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On Maryland Football's Scholarship Numbers

We have lots to get to today news-wise, including some football staffing stuff and some basketball recruiting stuff. But let's keep the football recruiting train rolling, because this is the first time in years I've actually felt good about it.

Anyway, everybody's really excited about Wes Brown's commitment last night and the ensuing huge impact it could (and perhaps will) have on the rest of the recruiting class. (Stefon Diggs and Eddie Goldman!) I've seen a lot of people question how many more guys Maryland can take in this class, probably fantasizing over a half-a-hundred five-star locals. It's a bit of a stickier issue in football than it is in basketball, mostly because of the sheer volume of players. Anyway, common sense is likely telling you that Maryland has a ton of space in terms of scholarships right now, right? I mean after the Transfer Counter thing and all the attrition and the fact they were already three scholarships short and the middling recruiting class, it would only make sense.

So, is that the case? Well, sort of, but probably not as much as you had thought.

The N.C.A.A. allows 85 scholarships per team; Maryland was sanctioned down to 82 last season, but that's back up to the full number now. By my count, the Terrapins currently have 60 scholarship players returning from last year; that goes to 61 when you count the incoming transfer of Zach Dancel, and then all the way up to 84 when you count Maryland's 22 verbal commitments and one grey-shirt, Quinton Jefferson. If you want to see the chart, check it out here.

Now, two things: first of all, there's always significant attrition in spring ball. There were dozens of guys who would leave during the Friedgen era, and I imagine just as many if not more will bolt in the Edsall era. Right off the top of my head I can think of two players who still might transfer for Edsall-related reasons (no names, but both are from Georgia), another two or three who might have playing time qualms, and of course the loser of the QB battle in the spring might leave as well. Throw in the requisite two or three academic problems, the guys who decide they just don't want to play football anymore, and whoever doesn't qualify out of the recruiting class, and, well, that 85 number usually takes care of itself.

In fact, it was common to go into spring practice practice with 90 (or sometimes more) committed scholarships, a number which always worked its way down by the start of fall practice. If they absolutely must make room, there are options available to them. To start with, two former walk-ons, Ryan Schlothauer and Josh Cary, were both given scholarships last year. It's common practice in basketball to revoke those types of scholarships if they're needed; it's less common in football, but still possible. Schlothauer, in particular, is a fifth-year senior and should've already graduated, so I don't believe that would raise any eyebrows.

Actually, on that topic: it's also not particularly uncommon for fifth-year players to either decide they don't like football anymore or be asked to leave by the coaching staff. Most of the fifth-year seniors at Maryland are expected to be big contributors, but guys like Justin Gilbert (coming off a major leg injury), Devonte Campbell (stuck behind Furstenburg at tight end), or Schlothauer might be possibilities for that sort of thing.

I have very few worries about Maryland's ability to keep it down to 85 scholarships; they could take another 10 guys and I don't think I'd be very worried about their ability to keep it down to 85 scholarships. It's the "taking another 10 guys" that would be the problem.

See, the N.C.A.A. dictates that you can only enroll 25 freshman a year. Maryland currently has 23 with Brown's commitment last night, and they're still going hard after nearly a dozen big-time locals.

So how do they all fit in? Much like fitting in to the 85, there are a few options. The first is to do what's called "back-dating." Basically, if someone enrolls in the spring, a team can count their enrollment toward last year's class instead of the next year's class; that is, for 2011's instead of 2012's, assuming there's room. By my measure, there should be nine more spots in the 2011 class, which means there could be as many as nine early enrollees in the 2012 class that don't count against the 25 number.

Isaac Goins, the JuCo cornerback transfer, Levern Jacobs, the prep school wide receiver, and Quinton Jefferson, who grey-shirted (more on that in a second), will all enroll in the spring semester. That would give Maryland three more spots in the 2012 class, knocking that number down to 20. I wouldn't be surprised if guys like Madaras, Brigham, or Dean - all pretty smart guys who, I believe, go to privates - enrolled early, either.

The other option is grey-shirting, where some of the less-finished products take a year at a prep school and wait until the 2013 class to enroll. Joe Vellano did it, but it can be a little risky; players have been known to decommit over being asked to do it, and even if they don't that means there's another year of them being on the open market. Joe Riddle, Shawn Petty, Avery Thompson, and Malcolm Culmer could all be possibilities there, and that would open up basically as much space as the Terrapins needed.

So while Maryland isn't exactly floating in unlimited scholarship space, they're not really squeezed in that regard either. They could still take another five guys without blinking, and I wouldn't be nervous even if they went higher than that. Between the grey-shirt candidates and the more potential transfers, there's enough space to take anyone talented enough they want to take.