with the program's business-like approach and the players' family-style atmosphere and the coaches' comparing Hall to NFL alumni like Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower.
It was perhaps easier to say no to Maryland. New Terps coach DJ Durkin "knows how to sell the program," Hall said. But "a lot of guys" in the past, he added, "didn't sell the program the correct way."
Calling both Durkin and Abdul-Rahim a "visionary," Hall pointed to the Terps' need to rebuild their program's foundation. Alabama was dependable, stable. Maryland, under former coach Randy Edsall, was not, and won't be until the new staff fields a winner.
"I felt more safe as far as what I'm getting into with Alabama," he said. "Maryland, I really was thinking about going there. It's just it's a new coaching staff, so I'm not really sure how it will work out. It could be a great success or a downfall."