Maryland football coach DJ Durkin talks about the team's recruiting class. (Don Markus/Baltimore Sun video)
COLLEGE PARK — More than two years after it was introduced on social media, more than a year after its self-proclaimed leader abandoned the cause, "The Movement" took hold at Maryland on Wednesday.
With 17 of the 28 players who made it official on National Signing Day establishing their reputations locally, the Terps have what could become their highest-rated recruiting class in program history.
“Those guys were big. A lot of those guys were the ones who started this, and they’ve kept it going and kept bringing other ones with them,” second-year Maryland coach DJ Durkin said during a news conference Wednesday at the Gossett Team House.
Though Maryland did lose two potential late additions to Penn State – cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields, who signed Wednesday, and linebacker Ellis Brooks – Durkin's second class will be no worse than fourth in the Big Ten and in the top 20 nationally.
Unfortunately for the Terps, trying to build immediately on their 6-7 record in Durkin's first season will be difficult given that the 2017 schedule is decidedly tougher than it was a year ago and that Big Ten East powers Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State should all finish higher than Maryland.
Still, given the level of talent he inherited from former coach Randy Edsall, Durkin said the new recruits, including nine four-star prospects according to 247sports.com's composite rankings, should help the Terps start to become more competitive in one of college football's toughest divisions.
“The quality of this class, absolutely, we expect to recruit at this level every year, and continue to get better and better,” Durkin said. “There’s not a reason not to. We are all sitting in the middle of one of the most fertile grounds for recruiting in the entire country. We have a product that is second to none, I believe
“There’s now a tremendous influx of talent coming into this program. I know this: great players want to play with other great players. When they see guys are going, they’re going there for a reason and I think it opens the door for that to continue as we go through that for years to come.”
Of the 28 players who signed, there are a program-record five among the ESPN300. There are 17 players from the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia corridor. One four-star recruit -- running back Cordarrian Richardson, who made a surprise commitment to Maryland on Wednesday -- has yet to sign his letter of intent.
While he would not single out any individual player as the prize catch of this year's class, four-star quarterback Kasim Hill of St. John's College High in Washington is likely going to be the most talked about going into next season should he win the competition with North Carolina transfer Caleb Henderson. That's in part because Dwayne Haskins, one of the "founders" of "The Movement," decommitted from Maryland and signed with Ohio State a year ago.
"Kasim's special in that anyone who follows football can put on a tape and watch him and know that he's a tremendous talent," Durkin said of Hill, who lives in Crofton. "He can make all the throws, he can beat you running the ball. He's 230 pounds. The guy is a freak of nature.
"But that doesn't even scratch the surface to what Kasim's all about. That's why we're so happy to bring him in. That's what makes him different than other guys; it's his leadership ability -- what he's all about, what he stands for, what his family is all about."
Unlike when Stefon Diggs came in as a five-star prospect in 2012 in a class ranked 38th nationally by 247sports.com, this year's class has much more depth and potential.
Along with Hill, the player fans are most familiar with and excited about is four-star DeMatha running back Anthony McFarland, who last week picked the Terps over Miami.
"That guy is electric. He's dynamic with the ball in his hands, we think he's a difference maker," Durkin said. "Ant is great. He already feels like family. He's around here all the time. … He knows what he's getting into, we know what we're getting with him. He's coming off an injury his senior year. He's as hungry as he can be."
Because he was one of the first four-star players to commit last summer, Hill became an attraction for other recruits, Durkin said.
"Absolutely, he was a huge part of putting this class together, because he has that leadership quality about him," Durkin said. "I talked to him on the phone today and I told him, 'It doesn't stop now. You are viewed as a leader by the guys you're coming in with, your peers, and that's going to continue by the position he plays."
Said Mike Farrell, national recruiting director for Rivals.com, "Given the position he plays and the fact that Maryland has had trouble recruiting quarterbacks, Kasim Hill is the most important player in this class."
Cornerback Deon Jones of Oxon Hill said Hill's decision to commit to Maryland last spring factored into his July commitment.
"You started to have faith. Someone has to jump in first," Jones said Wednesday. "By Kasim committing first, it reopened a lot of guys' eyes. He played a big role in this commitment process."
Both Jones and safety Markquese Bell of Bridgeton, N.J., are among the seven players that have enrolled in school and will be eligible to practice with the team this spring. According to 247sports.com, Jones was the 175th-ranked player in the nation, Bell was 191st and Hill was 240th.
"There's a lot of opportunity, I think that's why a lot of guys came in to get that early start," Bell said.
That the Terps played 15 true freshmen in Durkin's first season was a factor in the decision by Jones.
"Definitely, knowing that I could play early, and especially in front of my hometown, my family, that's what it's all about," said Jones. "Why go somewhere else when you can do it right here in your backyard?"