When Ralph Friedgen's positive traits are listed - experience or offensive smarts, for example - recruiting rarely comes up. In fact, it's more often lamented that Maryland struggles at grabbing the depth of in-state talent around them. To some extent, James Franklin was supposed to change that, but his arrival has coincided with plenty of struggles on the field, too, which hasn't helped in the recruiting department.
In fact, when I set out to do this storyline, the angle was about Maryland's struggles in the recruiting game. And while they've had their fair share anecdotally, the research pretty quickly disproved that.
Originally, I set out to compare Maryland to every single ACC team over the past five years in in-state recruiting. Obviously, that was pretty rough; states have different numbers of elite teams, different talent levels, and altogether too many variables.
Instead, the better idea was to come up with one or two good comparisons to Maryland and roll from there. Two teams emerged as front-runners: Missouri and Rutgers (more on why in a minute). And it's pretty clear that while Maryland's not killing it in in-state recruiting, they could be doing a lot worse.
So, why Missouri and Rutgers? Well, there were a few criteria to find a school similar to Maryland. For one, they have to be the only major school in the state, because no one in Baltimore's fighting Maryland for Darius Jennings. For another, they had to be of a similar standing; in other words, just because Nebraska is the only state school, they still don't make sense because there's a tad more prestige in Lincoln than College Park. Lastly, the state they are located in needs to pound out about as much talent as Maryland/DC does, but not significantly more. Sorry, Boston College and LSU.
Rutgers makes sense; N.J. and Maryland/DC produce a good crop of talent every year, from a five-star here and there down to low four-stars or high three-stars around the top 10. Plus, both have had similar programs in terms of wins and losses the past couple years, and both are of a similar stature in terms of prestige.
Missouri is the lone state school as well, and though Mizzou puts out a tad less talent, it's generally stronger at the top, so it's about even. Plus, their HC, Gary Pinkel, was hired the same year as Ralph Friedgen, and both programs had a similar standing at the time. Both teams have been national contenders in their head man's time, too.
I avoided looking at how each school performed in the top 20, because players around 17-20 are generally much less coveted and are easier grabs. Once Maryland starts struggling to grab two-star tackles, things are beyond analysis. Instead, I decided to focus on the program-changers, the ones you have to battle for, the top ten and top five recruits. I also went with two different tallies; one for the entire top 10, which includes a few easier-to-grab-but-still-high-quality players - AJ Hendy and Darian Cooper, for instance - and one for just the top 5, which usually consists of big name players - like Darius Jennings and Cyrus Kouandjio.
The charts are below, with the number of players Maryland's been able to grab out of their state's top 10 and top 5 players, as rated by Rivals since the site started doing state rankings, compared to Missouri and Rutgers over the same time-frame. For reference, records are included.
Now, you might be saying, "That's nice, but what's it all mean?" Over the past eight years, Maryland's grabbed 35% of their top ten in-state, though that's fluctuated, especially recently. Rutgers, over the same time? 17.5%. Missouri: 48%. At least in terms of the top ten recruits, Maryland's not lighting the world on fire like Missouri, but they're significantly out-performing a Rutgers team that's found a lot of recent success.
Maryland's had slightly less success with the top 5 recruits, which makes sense considering the greater competition: 33%. Rutgers, surprisingly, has the same exact percentage as they did with the top five recruits, 17.5%. And Missouri kills it once again, with an incredible 50% of their top five in-state.
(I wish I could do more comparisons, but Maryland's really in a unique situation. Kansas, for example, doesn't produce enough talent as a state, and that's the case with most other schools that are somewhat similar to Maryland. I don't know if that's encouraging or troubling.)
Of course, this test isn't flawless. Rutgers has some other problems - like their facilities - and Missouri has some major advantages - the size of the state, the lack of serious nearby competitors. In fact, Rutgers is a far more serious comparison than Missouri, which is somewhat heartening. Still, a straight one-to-one, or even two-to-one, comparison is never going to be a complete indicator.
Then again, we go to war with the data set we got. And the data set we got says that Maryland's done a decent job recently of attracting high-quality, in-state talent, not quite as good as Missouri, which has some inherent advantages, but much better than Rutgers. All in all, I'm not sure how much complaining about in-state recruiting Maryland can do. (Of course I do: a lot. 100% is the goal, baby).
The next question is, obviously, what the future holds. A basic trend in the numbers is that each year seems most heavily influenced by the concurrent year; that is, Maryland's 2010 class was most influenced by the 2-10 record, and the 2011 haul will be influenced by how Maryland does this year. That's not perfect, obviously (6 top tens for Maryland after they go 5-6; 1 when they go 9-4) but isn't bad (7 for Missouri when the go 12-2, 4 for Rutgers when they go 11-2, 7 when Missouri goes 8-5, etc). In other words, Maryland can still salvage one recruiting class with a 7 win season or so.
That's not as solid as this: look four and five years ahead, and see the numbers stack up. Maryland gets one top 10 in-state recruit in 2006 and none in the top five; five years later - that is, 2006's players' redshirt senior year - and Maryland goes 2-10. The year before, 8-5, was fueled by the 2005's class' redshirt seniors, six of which were in the top ten in the state. The same happens down the line, and though it's not perfect, it seems pretty accurate that five years, occasionally four, is the usual time of maximum impact.
That should be scary, considering Maryland's 2007 class was a mirror of its 2006 one.
This post didn't really have the "storyline" vibe I wanted it to; it's more of an analysis piece. But there's two things throughout the season that Maryland should be keeping an eye on: will the 2-10 season ruin in-state recruiting, and how much of an impact will the 2007 recruiting season have on this year? And if Maryland struggles in in-state recruiting, the Friedgen/Franklin critics will have just that much more ammo in the arsenal.