Football Recruiting Reset: Reassessing Maryland's Standing on the Trail

Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

It's a bye week, which means the staff starts to focus on recruiting. Why don't we do the same?

Take a look at Randy Edsall's schedule for his bye week, and you'll notice a common thread: recruiting. Four days were set aside for the task, with the head man hitting the trail for three of them. Last year he put his bye week to good use, getting an early look at Shane Cockerille, current Terrapin commit, which allowed him to offer the Gilman star before anyone else. Expect him to do the same this time around, not only making appearances and visits at local high schools, but also taking in some of the best games the local prep scene has to offer. (And there are quite a few games worth watching: Dunbar, H.D. Woodson, Gilman, DeMatha, Suitland, St. John's, and a whole host of others featuring big-time talent are playing this weekend. Now might be a good time to have James Franklin's helicopter.)

And just as the staff will turn their focus to the trail, so shall we. Maryland hasn't had any big changes in the recruiting game since Andrew Isaacs flipped to the Terps from Boston College back in August - at least not until Monday's heart-breaker - but there has been plenty of movement, both in the 2013 and 2014 classes. And with no previews and Q&As to worry about, there's no better time to break it all down than a bye week.

Speaking of Monday's heart-breaker: Yannick Ngakoue's decommitment dropped Maryland to 84 (by my count) committed scholarships for next season, leaving them just short of the 85-upper-limit. But with attrition so rampant in college football - between injuries, transfers, suspensions, transfers, players going pro, and did I mention transfers? - most programs go into spring football with 90 (or even more) scholarships committed. So while Edsall doesn't have a particularly wide berth, there's some space to play around. You can take a look at Maryland's current scholarship situation here, with things broken down by both position and year. (That, my friends, is what you call a QB logjam.)

[UPDATE: Well, this was well-timed. The scholarship totals shrink down again, this time after Tanner Hartman switches from Maryland to Penn State. That is quite possibly the most meh decommitment of all time: with Madaras, Zeller, and Brigham all ahead of him and Dulaney, hopefully Gray, and maybe Rodgers alongside, the odds he was ever going to see meaningful snaps were always going to be long. His commitment was somewhat head-scratching to start with; Penn State seems like a better destination for him. He'll get early snaps because they're decimated, and he's hoping that by the time he's a senior they'll be back as a national program.]

But let's go a bit deeper, position-by-position, and figure out where Maryland stands and who they're targeting to add.

Quarterback

Next Year As It Stands:

Maryland will have no lack of options under center in a year's time, with C.J. Brown back from injury (and probably a de facto junior, assuming he wins the medical hardship waiver), Ricardo Young eligible, Perry Hills with a year of experience, Elite 11 QB Shane Cockerille in the program, and Caleb Rowe having digested the system for a season. Devin Burns will likely move back to wide receiver, unless he establishes himself as a Wildcat option with Hills as the main guy. But no matter how you look at it, one thing's clear: Randy Edsall and Mike Locksley will have choices next season.

On The Trail: Things are done for the 2013 class, with Cockerille in tow and too many QBs as it stands. But with Brown potentially leaving the program after next season (if he isn't the starter and doesn't want to stay around another year), Burns back at receiver, and another (Hills/Rowe) likely having transferred, they should be back in the market by 2014. And the good news there: they'll have options then, too, especially locally. The Maryland area hardly ever produces really good QBs, but in 2014 there are two BCS-quality guys. First is Will Ulmer, a dual-threat type currently at St. John's. He's raved over Maryland already, and some consider the Terrapins the early favorite.

The other, William Crest at Dunbar (Baltimore), is as good a young quarterback as I've seen. (Note: not a recruiting expert. But as a casual recruitnik, whoa.) It's too early to go making predictions and bestowing monikers, but if he keeps things up, you have to think he's a five-star (or at least borderline five-star). Take a gander at his highlight reel (this is when he's a sophomore) and gawk. He has the athleticism to get out and run, but he seems perfectly comfortable in the pocket. Great footwork, metronymic release, and the ball looks wonderful coming out of his hand. Maryland faces a serious uphill battle with him, but if they can grab him, watch out. Because not only will other big-name locals follow his lead; they'll have a true potential star on their hands.

And heck maybe even better than either of those two is Caleb Henderson, a Northern Virginia native. I'm not sold Maryland will be in play, but while we're discussing pipe dreams, throw him in there too.

Running Back/Full Back

Next Year As It Stands:

Maryland's still trying to settle down its four-headed running back monster, and each of Justus Pickett, Brandon Ross, Wes Brown, and Albert Reid should be back next year, barring something unforeseen. Meanwhile, both Tyler Cierski and Kenneth Goins should be good to go at fullback. In other words: almost nothing's different. Joe Riddle will see time on special teams, and both Richie Anderson and DeAndre Lane are slated to come in as young speedsters, but none of them should rock the boat.

On The Trail: Just like at quarterback, don't expect much to change this year. Maryland wasn't short here to begin with, and with added depth in the form of Lane and Anderson - assuming Anderson holds on - the Terrapins have more pressing needs elsewhere. There aren't that many big names to watch out for in 2014, either; local talent is largely concentrated elsewhere. Taiwan Deal from DeMatha is a bigger back with an early Maryland offer, and is likely a future three-star; Jonathan Hilliman is another larger guy, this time from Jersey City, who also has an offer. One of my early favorites of the class, though, is Treyvon Paulk, who stands barely 5-9 but is a strongly built 190 (and yes, Maryland's offered). Tell me you wouldn't love watching this guy play in a Stormterper jersey.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

Next Year As It Stands:

This is as loaded an area as Maryland has. Stefon Diggs is Stefon Diggs, and he should be All-American caliber by the time next season starts. Oh, and there's also Marcus Leak and Deon Long, both of whom are ACC-level starters, too. Nigel King will be the best fourth receiver in the ACC this side of Florida State, I'd wager. Move out to tight end, and while losing Matt Furstenburg will be a blow, the additions of Daniel Adams (a New Mexico transfer who played quite a bit in Albuquerque) and highly-regarded recruit Andrew Isaacs, plus P.J. Gallo and Dave Stinebaugh adding depth, should keep the position from falling too far. This bunch will be fun to watch as long as Maryland can get them the ball.

On The Trail: I do expect Maryland's staff, Mike Locksley in particular, to continue trailing Taivon Jacobs (current Ohio State commit) and Paul Harris (Tennessee) until Signing Day, especially if the Terrapins can find their way to a bowl. I wouldn't be surprised to see either of those guys flip, and if they do immediate playing time is a possibility. Otherwise, just like the other spots, it's on to 2014. No giant targets have emerged here yet, like Diggs was in 2012, but DeMatha has two talented, potential four-star types in Cameron Phillips and Chris Jones. Time to build back up those DM relations, Locks.

Offensive Line

Next Year As It Stands:

Sal Conaboy is perhaps the only nailed-on starter next season at this point, assuming he isn't injured, with Nick Klemm and one of De'Onte Arnett and Josh Cary also likely. But I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Ryan Doyle or Andrew Zeller sneak into a starting spot, either. While things are hardly settled, Maryland's line will be infinitely more experienced and probably much deeper come next season. But what should encourage you are the big-time pieces in place: Conaboy will be a three-year starter and that means potential all-ACC, while Madaras and Derwin Gray are as good as it gets as far as bookend tackles go. With Zeller and Nick Brigham around, too, that's a tantalizing group.

On The Trail: Two big names: Gray, and Na'Ty Rodgers. While Derwin didn't officially decommit with his teammate and friend Ngakoue, he is planning on taking visits, and to some pretty big names, too. That's a good sign he might not be as "100% solid" as he says he is. Keeping him in the fold is Priority #1, without doubt, and winning games will help. Whether or not Gray stays, Rodgers is a big deal on his own, potentially the best non-committed player on Maryland's board at the moment. He could play either guard or tackle at the next level, likely guard at Maryland, and as a four-star, top-250 type, would be another substantial piece to an already-promising line. Gray-Zeller-Conaboy-Rodgers-Madaras - that's a franchise OL right there, folks.

Once 2014 hits, there's another cornerstone lineman on the market: Damian Prince, a DMV native virtually nailed on to be a five-star and top-20 player in his class. He's physically a world ahead, standing 6-7 and 300 pounds, but still light on his feet. He's a teammate of current Terp commit Milan Collins, which could help, but Maryland will be fighting off the best programs in the country for his services.

It's a strong year for o-linemen, though, as Prince isn't the only local worth knowing. Sam Madaras, Mike's little brother, is a BCS-level guard, while Sam Mustipher is the one of the next big things out of Good Counsel. End up with two of those three, and Maryland will have as talented an offensive line as any program on the East Coast.

Defensive Line

Next Year As It Stands:

Gone are Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis, who have been rocks of Maryland's line for three years now. But Darius Kilgo, who's picking up invaluable starting experience this year at nose tackle, will be back, and Justin Anderson and Isaiah Ross will be capable, grizzled vets themselves. The big news, though, is the return of Andre Monroe, who was dominant at times as a freshman and will be healthy at the start of next year after missing this season with a knee injury.

It won't be the dominant front three that this season's unit is (and/or had the potential to be, were Monroe healthy). But it won't be a pushover, either, and I'm not all that worried heading forward.

On The Trail: There's one 2013 recruit Maryland's still really actively trailing, and that's Demetri McGill, a big Virginia Beach native. Measuring in at 295 already, he could easily play the nose tackle spot in the 3-4 - not an easy position to recruit to. Maryland's in his top five, and unless he has a weird thing for Cincinnati or the Terrapins don't have room for him, you'd have to consider Maryland the likely leader.

Just like on the OL, though, get to 2014 and oohhhhh is there a big name: DaShawn Hand, a Woodbridge native who's probably the best player in the country in his class. Big, strong, and fast, he can do anything he wants on a football field but seems especially tailor-made to play a Marcel Dareus-type role in the type of 3-4 Maryland's running. Don't get your hopes up - since when was the last time Maryland was a serious player for the #1 player in the country? - but I do expect Maryland to make it through the first few cuts so long as things go well enough this season. And after that, who knows?

Linebackers

Next Year As It Stands:

Maryland's been stocking up linebackers for two years now, and now you know why: next year there will be no Kenny Tate, no Darin Drakeford, and no Demetrius Hartsfield. Only Alex Twine and Cole Farrand will remain from this season's biggest linebacker contributors, and even they are only part-time starters. Those two are nailed on to start next year, with potentially Lorne Goree and Marcus Whitfield as well. But guys like Avery Thompson, Abner Logan, and even some of the true freshmen will be pushed into early duty.

On The Trail: It's all about Ngakoue. Or at least almost all about him. He would slide in perfectly to the weakside rush 'backer spot, and with Darin Drakeford leaving that unoccupied, he'd have a chance to get major snaps - maybe even start - right from the start. If he's not there, Maryland will be forced into some uncomfortable decisions. Get him back. Now.

If Maryland does really, really well down the stretch, they'll probably make a play at flipping Dorian O'Daniel from Clemson late. He's been a solid Clemson verbal for a long while now, but he's a Good Counsel guy and Maryland's made huge inroads there. I'm not sure where he'd fit in at Maryland - he isn't big enough to be a true 3-4 linebacker, I don't think - but he's talented enough that you find a place for him. Perhaps he'd work well at SAM, which is where Kenny Tate plays; the all-rounder of the scheme, it means a lot of blitzing, a lot of defending the run, and a lot of dropping into coverage. O'Daniel is one of the few who could do all three. But again, that's a long-shot dependent upon Maryland at least making a bowl to be even remotely possible.

Defensive Backs

Next Year As It Stands:

Only Eric Franklin leaves next season, so Maryland and DC Brian Stewart will have a relatively full secondary to play with next season. Finding the fourth starter to go along with Dexter McDougle, A.J. Hendy, and Matt Robinson might be tricky (can Jeremiah Johnson hold on?), but they won't be lacking for depth or even for experience now that guys like Davis and Nixon are getting snaps. The freshmen won't change things significantly, aside from maybe getting some snaps as specialists (Veii and Ross are lightning and could make a difference as returners).

On The Trail: There's the ol' Mike Parker saga, which had him committing to Maryland, basically no one recognizing it, and then everyone acting like it more or less didn't happen. He's gone about his recruitment as per usual, visiting schools and naming leaders, so I have no idea what's up there anymore. I just wouldn't count on him ending up in College Park. There's also a strange name recently emerging: Billy Vaughn Jr., a cornerback from LA, who's claiming Maryland interest. He's an SDSU commit right now, but ESPN really likes him and Maryland could use some more cornerback help. And, just like with O'Daniel, expect to see Maryland give a try at flipping Good Counsel's Kirk Garner, a current Virginia commitment who's likely vulnerable to a late switch if Virginia struggles and Maryland can challenge for or reach a bowl.

But if QB and OL are two of the dominant positions in 2014 locally, DBs round out that triumvirate. There is of course Jalen Tabor, who you all know and love. Despite whatever you may think of his recruitment, there's no doubting that Tabor is a shutdown cornerback, someone who could play right away and have a serious impact. But there's also D'Andre Payne, another DC guy who plays at Woodson and offers from every big school in the country. That won't be an easy pull, just like Tabor, but Mike Locksley is always a wizard with DC kids and hopefully that will continue with Payne.

Oh, and there's also Marcus Allen, a safety at Wise with an early Terps offer. (No, not that Marcus Allen.) Oh, and Troy Vincent, a safety from Gilman. (Yes, that Troy Vincent.) Oh, and Good Counsel safety Kobie Walker. Oh, and Forestville cornerback Marcel Joly. In other words: six BCS-level secondary players, all local. That's some serious talent. (ALL THE DEFENSIVE BACKS!)

***

For the TL;DR folks, the 2013 class is mostly done; it's all about holding into Gray and Ngakoue, making a run at Na'Ty Rodgers and maybe one or two others on defense, and then flipping whoever Locksley can flip down the stretch. It's not a complicated situation.

But if you've paid attention, there are two trends may that pop out. First, Maryland doesn't look in desperate need anywhere on the field. And that's pretty true. Unless there's a ton of attrition in one particular spot, the Terrapins have a relatively well-balanced roster, with plenty of top-level athleticism. The experience isn't there yet, and maybe they'll never have the power to challenge the best of the SEC or Big Ten, but they don't need to. This team is about speed and explosiveness, and they have that everywhere and they have it in spades in their depth.

Secondly and more importantly: look at the talent that's around in 2014. Three likely top-20 players and five-stars in Hand, Tabor, and Prince. Another handful of legitimate four-stars in the secondary and on the offensive line. Two legitimate top-100 quarterbacks between Henderson and Crest. There's as much top-level talent in the 2014 class locally as there's ever been. It's pretty similar to the Diggs-Goldman-Darby combo in 2012, and could even top it.

This time, Maryland will want to be in position to capitalize on that type of talent, and it looks like they will be. Mike Locksley is already in place, which gives the Terrapins their USP for the DC guys. Stefon Diggs' name is growing bigger and bigger each game, and with it other recruits realize they could do the same. Under Armour continues to pump out interesting uniform combos that will keep Maryland in kids' minds and keep it a cool brand.

The only thing missing is wins. I feel like a broken record, but the point stands: this season's record is useless for this season. It's a rebuilding year, and results aren't that important to me. But it's so, so important for recruiting. Because say Maryland gets to a bowl game: then they likely hold onto Gray and maybe Ngakoue, maybe they flip a few down the stretch and finish strong. And that sets up a ton of momentum heading into a talent-laden 2014 year, with recruits buying into the idea of Maryland as a rising program, built by DMVers. Win a few early on next season, and with Locksley driving the recruiting ship all bets are off on what could happen next.

It's all difficult, of course, and nothing's guaranteed. But 2014 is a rare class, a top-end haul that matches (or exceeds) any area in the country. Miami? LA? Houston? The best of their 2014 class won't match up to Hand, Prince, and Tabor. Last time that happened, Maryland was caught flat-footed and they missed a golden chance to accelerate their rise. This time around, they'll need to be more opportunistic.

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