Isaiah Prince, an offensive lineman from Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Prince George's County, selected Ohio State over Maryland. (Matt Zenitz/Baltimore Sun Media Group)
Games against teams such as Ohio State and Wisconsin contributed to Maryland football coach Randy Edsall's urgency. He watched as his offensive line was overmatched and overwhelmed by clearly superior opponents.
What Edsall realized? The Terps need to be better along the line if they are ever going to consistently compete with the Big Ten's perennial powers.
Edsall said he expects this year's recruiting class to help Maryland do that.
"It's a linemen league, and we've got to match up with the people that we're going against," Edsall said Wednesday during a national signing day news conference.
The Terps' 18 member incoming class features five offensive linemen, including four-star interior lineman Quarvez Boulware from Friendship Collegiate Academy (D.C.) and three in-state linemen — Ellis McKennie (McDonogh), E.J. Donahue (Linganore) and Will McClain (Middletown) — who were all rated as three-star prospects or better by every major recruiting service.
The fifth lineman, 6-foot-5, 285-pound center Mason Zimmerman from Whitehouse, Ohio, was rated a three-star prospect by both ESPN and Scout.
Zimmerman played in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl in January, which featured numerous highly rated Class of 2015 prospects.
"The two most critical positions that we had were the O-line and the D-line, and we were able to secure commitments from some outstanding young men," said Edsall, whose recruiting class also includes four-star defensive lineman Adam McLean (Quince Orchard), three-star defensive lineman Keiron Howard (Potomac) and Massachusetts prep school defensive end Oseh Saine.
The line signees represent the strength of a class that otherwise mostly lacks star power.
The Terps finished as a runner-up in the recruitment of four-star left tackle Isaiah Prince and three-star defensive end Austrian Robinson, who both announced their decisions Wednesday.
Prince (Eleanor Roosevelt) signed with Ohio State. Robinson, of New York, is going to Ole Miss.
A commitment from Prince likely would have resulted in Maryland's class being ranked among the top-40 in the country and would have given the Terps a player that Rivals rated as the fourth-best tackle prospect in the Class of 2015.
Instead, Rivals ranks Maryland's class 55th nationally. Scout rates the class 47th. Both recruiting services rank defending national champion Ohio State's class as tops in the Big Ten and No. 9 in the country.
Still, Rivals Mid-Atlantic recruiting analyst Adam Friedman said, "This is certainly not a bad class" for the Terps.
"There isn't as much fanfare on signing day because of [Prince's decision]. But when you look at their class, they filled some areas of need and got some very good players to fill those needs," Friedman said. "First off, you've got to start off with the offensive line. They've got five pretty darn good offensive linemen. Maryland's focus has to be, at least offensively, on keeping the quarterback healthy, and that starts with the big guys up front. And Boulware, Donahue, McClain, McKennie, Zimmerman, these guys are going to be part of that offensive line of the future for them."
The Terps also signed one quarterback, one running back, two wide receivers, four linebackers, one cornerback and a punter.
The biggest headliner among the non-linemen is probably wide receiver D.J. Moore, a four-star prospect according to Rivals and Scout whom Friedman believes has the potential to be a "gamebreaker" for Maryland.
Friedman and Scout national recruiting analyst Brian Dohn are also both high on three-star cornerback Darnell Savage.
"Darnell Savage, by the time it was over, could have had 20 offers," Dohn said of the 5-foot-11, 160-pound Delaware native. "Penn State was coming in on him, and he said no thanks because he was that loyal to Maryland. He's a kid that I think he has a chance to come in and play as a freshman. He can cover. I saw him probably five times in the last calendar year at camps, games, whatever, and he was always sensational. Not just good. I mean sensational. He's a really good cover guy."
Other notable members of the class include three-star running back Ty Johnson (Fort Hill) and three-star quarterback Gage Shaffer from West Virginia.
The 5-foot-10, 173-pound Johnson rushed for 1,733 yards and 22 touchdowns as a senior while averaging 14.9 yards per carry and helping his team win a second straight state Class 1A state championship. He also had 11 catches for 371 yards and eight touchdowns.
Edsall said the 6-foot-7, 205-pound Shaffer reminds him of veteran NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky, whom he coached at Connecticut.
Seventeen of the 18 class members were team captains last season, which Edsall was proud of.
"I'm thrilled about this group," Edsall said. "This is a great group. And when you guys get a chance to meet them when they get here I think you'll be very impressed with them. When you see them on the field, I think you'll be impressed. … It's just a great group and one that is going to be really successful at the University of Maryland in every phase."