If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times: the class Maryland just wrapped up (well, almost wrapped up) yesterday really isn't half-bad. In fact, it's a pretty good haul, especially when you consider where they were a little over a month ago: 11th in the ACC by Rivals, well outside the top 50, with only one four-star commitment.
Fast-forward about 45 days or so, and look at everything that's changed. The Terrapins hired Mike Locksley, D.C.-area recruiting guru and one of the catalysts of the class' strong finish; then they picked up commitments from consensus four-star running back Wes Brown, Gatorade Player of the Year for D.C. Albert Reid, and four-star linebacker Abner Logan, who is recruiting for Maryland on Twitter and was called by Tom Lemming "the sleeper of all sleepers"; and to top it off, they became major players for local five-stars like Eddie Goldman, Ronald Darby, and Stefon Diggs, despite having been eliminated for months prior.
And so with Signing Day in the rearview mirror, Maryland's class checks in at 7th in the ACC by Rivals and a top 50 class by 247. That's not a bad turnaround.
Of course, it could've been better. Guys like D.J. Reader and Korren Kirven ended up elsewhere, as did Goldman and Darby; all indications being that Maryland never really had a chance with the latter two. And, of course, there's Dallas Griffiths, who flipped last-second from Maryland to Liberty, of all places. Signing Day itself, if you want to get technical, was a bit of a dud.
But hey, you can't win all of them. Recruiting isn't about one day; it's about 365 days. Keeping perspective, this class has to be considered a victory for Maryland - far from an overwhelming one, not necessarily one you want to brag about ... but a victory nonetheless. Now it's time to build.
That building happens to be possible in two ways. The first: landing Diggs. He didn't sign anywhere on Wednesday and won't do so until Feb. 10th; he's visiting College Park officially this weekend for the UNC game, which is a fairly big deal considering he's already been on a half-dozen unofficials here.
Getting Diggs on board would be an enormous boost, for obvious reasons. He'd push Maryland up several spots in recruiting rankings, without a doubt, but his real value might be even more. He's an extraordinary playmaker, the type of electric athlete teams like Clemson and Florida State have so vexed Maryland with in recent years. Rivals continually compares him to DeSean Jackson, and that's the type of talent he is. I'm not saying to get your hopes up, but it can still happen. If it does, Maryland will not only be getting an immense talent - they'll also be sending a message to all of the local stars that UMD is indeed a viable option for them, too.
Naturally, the other way to build on it - besides transfers, which is really all guesswork until they become official - is 2013 and 2014 recruiting. Edsall & Co. have already gotten an early start on the '13 class with a commitment from Jarrett Ross, the crazy fast corner from Delaware, and of course are in good with elite '14 corner Jalen Tabor, who figures to be one of the area's most highly-recruited prospects ever. 2013 doesn't have the high-end elite talent of the '12 class locally, but there are still a pretty rich harvest of four-star types - and even the potential five-star, particularly Derwin Gray and Kendall Fuller. We'll have more on that bunch later.
Things need to continue improving, yes. But this was largely a step in the right direction - particularly because you can start to see Maryland's personality forming. Offensively, they brought in a ton of talent at running back; Brown and Reid probably could've gone to any school in the ACC. And then look at their offensive linemen, Nick Brigham and Mike Madaras, and you'll see the base for a punishing, imposing ground game. Brigham, a guard, and Madaras, who could end up at either guard or right tackle, have both drawn huge praise for their prowess in run blocking. You usually don't look at recruiting classes in units, but if you look at the ground game foundation Maryland laid in the 2012 class, it's tough not to see a promising future in the running attack.
Remember that Edsall built his success at UConn largely through the ground attack; the same is true for Locksley at Illinois, where he rode Rashard Mendenhall to a Rose Bowl. I'm not sure if they're really looking to replicate past successes or that's just the way this turned out, but I'd be a little surprised if Maryland didn't prove to be a powerful rushing team in two years or so.
There's also an obvious, growing emphasis on speed and athleticism, especially if you're willing to look ahead to 2013. I'm not sure Randy Edsall realized just how far the deck was stacked against him in this regard until the Clemson and FSU games, where the Terrapins were just outclassed athletically; he didn't have quite enough time to drastically alter the class that quickly, but still: guys like Reid, Stefan Houston, and Levern Jacobs are athletic specimens and speed merchants (at least for their positions; Houston is a linebacker, remember). If you're willing to look ahead to 2013, you see Maryland going hard after guys like Ross, who ran a 4.43 as a sophomore, and Taivon Jacobs, brother of Levern and an Olympic-quality sprinter. Those are the types of guys who, while still raw and possessing other shortcomings, will be able to hang with the top-level athletes in the ACC.
The other big trend is, unsurprisingly, a much bigger focus on D.C. Landing Brown and Reid were huge boosts in this regard, but that wasn't all; it's clear that keeping kids at home was a priority not just with the elites, but at every level of the class. In the 2011 class, Maryland had exactly three D.C.-area commitments: Nate Clarke (originally in the 2010 class), A.J. Hendy, and Alex Twine. In the 2012 class, they doubled that - not to mention the host of Baltimore- and Frederick-area commitments, too.
Once Mike Locksley came aboard, you knew that was going to be a focus. And it was obvious right away that things were changing: the Terrapins hardly pushed for Reid at all the first time around, but became a major player once he opened things up; likewise, Levern Jacobs was on no one's radar until he committed. Throw in a sizable Good Counsel presence, and it's clear that the staff is taking local recruiting very, very seriously.
Defensively, the storyline isn't as obvious. Had the Terrapins brought in someone like D.J. Reader or Korren Kirven on the final day, it would've been easier to sell new defensive coordinator Brian Stewart's incoming transition to the 3-4. As it stands now, it seems like that personnel will have to wait another year. The big focus in the Terrapins defensive class was certainly at linebacker, where they brought in five potential contributors, including the four-star Logan. But they desperately needed depth there; I'm not sure that was a stylistic change so much as one born out of necessity.
There was some thought that Maryland's 2012 class would signal a sea change in the program, a turning point that would announce to the world that things were different in College Park. That ... didn't quite happen. It's a good class, not a barn-burner of a class (at least not yet). But it's an improvement over what it almost was, and still a positive sign for the future. The question now becomes whether or not the staff can build on this - and, with more Locksley and more early groundwork laid by an admittedly hard-working Edsall, I have to think they will. If they do, despite all of the negative energy around the program right now, at least one thing will be going right in Gossett Team House.