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Maryland Football Recruiting: Patience or Panic?

A lot of people have been willfully ignoring football recruiting this year. We at Testudo Times are just as guilty as everyone else. Let's have a quick comparison - over the past month, there have been four posts on football recruiting here. Back when Testudo Times was in its fledging days of birth, 11 months ago, there were four posts about football recruiting in the first two days. Why the change?

Well, maybe it's because the football recruiting has been...mediocre so far. At least, that's the public perception. However, when compared to last year's class at this time, the difference isn't too much - both classes lacked a four star, and there were 7 recruits for both classes at this point last year. Are we being alarmist? Are we being reactionary? Or is this anxiousness justified?

Actually, it has been lacking. There is a legitimate reason things seem to be falling apart. Last year at this time, only three of Rivals' top 10 players in Maryland had committed to a college. None of them were to Maryland, FWIW. This year, 5 of Scout's top 10 (only Rivals shows commit dates, and only Scout ranks the recruits by state yet - sorry to mix rankings) have committed somewhere (not to Maryland), and one of them has already dropped Maryland from his list - that's double the elite recruits off the board. Another, Ego Ferguson, seems like a longshot/pipe dream at best. Last year, Maryland landed four of the top ten players in the state. If the Terps want to match that, they have to grab every remaining top ten recruit in the state, including Ferguson. Worse, the Terps are yet to land a big-time out of state recruit yet.

It's safe to say this year won't be last year. It's important to say, though, that last year was one of the best in Ralph's tenure, if not the best. Expecting that every year may be a bit unrealistic.

(Note: I find it ironic that as basketball recruiting has picked back up heavily, football recruiting has taken a downturn).

So, why has recruiting fallen apart? There's a number of possible reasons. First, maybe the kids just don't like Maryland. You can't have a great year every year - sometimes you get a crop of players that just don't want to go to Maryland. It happens. It's unlikely, but sometimes you get a class full of Sean Stanleys.

Second, making James Franklin the head coach-in-waiting could've had an unintended negative blowback. No, it doesn't make a lot of sense at first. Franklin's hire was supposed to assist in recruiting, not hurt - coaches couldn't use the "you don't know who the head coach will be" argument to recruits against Maryland. Not to mention, he's an African-American coach in one of the most racially aware areas of the country. This should've been a major boon.

There are two problems here - one, if they didn't know who the coach would be before, they know who it'll be now, meaning they know there'll be a change. Before, there was a likelihood, but it was uncertain. Now, it's certain that, at some point while they're on campus, there will be a major coaching change, and probably a lot of new assistants. I have no idea if this is actually a negative to most kids, but it seems plausible. The second issue is that Franklin suddenly becomes the lead recruiter and the guy who ultimately has to impress the family and the recruit himself, not Ralph. It's very possible that he hasn't yet become fully reacquainted with the area and his contacts. If he's still feeling it out and expected to be the closer, then yes, it's a stretch to expect a great class. There's also the possibility that the staff just isn't recruiting as well as they did last year, but that's no fun to talk about.

Now that we've been all dreary and dismal, it's time to focus on the positives - this class ain't over. TJ Clemmings just decommitted from Pitt (strangely, the same day he committed), and Maryland was #2 on his list. Zack Zwinak, near unanimously the #1 fullback in the country, still has Maryland on his list, and he seems like slightly less of a longshot than Ferguson - so do S Josh Furman and OT Robby Havenstein. As unlikely as it may be (even to land one would be a surprise), if the Terps landed that trio, a lot of people - me included - would probably be backtracking. Technically, Maryland still has a chance with Ferguson, but I wouldn't count on it.

The scary thing is that it doesn't look like the Terps are leading for even one of Zwinak, Furman, or Havenstein at this point. A whiff on all three of those would make for a very scary class - 0 top 10 in-state recruits.

The Terps do, however, have a good shot with many of the mid-level in-state recruits, like Josh AlaezeTyrek Cheeseboro, and Arie Kouandjio (Kouandijo is brother/cousin/some relation to Cyrus Kouandijo, a monster 2011 OL). It's scary to go without any big-name in-state recruits, but there are some bright spots.

There are some solid out of state recruits that still like Maryland -  out of VA, TE Josh Lovell has the Terps atop his list, while guys like Dontae Johnson and Shakim Phillips from NJ remain possibilities. Antonio Belt, a good WR from Hargrave in VA, is listing the Terps, and two big targets out of PA - Cullen Christian and Brandon Ifill - have Maryland somewhat high on their list. I'd also like to point out another pipe dream that has Maryland still on his list - #2 (some say #1) RB in the nation, Marcus Lattimore. He'll stay down south, but it's still cool to be in his top 10, and if they can by some miracle get him on campus, you never know what'll happen (no, you do - he's not going to be a Terp, but I still like that we're being listed - it's like when Kyrie Irving listed us).

It's okay to have a bad year every once in awhile. 2007 was a rather weak recruiting class - only Travis Baltz and Torrey Smith have made a major impact from that class (Bruce Campbell and Ronnie Tyler were class of 06, then prepped and came in in 07 - I don't count them as 2007 because they were recruited for 2006. If you want to count them as 2007, then 2006 was bad). Then 2008 and 2009 saw probably the two best recruiting classes in Ralph's tenure. I'm fine with a bunch of diamonds in the rough and under the radar type guys for this year if we can come up big in 2011. But that's a big gamble, and I'd prefer two good years.

Whether you should panic or not depends on how much you care about in-state recruiting. If you're of the belief that Maryland should land 5 of the top 10 in-staters, then you should be going nuts. If not, there's still hope. If the Terps can land a solid cast of out of state players - say Johnson, Lovell, and one of  Belt or Ifill - some good mid-level in-staters - like Cheesboro, Alaeze, Kouandijo, and Brandon Coleman (who could also play basketball for Maryland) - and two of the four top 10 instate guys remaining, when combined with the current players the Terps have, like QB Tyler Smith, the class actually looks pretty good. Landing all those guys at this point is a tall order, though, especially when you're lacking momentum the way Maryland is right now. Ultimately, this class won't be as bad as 06/07, but not nearly as good as 2008/2009. Panic? No. But there is cause for concern.