Maryland gets some very bad news to kick off their bye week.
Your worst nightmares have begun. Four-star outside linebacker Yannick Ngakoue, one of the crown jewels of the Mike Locksley-fueled Maryland recruiting turnaround, has decommitted from the Terps, placing UMD in an apparent top five that also includes Miami, West Virginia, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
To be frank, I'm actually not that surprised by this. He didn't take many visits prior to committing to Maryland and was seen as a guy who wasn't likely to make sort of decision until at least the fall, maybe later. Everyone was scratching their head when he committed, and headscratchers rarely work as long-term commitments. If Maryland started 3-1 or even better he probably would've stayed strong, but a 2-2 start likely would've worried him just enough for somebody to get in there and turn his head. All of these big-name locals committed with the idea that they'd go to Maryland and be local heroes engineering a turnaround. But it's not all that hard to look at Maryland's start so far and, despite all the optimism we see, start to wonder if that's something that could really happen. Especially if people from West Virginia and South Carolina are telling you how much things are in Morgantown and Columbia.
The bad news is obvious: Ngakoue is a very good recruit and would've fit in perfectly for Maryland's 3-4 defense as a weakside outside linebacker. I firmly believe he would've gotten snaps as a true freshman, and probably would've made an impact as well. His presence is also a boon to recruiting, pointing to other kids that UMD's an elite destination, and it's tougher to sell guys like Na'Ty Rodgers on that concept now. Miami is a paper tiger and Tennessee is this close to imploding as well, but WVU and South Carolina are legitimate contenders for any recruit, especially with their starts to the year. And to kick it all off, kids don't often commit back to a school they decommit from, especially when their other options are doing much better on the field; often they place the decommitted school in their top five just to blunt criticism, ala Terrence Ross.
The good news, though: I'm not sure Ngakoue's actually doing that. Usually guys say stuff like "I haven't seen enough, I want to make sure I'm making the right choice." Usually that's bunk. For Ngakoue, it's true. He visited only a handful of schools before committing to Maryland, almost all of them local and none of them big names. I don't believe he took a single official visit. He went from being completely wide open to committing, almost randomly. He genuinely hasn't seen enough to feel truly confident in his choice.
So the regular rules don't necessarily apply; it's conceivable that he just genuinely doesn't know where he wants to be, instead of knowing he doesn't want to be at Maryland, which is usually the case for decommits. So Edsall, Locks, & Co. actually probably are still under consideration, and this has more or less just become a regular recruitment again. He'll go on a few visits and open it back up, but there's no Alabama or USC on his list to make you think this one's done. If Maryland can show something this year, especially with four winnable games coming up, I'd wager that they have a solid shot at getting him back in the fold.
And, of course, there's the strong Maryland contingent at Friendship Collegiate, his high school. With Derwin Gray still hopefully in the fold and in his ear, Maryland has an advantage shared by no one else in this equation.
Like I said, these guys are committing under the premise of overseeing a local turnaround. Maryland needs to prove to them that's possible. Get to six wins and they'll believe that they're the missing piece. Go 4-8, and Ngakoue will probably go elsewhere - and maybe Derwin Gray behind him.
Not hitting the panic button yet. But it's time to win some games, folks.