xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Three takeaways from Maryland football’s national signing day

After his team finished 3-9 in his first season back at Maryland, Mike Locksley needed something to give fans and potential prospects hope that the program was heading in the right direction. It might have been found during Wednesday’s national signing day, when Locksley flipped five-star wide receiver and LSU commit Rakim Jarrett to headline what had been a solid, if not quite spectacular, 2020 recruiting class.

Here are three takeaways from the day.

Advertisement

Even with the nation’s No. 20-ranked high school player and No. 2 wide receiver, the Terps still need a quarterback and an offensive line.

When Locksley was able to flip Stefon Diggs from Ohio State shortly after his arrival as offensive coordinator in 2012, Maryland coach Randy Edsall made the comment that Diggs could turn out to be “the Pied Piper” when it came to attracting talent, especially at quarterback. It didn’t turn out that way as Edsall never found the kind of passer that took advantage of Diggs’ special talent.

Advertisement

The best the Terps could muster during the three seasons Diggs spent in College Park was C.J. Brown, who was the most prolific running quarterback the Terps have ever had. As a result, Diggs was not quite the weapon he has proven to be in the NFL, just as DJ Moore is doing now after playing with no fewer than eight quarterbacks at Maryland.

After what the Terps showed at quarterback last season, Jarrett will need help reaching his potential in college.

Locksley made it clear at his post-signing day news conference that he will be looking for the best players he can find to complement Jarrett. While the Terps signed a few big offensive linemen to bolster their depth, including three-star tackle Ja’Khi Green of St. Frances, Maryland didn’t sign a quarterback for the first time since 2011.

It’s not that Locksley will stand pat. He has two QBs with one year of eligibility remaining — graduate transfer Josh Jackson, who started the bulk of the 2019 season, and redshirt junior Tyrrell Pigrome. He also has freshman Lance LeGendre, who will have four years remaining after only appearing in three games. Locksley was hoping to flip four-star quarterback Jeff Sims of Jacksonville, Florida, but Sims chose Georgia Tech.

The Terps suddenly look deep and talented at wide receiver with Jarrett joining rising juniors Dontay Demus Jr. and Brian Cobbs, along with Jeshaun Jones, who will return after missing what would have been his sophomore year with a torn ACL. Locksley also likes two other receivers in the 2020 class, thee-stars Deajuan McDougle and Nick DeGenarro.

But having a quarterback who can find them and an offensive line that will give that quarterback time to throw is the first step.

The loss of running backs Anthony McFarland Jr. and Javon Leake was softened a bit by the addition of two highly touted players.

When McFarland and Leake announced within a day of each other that they were forgoing their remaining college eligibility to give the NFL a shot, Maryland’s once-crowded running backs room thinned considerably.

The only experienced players left were Jake Funk, who has suffered torn ACLs in each of the past two seasons, the injury-hampered Lorenzo Harrison III and Tayon Fleet-Davis, whose junior year ended prematurely when he was charged with driving under the influence.

The addition of Peny Boone, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound bruiser who was Detroit’s Player of the Year and Maryland’s third-highest rated recruit behind Jarrett and linebacker Ruben Hyppolite II, as well as Isaiah Jacobs, the younger brother of former Alabama standout Josh Jacobs, should help quite a bit.

Unless Funk and Harrison are fully recovered from their injuries, and Fleet-Davis finds his way back to the field after serving a suspension, the Terps will need both Boone and the 5-10, 195-pound Jacobs, who was Maryland’s fourth-highest rated recruit, to have an immediate impact.

It’s not an impossible task, but it will take improvement along the offensive line and at quarterback for that to happen.

Advertisement

Locksley again showed that he can recruit, but will he have enough to prove he can coach in the rigorous Big Ten East?

Before coach DJ Durkin was fired during the 2018 season, he started to get the Terps back on the right track with a couple of above-average recruiting classes. Many still think that if not for the death of offensive tackle Jordan McNair in the summer of 2018, Durkin would still be coaching at Maryland and might be right where Indiana was last season.

But the jury was still out on Durkin as a coach when McNair died. He finished a respectable 6-7 against a soft schedule in his first year before going 4-8 his second year when Pigrome and then-freshman Kasim Hill both suffered season-ending ACL tears in the first three games of the 2017 season.

Locksley has again proven that he can recruit, getting the Terps from the mid-80s to the high-40s in national recruiting rankings last season right after taking the job and then helping Maryland push its way into the top 30 this year. Locksley still needs at least one good recruiting class to have enough depth for his team to compete in what is perhaps college football’s toughest division.

That said, the Terps are going to have to be more competitive against the elite teams and beat some of the mid-level teams for true progress to be gained. Another season of blowout defeats to both great, good and even some mediocre teams is not going to engender much in the way of fan support, and it could start affecting recruiting as well.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement