Buckle in: there are now officially a mere two weeks standing between us and the annual holy grail of football recruiting, National Signing Day.
You can expect that fortnight to be a hectic one for every school across the country, Maryland included, but I'd be lying if I said the Terps were gearing up for a frantic finish. The next fourteen days are never relaxing for any coaching staff, but they'll likely be a relatively down-tempo affair for Randy Edsall and his merry band of Terrapins.
Maryland comes into this final stretch with 19 commitments, three of which - incoming freshman corner Will Likely and JuCo transfers Deon Long and Silvano Altamirano - are already on campus. The vast majority of committed prospects - and, crucially, the most high-profile ones - seem solidly committed, and have been for quite some time. Aside from Kingsley Opara, who's publicly wavered on his commitment in the past, there seem to be very few flip risks in Maryland's haul.
(That said, there are some frightening rumors about Shane Cockerille visiting Arkansas this weekend, with it even on 247's recruit timeline. I'm yet to see any sort of traditional story or even so much as a tweet to back that up, and of course Cockerille's seemed all-in from the start, which would make it odd. For the moment, take it with some serious salt. But be wary.)
Cockerille aside, however, things seem relatively stable. That's good news, as it lets the staff focus its efforts more on adding a few names down the home stretch instead of fighting on its own turf trying to keep guys in the fold. And make no mistake: it will likely only be a few additions, a relatively lightweight finish compared to last year's big send-off. Oh, there's an off-chance of several additions, but that would require a lot bouncing right; instead, I'd expect at least one, possibly two commitments between now and February 6th, but there aren't many guarantees past that.
It's not as if the Terps don't have room; by my count, they have only 81 scholarships committed at the moment, well under the 85 maximum (and 90 or so that most teams carry into spring practice). Edsall's been operating under a slim roster for most of his time here, and I'd have assumed that at some point he'd start adding guys to make up the numbers, but that big class is something that hasn't come yet. No, the issue is that Maryland still has a relatively narrow group of targets - especially after Na'Ty Rodgers went off to choose South Carolina over the Terrapins.
That's a painful loss for Maryland, though you can expect them to keep pushing for a flip late in the game. And crazier things have happened, although I'd still say it's inadvisable to expect it. Either way, Rodgers' decision to head elsewhere pushes all of the focus onto Yannick Ngakoue, Friendship Collegiate's weakside linebacker and newly-minted top-100 player. Ngakoue's a big name, undoubtedly, and would be another statement recruit in Maryland's efforts to reannounce itself on the recruiting trail. But the competition is pretty fierce: he visited Florida State earlier in the month, was at South Carolina with Rodgers, and will be at Miami over the weekend before sitting down to make his decision. That's a scary set of competition, and you'd expect Maryland to be at the bottom of it with most kids. The Friendship Collegiate connection helps; so, too, does Mike Locksley's local wizardry ways. But he'll be a tough pull, for sure.
Most of the other targets at this point are going to be attempted flips or late offers borne out of necessity if a few players do end up decommitting at a position of need. There are, however, a few interesting names out on the open market that would provide instant boosts to Maryland's class, and with whom they stand a fighting chance (or better) at landing.
The newest prospect is Dan Monteroso, a 6-3 receiver from Ohio and former Boston College commitment. He visited Purdue last week and publicly decommitted from BC, and is planning a trip to Maryland this weekend before deciding between the two. You can bet that Maryland's interest in him (and vice versa) comes from the Terrapins' move to the Big Ten, which will give them a foot in the door with a lot of Big Ten prospects. Monteroso would be an interesting foil for a lot of the Terrapins' skill position guys, who tend to be of the small-and-shifty variety. Monteroso, while fairly athletic, is much more noticeable for his size, at a legit 6-3 with a substantial vertical and good build. He'd add some physicality and downfield threat to Maryland's receiving corps, although probably not seeing major time until Deon Long and Stefon Diggs have moved onto greener pastures.
You'd expect Purdue, the Midwestern school, to hold an upper hand there, but getting the last crack at him is always a bonus. And as a former BC commitment, he's clearly comfortable with the East Coast and getting away from home. Pulling him late would be an interesting addition to the class, especially given that it appeared for so long that wide receiver would be a focus for the recruiting year before falling off the map a bit (Long aside).
Jaylen Miller, a defensive end from South Carolina, is perhaps the biggest name (other than Ngakoue, of course) still on the board. At 6-3 and 260, he has the exact build you'd want for a strongside defensive end in Brian Stewart's scheme, and as a four-star on ESPN with offers from Tennessee and Nebraska, he's clearly a highly-regarded prospect. Maryland's been recruiting him since the start, and they're in his top four along with Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, and the aforementioned Tennessee. All three are southern schools, with Georgia Tech closest to home and Tennessee with by far the most glamour. But Maryland gets the second-to-last crack at him, with only Wake Forest's visit coming later, and WF doesn't seem like a big contender.
Miller's recruitment reminds me a bit of Korren Kirven's from last year: a big-name lineman clearly interested and willing to visit, but with a bigger, more favored name on the radar elsewhere. People were hoping for the improbable with Kirven, but instead the obvious happened, as it tends to do. The obvious will probably happen here, too, with Tennessee looming, but never rule anything out until he gets on campus.
And for a more familiar name, Jacquille Veii seems back in the picture, too. A local athlete who could play cornerback, running back, or receiver, Veii had been committed to Maryland for months before decomitting in December. That had been rumored to be a transcript issue, but if so, it's all fixed up, because Veii's visiting Maryland next week and will choose between the Terps and Iowa come Signing Day. Iowa's interest is nothing new, and he still picked Maryland over the Hawkeyes last time around; so long as there's no bad blood on either side from the decommitment, you'd expect him to do so again.
There are always surprises come Signing Day, especially with flipped commitments and out-of-the-blue signings. But these four names are the biggest ones on the radar that we know of, and developments between here and now will likely come from them.
While any combination would be welcome, there's no doubting one thing in particular: Ngakoue is the crown jewel, and the success or failure of the closing stretch probably depends on where he ends up. Adding Monteroso, Miller, or Veii would be nice, without a doubt, but Ngakoue continues to be the statement recruit, the one with the biggest impact in both the short- and long-term.
He's also, of course, exactly the type of local star Maryland needs to be building their team around. Not every Stefon Diggs is going to go to Maryland, and it's irrational to expect as much. But these borderline top-100 types are plenty good, too, and they're where Mike Locksley will need to be making his money. Derwin Gray was a good start, but a few other big names went elsewhere. A middling year on the trail as far as local recruits go would be understandable given the Terps' struggles on the field, but Ngakoue, in tandem with Gray and Cockerille (not to mention Deon Long, though he's obviously a very different story) would make the local haul far from middling.