Maryland students are starting classes Wednesday, and they’ll be accompanied by eight new members of the Terrapins’ football team.
These players don’t get to experience some of the hype that goes with National Signing Day, but they get some benefits by joining the team now instead of after the semester ends.
For some, it’s access to the program’s trainers and medical care to beef up and recover from injuries. For others, it’s simply the chance to participate in spring practice and fast-track themselves to more playing time than they would have had if they waited to enroll until June.
Maryland only had three recruits enroll early last year: running back Jake Funk, punter Wade Lees and cornerback Antwaine Richardson. Lees needed as much education in the American game as possible after coming over from Australia, and Richardson needed to rehab after a knee injury. Funk just wanted to get started as early as possible.
This cycle’s recruits include some of Maryland’s highest-rated prospects, and many will at least challenge for starting jobs. Meet the newest Terrapins:
Deon Jones, four-star cornerback
Keeping up with the Jones'!— Maryland Football (@TerpsFootball) January 25, 2017
Welcome to Maryland, @DreamChasin_2. #Shell17 #DMVtoUMD pic.twitter.com/z207rstJ9w
He’s Maryland’s top-rated recruit, and he’ll be working on rehabbing his knee after suffering an injury that caused him to miss his entire senior season. Jones committed to Maryland in July, choosing the Terps over Clemson. Depending on how his recovery goes, he could be in competition for a starting spot next year. Jones, the No. 3 player in Maryland on the 247Sports Composite, is currently the program’s highest-rated recruit.
Markquese Bell, four-star safety
Welcome to Maryland, @MarkqueseB! #Shell17 pic.twitter.com/4KeMKb6bJu— Maryland Football (@TerpsFootball) January 25, 2017
Bell committed to Maryland at the Under Armour All-America Game earlier this month, and he’s another guy who could play a big role as a freshman. Bell is technically classified as an “athlete” for recruiting purposes, but there’s every indication he’ll play safety. He’s Maryland’s second-highest rated recruit, and since he’s healthy and can practice with the team this spring, he’s got a good shot at a lot of playing time as a true freshman.
Fofie Bazzie, three-star cornerback
From #DMVtoUMD, welcome to #TerpNation @UptopBazzie! #Shell17 pic.twitter.com/YrTnukogbx— Maryland Football (@TerpsFootball) January 25, 2017
Bazzie is another member of Maryland’s secondary, having committed in April. He wasn’t rated on Rivals or the 247Sports Composite back then, but he’s now a consensus three-star on each. Just like everyone else, enrolling early will help him challenge for playing time as a true freshman.
Nick Underwood, three-star linebacker
Welcome to the #Terp family, @under_nick! pic.twitter.com/lV4yOCSCJI— Maryland Football (@TerpsFootball) December 17, 2016
Underwood is a junior college product who committed to Maryland in the middle of December. He came to the Terps from Riverside City College, the same junior college that sent the team cornerback JC Jackson. With Shane Cockerille’s status unclear due to academic issues, Underwood is one of a couple players who could potentially challenge for a starting spot opposite stalwart Jermaine Carter Jr.
Tyran Hunt, three-star offensive lineman
The Hunt is on!— Maryland Football (@TerpsFootball) January 25, 2017
Welcome @tyranjhunt. #Shell17 #DMVtoUMD pic.twitter.com/AKmfuUvOJL
Hunt committed to Maryland in December as well, but only decided on Jan. 12 that he would enroll early. Offensive line recruits often need a couple years of seasoning before they’re ready to play, and Hunt now has at least a little bit of a head start.
Alex Woods, three-star cornerback
Woods is Maryland’s other junior college signee, coming to the Terps from Lackawanna Community College in Pennsylvania. He’s the 247Sports Composite’s No. 95 junior college recruit in the 2017 class, and should fit in somewhere in Maryland’s secondary, which is filled with talent and youth.
Bryce Brand, three-star linebacker
All about the Brand! Welcome @BSB_321. #Shell17 pic.twitter.com/lSQgxUgiVp— Maryland Football (@TerpsFootball) January 25, 2017
Brand officially committed to Maryland on Dec. 13, though his decision was reported a few weeks prior. He’s an outside linebacker who committed to Arizona in June 2016, but decided to flip to the Terps a few weeks after his official visit on the first weekend of December. Given Maryland’s relative lack of depth at linebacker, Brand could challenge for playing time as a true freshman. Enrolling early will only help his case.
Ryan Brand, walk-on quarterback
Keeping with the Brand! @RBrand_16 is a Terp. #Shell17 pic.twitter.com/6wi5GQjGjQ— Maryland Football (@TerpsFootball) January 25, 2017
He’s Bryce’s older brother. Ryan Brand is enrolling as a preferred walk-on, meaning he won’t be on scholarship this spring. Ryan seems to have a higher upside than most walk-on recruits, though. He spent last season in junior college playing at the College of San Mateo, and was a three-star recruit out of high school. He committed to Air Force out of Detroit Jesuit High School as a member of the 2015 class and played a year in the Falcons’ system before transferring to San Mateo.