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For Mike Locksley and Maryland football, the early signing period is just the beginning

The Terps signed just six players Wednesday, but their new coach has a plan in place to finish the recruiting cycle strong.

Maryland football head coach Mike Locksley Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

Maryland football signed six recruits Wednesday, a number that can be encouraging or discouraging depending on how you view it. One one hand, the half-dozen signees are the smallest total in the FBS. On the other hand, it’s a majority of the Terps’ recruiting class, which had just 10 verbal commits when the sun rose and added an 11th in the morning.

It’s been quite the transition period for new head coach Mike Locksley, who was hired Dec. 4 and is still balancing his new job with Alabama offensive coordinator duties. He’s still building a staff, with four of his 10 assistant coach spots filled. Locksley has also said his first priority was to meet with members of the current team, get to know them and keep as many talented pieces in place as possible. (Some had put their names in the new NCAA transfer portal, which allows other schools to contact them. Locksley didn’t specify any names.)

Maryland obviously isn’t where it wants to be, but in a conference call Wedesday afternoon, Locksley was in positive spirits about the additions officially made. He also detailed his strategy for keeping the other verbal commits on board while continuing to bolster the class.

“Here’s the plan: most of the guys that have or were verbally committed to us, that are verbally committed to us, they all have been contacted, they all have been spoken to,” Locksley said. “The plan for us, as we put together our staff and complete our staff, is to utilize the month of January to go out and recruit and get to know them.”

Locksley reiterated that he has been in at least some contact with every current verbal commit, and that he’ll be able to focus in the coming weeks on solidifying a relationship with each of those prospects.

“It’s a two-part relationship: them getting to know us and what type of program we’re going to put into place, and us getting to know them and to make sure that it’s a fit,” Locksley said. “So that’s where when we talk about slowing down the recruiting process, we want to make sure that both parties know that it’s a fit. We have not dropped or not honored anybody’s verbal commitment to our program, but we do want to make sure that both parties have the opportunity to get to know each other and make sure that it is a fit, both academically, athletically and socially moving forward.”

The six players that did sign exemplify just that. Locksley previously recruited four-star receiver Isaiah Hazel to Alabama, and shortly after he was hired, Hazel came to College Park on an unofficial visit and spoke with Locksley for about two hours. The coach spoke highly of wideout Dino Tomlin, who’s not only the son of Steelers coach Mike Tomlin but also the president of his student council. Those mutual connections are a unifying theme across the early signees.

“Obviously, we have a lot more work to fill out and develop the rest of this class between now and the next signing day period,” Locksley said, “but I’m thrilled with the student-athletes we added today.”

Of course, there are several ways to build a roster, and Maryland will have to utilize every avenue. That includes graduate transfers, sit-one transfers and junior college recruits. With none of the early signees planning to enroll in January, per Locksley, it’ll help to have more players on campus for spring practice. And with much of the high-end high school talent off the board, it’ll help to bring in experienced contributors who can compete for starting spots immediately.

When it’s all said and done, Maryland’s class should be around double its current size. The Terps currently have (by my math) 22 scholarship spots to fill, and it’s likely a couple players will transfer out and add to that total. While Locksley said he’s hoping to turn this into a “full class,” which would mean around 25 players, it seems like somewhere between 20 and 22 is a bit more reasonable. Either way, it’ll make for a fascinating next seven weeks.

“The big thing going into it is, in the first year, I wanted to make sure that we’re not going to rush or have our backs up against the wall to meet this early signing period,” Locksley said, “because we want to make sure that we’re able to evaluate every kid and know that the kid is going to have the opportunity to help us and improve our team.”