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Maryland Football Recruiting Enters the Stretch Run

Yellow mohawk? Awesome. Hopefully Randy agrees.
Yellow mohawk? Awesome. Hopefully Randy agrees.

We are now less than two weeks away from Signing Day, that magical holiday in the South and parts of the Midwest. In Maryland's case, it's a bit more of a tepid event, but holds increasing importance: the fanbase's current growing acceptance of the staff is based almost entirely on their recruiting performance and potential, and so February 1 has become critical.

The Terrapins have been recruiting at a crazy rate ever since bringing Mike Locksley aboard in late December, and with the recent addition of Brian Stewart as defensive coordinator things should move even faster. It's now Stewart's role to try to sell Maryland's remaining defensive recruits on his scheme and NFL credentials, hopefully garnering a commitment or two in the process.

The big target, though, won't be influenced by Stewart. Stefon Diggs, the Good Counsel wide receiver and Rivals' #8 player in the country, is the truly big fish still conceivable for Maryland. Absolutely electric the ball, Diggs is the type of playmaker the current roster seems to be lacking, the type of guy who can bust a game open with one touch. He often gets compared to DeSean Jackson, and while his build is better than Jackson's at this stage, it's not a poor comparison.

Diggs is down to Auburn, USC, Cal, Florida, and Maryland, which is imposing competition to be sure. The good news is that with Tosh Lupoi having left Cal, there's one less competitor on the list. He just visited Auburn and had a subsequent in-home visit with Florida, and Rivals' Mike Farrell has said that those appear to be his top two schools at the moment. I'm not the type to overtly doubt a guy like Farrell, but ... well, those are the two schools who last had a chance to see him. I'd be much more worried if he just had an in-home with Locksley but was still raving over Auburn; as it is, there's still so much time to go in this one, and so many more looks Maryland will get with him, that it's far too early to call. Hey - statistically, there's like a 25% chance.

The other big locals are Eddie Goldman and Ronald Darby, but both of those seem increasingly like pipe dreams. Darby has been adamant about his focus on FSU, Clemson, and LSU, while Goldman has also zeroed in on other alternatives. They'll keep fighting for both of them - what do they have to lose? - but once you're off a list, it's traditionally difficult to get back on, particularly with so little time left in the recruiting season. It happened with Diggs, but only thanks to Locksley; these changes came post-Locks, so it's unlikely we'll see them reversed.

No, the defensive recruits you should be monitoring are elsewhere. There's Korren Kirven, a defensive lineman from Lynchburg, Va., who'd be a important get for any number of reasons (like, uh, being a four-star top-200 recruit from out-of-state), but perhaps most significantly is a great fit for Maryland's new 3-4 look. They need to start landing the personnel for that immediately, and Kirven would be a great start: at 6-4 and 275 he's an ideal fit to man the weakside DE spot in the 3-4, or he could even bulk up some with that frame and end up on the inside (I'd much prefer him on the outside, but that's just me).

Kirven will be a massively difficult get for the Terrapins, as he's also considering Alabama, Tennessee, and Virginia Tech, with offers from all three. Alabama is likely falling off that list, since they lost Sal Sunseri and are still fighting for Eddie Goldman. Still, having to face Tennessee (against anyone) and Virginia Tech (against a Lynchburg kid) is a big uphill battle. His Rivals profile says he just visited CP earlier this week; we'll see if the Terrapins made up any ground there, as I'm guessing that he was the first recruit to talk to Brian Stewart about his scheme.

The other big defensive target remains D.J. Reader, and the North Carolina offensive guard/defensive tackle is simply massive: he was at 330 pounds last year and has since worked his way down to 306. That shows work ethic and willingness to improve, both of which are Edsall hallmarks, but I imagine the staff at Maryland will try to get him back up around 315 or so. He's a great fit for the 3-4 as a nose tackle, not a particularly easy position to recruit for, and in fact would probably be the heir apparent for the spot from the second he steps on campus.

Reader is a three way battle, with Clemson and UNC fighting it out with Maryland. I don't know how the staff changes at UNC really affected him, but his recruiter at Chapel Hill, Sam Pittman, wasn't retained and ended up at Tennessee, so I'd guess the Heels are a step behind. He's also looking to play baseball, which may or may not help Maryland: Clemson is a better program, but Erik Bakich is one of the best recruiters in the game. (If Bakich helps Edsall land a football recruit, give him a massive raise.) That would be a huge victory.

It doesn't look like there will be a huge push for any other prospects defensively. The only obvious target is Kenny Crawley, the four-star cornerback from H.D. Woodson in D.C. Crawley is a former Tennessee commit who split ways with the Vols shortly after Locksley was hired. That was very intriguing timing, and I've believed ever since that Maryland almost assuredly had to be in the drivers seat - Locksley's power is greatest among DC publics like HDW, and Crawley has insisted that his coach is handling his recruitment, which is a good sign for the Terrapins. He'd be a great late addition: his physical tools are without a doubt elite, and if Stewart, a longtime DBs coach, can mold him there's a chance Crawley becomes a shutdown #1 corner at this level going forward.

Offensively, things have really slowed since the commitments of Brown and Reid. Maryland is really focusing in on Diggs, and that seems to be one of their final stands here. They might also look to steal a current commitment, perhaps someone like DeOntay McManus who is now being considered a "soft commit" by most. Poaching commitments is a football recruiting tradition, after all, especially if the guy's been committed a long time, and that'll be another thing Maryland's staff will look to do. And, of course, they'll have to look after their own guys, particularly late-risers like Caleb Rowe, who probably got a host of offers after his string of strong performances in all-star games.

In terms of a timeline, I'd guess that most action and movement is done for the moment. Usually things will pick up a few days before Signing Day, with obviously the majority of commitments coming at the very end. But right now is when the work is being put in.

No matter how the class ends, it's miles better than it looked about two months ago, when things were extremely grim. That's an encouraging sign. Things could get even better in the 2013 class, which, while lacking perhaps the elite top-level talent in the state that the 2012 class had, looks extremely strong: 2013 rankings are starting to be pushed out by the recruiting services, with Scout giving four-star grades to locals Kendall Fuller, Dorian O'Daniel, E.J. Levenberry, and Derwin Gray; 247 went one farther, assigning early grades to prospects: Gray is at #16 nationally(!) and Levenberry is at #21, while Fuller, O'Daniel, Henry Poggi, Delando Johnson, Na'Ty Rodgers, and Kirk Garner all in their top 247. (See what they did there?) That's an impressive local crop.

After the season Maryland just went through, this is all about getting victories any way and anywhere they can. Even if they miss on Diggs and someone like Kirven, which is probably likely, the base is still there for a moderately impressive finish.