17 Til Kickoff: The Recruiting Importance of Maryland's Season

There was an interesting update on the always awesome SoFlaFootball.com yesterday. Maryland, of course, has started recruiting Florida harder, so it's a must-read site. Last night, they had an update on high three-star CB Corey Tindal. Maryland has been recruiting Tindal for quite some time now, and he's one of their biggest remaining legitimate targets. The news?

Just spoke with Boyd Anderson ATH Corey Tindal. Maryland has been his leader for some time, but he admitted tonight he's really worried about the coaching situation there and whether the staff will be back next year or not. Minnesota and Marshall are two school that could benefit from the questions surrounding the Terp Staff. Marshall has been after Tindal hard telling him he can play any position on the field.

The good: Maryland's been his leader for some time! That's excellent. The bad: uncertainty around the coaching staff means he likely won't commit unless Friedgen - or Don Brown, or whoever's leading that recruitment - can ensure that they're coming back. And that won't happen unless Maryland finds early season success.

This season is crucial for a lot of reasons. Most obviously, it will likely decide the fate of both Ralph Friedgen and James Franklin. It may also set the tone for the energy - or lack thereof - around football in College Park. And, least importantly but still prominently, the first few games could have a huge effect on recruiting.

There's no secret that players go to winning programs at a ridiculous ratio. A struggling team like Maryland, especially when they lack a star recruiter, can pull in a few good players, but it's not easy. Often, they'll need to be under unusual circumstances, like Titus Till committing before the season even started or Adrian Coxson transferring after realizing it's scary hot in Florida in August (or whatever made him transfer, I don't know).

So far, Maryland's lost one of their best commitments, Florida DE Shaun Ward. And more could be on their way with reinforcements coming at a slow pace if Maryland continues to lose, for two reasons.

The first is that if Maryland goes, say, 2-3 to start the season, it'll be pretty clear that this team isn't much better than the 2-10 team of yore. And if you have the choice, as Blake Countess and Darius Jennings do, to join a team that's having a lot of success where you can go and win, or join Maryland and lose, the decision is pretty well stacked in one direction (and it ain't Maryland's).

The second is that if Maryland goes, say, 2-3, that blogs (like this one), message boards, and newspapers will start to get very critical and antsy regarding Friedgen and Franklin. We can't help ourselves; we're fans or journalists, and it's either our nature or our job to do this stuff. But if Tindal were to come on here and see, oh, a listing of potential Friedgen replacements, well, I can see why he thinks that Maryland's coaching situation isn't exactly set in stone.

(Note: still, if Maryland goes 2-4 to start the year, or worse, I don't care about recruiting at that point. It's clear they're not right for the program and I'd gladly sacrifice one year of recruiting to see them leave, assuming it gets that bad.)

In the world of football recruiting - which, believe it or not, is dirtier than basketball recruiting, though in a different way; it's a lot of negative recruiting and recruiting committed players, not so much money and agents - those two things are just about death blows. It gets worse when you consider that Maryland's raided the south more than the north, and the game of dirty recruiting is played even more down there.

Ward and Allen Ramsey, both Florida guys, decommitted pretty quickly, which isn't unsurprising for Florida recruits. Maryland's next best recruits, Nigel King and Marcus Leak, both of which are from North Carolina, don't seem particularly set in stone about their commitments either. All it takes is Charlie Strong or Les Miles coming to either after Maryland goes 2-4 and pointing out Maryland's struggles, Friedgen's likelihood of being fired, and the potential that he'll be coached by crazy-ass Mike Leach, and that commitment could melt right there.

It's especially dangerous for Leak, who had only one offer - Maryland's, natch - when he committed to the Terps. Since then, he's blown up, relatively speaking. He's in the top 20 in North Carolina, the #70 receiver on Rivals, and the #40 receiver on ESPN. Players worse than him in those rankings have offers from Clemson, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Arkansas, South Carolina, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Auburn, Wisconsin, Missouri, Florida State, Miami, Michigan, LSU...do you really want me to go on? Those offers would open up in a heartbeat to Leak, and there's no telling if he would've come to Maryland had those offers been on the table in the first place.

King's slightly less dangerous; he already turned down LSU for Maryland. Unfortunately, that does mean that he knows what those offers are like; that might make him more likely to jump, or it may not. We don't know.

There are more at stake. Mike London at UVA's been invading Maryland with ridiculous success lately, and it may continue. A few days ago, the ACC Sports Journal pointed out that AJ Hendy, an athlete from Bowie, was wavering. Well, guess what? Go 2-4 and he won't be wavering anymore. He'll be a full-blown Cavalier. ACCSJ used that to point out that a bad year could mean a mass exodus of commitments.

You can be certain that if Maryland can hold onto the players they've already convinced to come to Maryland, they certainly won't be able to grab any big names, local or not, with any regularity. When Darius Jennings has a million offers, the best shot Maryland has is to recruit the hell out of him and hope for the best. Or, you know, win enough games to make Maryland an attractive destination outside of the fact that he's comfortable and wanted here. Same goes for Blake Countess.

The only other option Maryland has at this point? Find a pied piper player. But outside of Cyrus Kouandjio, they don't exist around Maryland, and short of delivering massive amounts of money to the Kouandjio family, they don't have a shot at Cyrus K. Maybe not even then.

In short: the season might be a double-whammy, or, depending on the way you look at things, a win-win situation. Either Maryland struggles and loses commitments, or they succeed, retain their best players, and maybe add one or two more (or you could look at it as "either Friedgen leaves or we get a few good players" if you don't like Fridge; your call).

Regardless, by about the fifth week, we should have a very good vibe of where this season is going, and recruiting by extension. If it's not good, don't get your hopes up that we'll have a fun signing day in February.

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