COLLEGE PARK — Markquese Bell gave a pretty honest answer when asked why he wanted to enroll at Maryland early, midway through his senior year at Bridgeton High in South Jersey.
"One factor was I just wanted to get out of high school," Bell said Wednesday. "The other one was just to come in early and get used to the workouts. The other guys coming in this summer will have to adjust a lot faster than I would. I get to take my time all spring. When the summertime comes, I'm going to be used to it."
The 6-foot-2, 194-pound safety, a four-star recruit ranked No. 88 in the country by the ESPN300, is expected to be one of the top impact freshmen for the Terps next season.
"That guy, when he walks in a room, he looks like an NFL safety," Maryland coach DJ Durkin said.
Bell and cornerback Deon Jones are among eight players who enrolled for the spring semester, along with cornerback Fofie Bazzie of Gaithersburg, linebacker Bryce Brand and junior college quarterback Ryan Brand of Detroit, offensive lineman Tyran Hunt of Courtland, Va., junior college transfer linebacker Nick Underwood of Lake Oswego, Ore., and junior college transfer cornerback Alex Woods of Durham, N.C.
Though not pressuring others to do the same, Durkin said, "We weren't choosing who we're recruiting based on whether they could be midyear [entrants], but that's a huge benefit. My philosophy is if a guy and his family want to do it, we are all in. We try to push it and help them the best we can because it's a tremendous benefit to them and to our team."
Along with Bell, Jones of Potomac High in Oxon Hill could start in a defensive backfield that loses senior cornerbacks Alvin Hill and Will Likely, who missed half of last season after tearing his ACL, as well a safety Denzel Conyers, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury against Central Florida.
"I wasn't really worried about playing time," Bell said. "If you can compete, you can fit in anywhere. Just the bond with the coaches and the bond they had with my family when they came for my home visit really opened my eyes that this is the place I wanted to be."
Yet Bell acknowledged that many of those in this year's recruiting class saw how Durkin and his staff played 15 true freshmen last season.
"Lot of young talent. They played about 15 freshmen last year. There's a lot of opportunity. That's why I think a lot of guys came in," Bell said. "I came in to get that early start."
Durkin was also a draw for Jones.
"You could see in Coach Durkin's face, he just wants the best out of all of his players," said Jones, a four-star recruit ranked 155th in the ESPN300. "He just gives a good vibe off. He just wants to make you smile."
It was not just bonding with Durkin and his assistants. It was the other players who committed as well.
"Guys pushed me to come," said Jones, who committed in early July. "Our class is very strong. Our class know each other very well, especially in this area. We all talk, we all follow each other on social media, we have group chats. We pretty much recruited each other and pretty much said as a whole, 'This is what we want to do.'"
Jones said the first few days of the spring semester that began last week "was moving fast, fast, fast."
"It's starting to slow down for me," he said. "It's starting to feel like high school again. The biggest part in college is, you've got to really learn how to manage your time because you're doing so much every day."