By the time Adam McLean was out of surgery to repair a torn right ACL, he was already thinking about getting back on to the field — "#TheReturn" he’s dubbed it. There are openings on Maryland’s defensive line and as the top prospect in the Terrapins Class of 2015, McLean figures that he can be healthy by the start of August he’ll have a chance to compete for a role, and maybe even the starting job.
Defensive line coach Chad Wilt could be desperate for talents like McLean when UMD opens the 2015 season against Richmond on Sept. 5. All three of the Terps’ starting defensive linemen from last season are graduating. Replenishing that line was a priority for Maryland in this recruiting class and on National Signing Day its poised to meet that goal.
"Coach Wilt definitely thinks I have the ability to come in there and be the starting guy," said McLean, who played at Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg. "We’ve talked about it. I don’t want to take anything from anybody else, but I want to come in and compete for the starting job."
McLean, who projects as a defensive tackle in the Terrapins’ 3-4 defense, is the gem of the entire class as a four-star prospect and the most likely to contribute if healthy — he knows he may have to redshirt — but the group around him is impressive, as well. Keiron Howard, Mbi Tanyi and Oseh Saine are all three-star recruits who could certainly contribute down the road.
For Howard, a long-term plan isn’t enough. He knows what the depth chart looks like for the next few seasons and sees openings that he can fill.
"That was major," said Howard, a product of Potomac High School in Oxon Hill. "I do actually want to play early."
There was, however, one key miss for UMD on NSD. The Terps were in play for three-star defensive end Austrian Robinson — and five-star end Byron Cowart, but that was never gonna happen — before he chose Ole Miss over the Terps.
One of the biggest appeals for the SEC-bound prospect at Maryland was the chance to play early, and that opportunity was nearly enough to bring him to College Park.
"I can go in and really make a name for myself. There’s just an opportunity to play early there," Robinson said. "You get a chance to showcase your talent."
McLean and Robinson had a good relationship since McLean was verbally committed to Penn State. Back then McLean was recruiting just as hard for the Nittany Lions as he now does for the Terrapins.
He remembers watching some of Robinson’s highlights and seeing a key similarity between the two.
"Definitely my energy," Robinson said. McLean and Howard both mention those as their best attributes, too.
"The kind of guys that Coach Wilt wants to put out there on the field," McLean says of this group. "Some of the guys are a little bit overlooked by other really big time schools and they have a chance to come in to Maryland and make an impact there."
That has to be the recruiting formula for the Terps to be successful in the Big 10: The Terrapins have to lock down the top local talent and hit on under-the-radar recruits from elsewhere. This crop of defensive linemen is a microcosm with McLean and Howard representing the locals, and Tanyi and Saine joining UMD without much hype.
There’s an almost entirely clean slate in the Terps’ front seven and the Class of 2015 will go a long way in shaping the future of the Maryland defense. At some point this season, the future may arrive sooner than anticipated.
"We’re just going to come in here and put our head down," McLean said. "I think we’re gonna click once we’re there."