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Maryland football could have its best recruiting class ever in 2017

No matter your preferred metric, Maryland has a chance to get its best recruiting haul since they started tracking these things.

Alexander Jonesi

There isn't much finality in college football recruiting. Until February, every commitment is verbal, and Maryland fans know all too well how meaningless verbal commitments can turn out to be. But they're at least useful as a predictive tool -- after all, most verbal commitments do stick -- and right now, they're a tool that suggests unusually great things for the Terps.

Maryland got its eighth commitment of the 2017 cycle on Saturday, when three-star Georgian receiver Sean Nelson threw his hat into the ring. Nelson is a big-time get for a school like Maryland in just about any year. By his 247Sports Composite score (.8577), Nelson would have been the Terps' sixth-best signee in 2016 or fifth-best in 2015, out of classes of 20-25 enrollees. This year, he's No. 6 -- out of eight, still nine months before National Signing Day.

We'll just get right to the data:

Maryland's 247Sports Composite class rankings
Class Avg. Rating Rank
2017 .8852 18
2016 .8440 42
2015 .8400 49
2014 .8453 40
2013 .8351 41
2012 .8299 38
2011 .8126 52
2010 .8425 38
2009 .8443 29
2008 .8464 46
2007 .8184 37
2006 .8294 27
2005 .8264 26
2004 .8269 17
2003 .8319 26
2002 .8365 30

Context is necessary: Recruiting rankings have modernized over time, and we're starting here with the first year (2002) during which all of Maryland's signees got rankings. It also doesn't account for all of history before 2002, but to that point, it's sort of nonsensical in the first place to compare modern recruiting classes to those from a generation ago. The recruiting game has changed so much and become so much more industrial that 2017-versus-1976, for instance, is not an apples-to-apples comparison. Now that we've got that out of the way ...

Yes, this could be Maryland's best recruiting class ever.

The 247 Composite aggregates and averages the recruiting rankings attached to every player, then spits out a final number that gives us the closest thing possible to a consensus evaluation of a player. Despite narratives about how "heart matters more than talent" and whatnot, recruiting stars do matter, and Maryland's never done better with them than it's doing right now, in DJ Durkin's first full class as Maryland's head coach.

The data mostly speaks for itself, but Maryland's eight commits so far have (by a lot) the highest average consensus rating of any annual set of Maryland commits ever. They're also ranked 18th in the country, just one spot off the No. 17 rating for the 2004 class. (Remember four-star guard Scott Burley and athlete J.J. Justice.)

Several of Maryland's current commits stack up as all-timers.

247 offers a lot of fun recruiting toys. One of my favorites is its all-time recruit tracker, which gives us a sense of how recruits compare to others at their schools over the course of ratings history.

The Maryland result this year is eye-opening:

Five-star defensive end Joshua Kaindoh is the Terps' fourth-highest-rated signee ever, behind Stefon Diggs, Wesley Jefferson and Melvin Alaeze (who never actually played a down in College Park). Four-star defensive tackle Cam Spence is 30th all-time, and offensive tackle Jordan McNair is 36th. Quarterback Kasim Hill is 42nd.

In total, that's four of the top 42 commitments in the history of the program, all coming in about a month.

Maryland's still in an annoying position within the Big Ten.

So, the Terps are recruiting right now at a top-20 level nationally. Pretty good!

They're also sixth out of 14 Big Ten teams. Pretty frustrating!

But that's going to be Maryland's life in the Big Ten going forward. As long as Urban Meyer is at Ohio State and Jim Harbaugh is at Michigan, two of the top five or six recruiting presences in the entire country will share the Big Ten East with Maryland. Despite his failings as an in-game coach, James Franklin recruits excellently for Penn State, and Mark Dantonio (Michigan State) and Paul Chryst (Wisconsin) are always going to be formidable. So, probably, will Mike Riley at Nebraska. Pat Fitzgerald is doing great work at Northwestern.

It'll never be easy for Maryland to win in this league, and the flimsy nature of verbal commitments makes it a definite possibility that this dispatch looks silly in a year (or two or three or four).

None of that should obscure the outstanding start Maryland's new head coach has put together. Durkin is working.