Until 2017, college football recruits couldn’t sign National Letters of Intent until February. Last year, though, a rule change implemented an early signing period for three days in December. A majority of committed prospects nationwide signed early in the 2018 cycle, and Maryland in particular inked 22 players in one morning (the class would eventually finish at 24 members).
That won’t be the case this year.
It’s been a chaotic 2018 for Maryland football. The fallout from Jordan McNair’s death and subsequent reports of a problematic culture ultimately led to DJ Durkin’s firing in October. The Terps hired Mike Locksley as his permanent replacement on Dec. 4. Predictably, the turbulence in the program significantly hindered recruiting; when Locksley was hired, Maryland’s class held just eight commitments and was ranked No. 85 in the country.
A pair of additions have raised that number to 79th, but there’s still a long way to go. And it isn’t going to happen overnight.
Locksley’s building process has been slow, both in staffing and recruiting.
When a new coach is hired, three areas usually consume the bulk of his focus: recruiting, staff building and managing potential attrition. Locksley said in a radio interview last week that meeting with the current players and keeping them on board was his first priority, and in other media appearances, he’s maintained that bringing in assistant coaches and recruits would take time.
A few dominoes have fallen in those areas, but there’s still a long way to go. Maryland has filled four of its 10 assistant coach spots, and it’s possible agreements have been made behind the scenes for other positions, although little has leaked out. The Terps have also added two new commitments, flipping four-star wide receiver Isaiah Hazel from West Virginia and landing three-star offensive tackle Mason Lunsford. Both are local products, which won’t be hard to get used to under Locksley.
This past weekend was originally slated to be official visit weekend for Maryland’s current commits, but with Locksley in Tuscaloosa helping No. 1 Alabama prepare for the College Football Playoff and a staff not fully formed, those have been pushed back. It’s unclear how many of the current commits have heard from Locksley or which ones would be a take for the new staff.
So expect a quiet early signing day.
It’d be a relatively low-key signing window even if all of Maryland’s commits were planning to put pen to paper. But most of those pledges are currently in a holding pattern, waiting to see who’s on the new staff and how they fit into its plans.
Cornerback Tayvion “Tank” Land, Maryland’s highest-rated defensive commit, and wide receiver Dino Tomlin, who joined the class in November, tweeted their intentions to become official members the 2019 class Wednesday. Hazel and Lunsford haven’t made similar announcements, but it wouldn’t be stunning to see them sign early as well. While others could join the party, though, it won’t be a big one.
The potential does exist for a couple wild cards, but this looks like a cycle where most of the drama will happen in January. Maryland’s class should nearly double in size when all is said and done, and it’ll be interesting to see where those additions come from. Players from St. John’s (D.C.) are all holding off to sign as a large group in February, and it’ll be interesting to see how many other local prospects committed to other schools decide to wait as well. Locksley and company will have a much easier time making an impression over the course of two months than two weeks.
Early Signing Day last year served as a culmination. This time, it’s just another step in the process.