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Maryland football reins in top-20 recruiting class in Mike Locksley’s first full cycle

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The 21 signees figure to play integral parts in shoring up the roster balance moving forward.

Maryland v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

When Maryland football head coach Mike Locksley took over the Terrapin program in January 2019 he had his sights set on one group of recruits in particular.

“[2021] was the class we targeted,” Locksley said. “I knew that relationship building was about a two-year cycle...and knowing how great a class this area had locally, as well as our ability to continue to stretch all throughout the country to get players, we put a lot of point of emphasis on this one.”

The DMV area was home to seven of the top 100 players in the Class of 2021, led by Oklahoma signee, quarterback Caleb Williams. The Terps only managed to pull in one of the seven supreme local talents, four-star defensive end Demeioun Robinson, but Locksley and his staff still put Pink Floyd’s The Wall around the immediate area.

Maryland’s 2021 haul featured 21 signees on the first day of the early signing period. Of those 21, 14 players hail from the DMV area with one prospect each coming from neighboring Delaware and Pennsylvania. Locksley and his staff landed four of the top-20 players in Maryland and three of the top-six in the District, highlighted by top-300 national prospects Taizse Johnson (No. 255) and Tommy Akingbesote (No. 262).

“I’m also really proud of how we’re able to keep quite a few of our local players from the DMV here at home,” Locksley said. “Tremendous amount of talent in this area, I think this is a byproduct of the coaching that’s continued to get better and better in this area, and it’s reflected in the type of schools that all come to the DMV to recruit players.”

When desired talent from the DMV slips away to other programs, the Maryland staff has been able to attack the fertile recruiting ground of Florida to shore up loose ends. This cycle, that included defensive back Corey Coley Jr. and tight end Weston Wolff locking-in early, as well as four-star linebacker Branden Jennings and three-star defensive end Darrell Jackson flipping their commitments to the Terps just ahead of signing or during the period.

Locksley, who spent 2003-04 as a position coach at the University of Florida, has always been fond of the Sunshine State’s talent. With the assistance of inside linebackers coach George Helow, a Jacksonville native, and defensive line coach Brian Williams, a Miami native who also coached in Tallahassee, the staff was able to drum up support and make waves.

“This is still a relationship based business,” Locksley said.

The 2021 recruiting class also keys in heavily on defense, with 12 of the 21 players projected to the defensive side of the ball. Nine of the 12 defensive players also fall into the front seven as the staff worked to lock up the other side of the trenches this year.

“The holy trinity of success in football starts with having a dominant offensive line, which we tried to utilize it and shore up in last year’s recruiting class,” Locksley said. “[It also includes] having a dominant defensive line, which I think we met the needs that we were looking for. And then having a quarterback, and I feel really good about the quarterback we have in our system.”

With Taulia Tagovailoa proving to be a difference-maker at quarterback, improved offensive line play after signing six recruits in the 2020 class and having a loaded receiver room, Maryland was able to key in at two offensive needs for the 2021 class — running back and tight end.

The Terps entered the 2020 campaign with just four scholarship running backs, including two seniors in Jake Funk and Tayon Fleet-Davis. Locksley and his staff built on the additions of freshmen Isaiah Jacobs and Peny Boone from last class by bringing in three running backs and a full back.

The St. John’s backfield tandem of 6-foot, 265 pound Antwain “Baby Bus” Littleton and fellow three-star Colby McDonald made the move to College Park, and could prove to be a strong one-two punch. John Carroll three-star running back Roman Hemby was a First Team All-MIAA selection in 2019 and figures to be an underrated find by the coaching staff.

Locksley and his staff also worked to bring in H-back Joe Bearns III from St. Frances Academy, who has shown strong blocking and receiving abilities that could add an extra layer to the offensive system.

The Terps have struggled in recent years to add the layer of strong tight end play to the offense due to differing schemes and the absence of Chigoziem Okonkwu in 2020, but they added three key players in this class.

Three-star recruits Weston Wolff, from Florida, and CJ Dippre, from Pennsylvania, come to College Park not only as recruit Nos. 44 and 46 at their position, but with a tight bond as well.

Wolff is a 6-foot-5 receiving prospect who has moved inside to utilize his frame, while Dippre is a physical prospect that can be deceptive in his abilities as an athlete. Local prospect Leron Husbands is another balanced player who rounds out the deep tight end class, coming in as the No. 64 recruit at the position this cycle.

All in all, Locksley and his staff were able to sign the highest percentage of committed prospects, with 21 of 22 recruits officially joining the program. The class stands at No. 19 in the nation and No. 4 in the Big Ten after the madness of flips and shuffling.

Looking forward, Maryland still has one Class of 2021 commitment who has not signed, three-star Ohio linebacker Andrew “Bam” Booker. The Terps are also in the running for five-star linebacker Terrence Lewis, the No. 16 overall player in the class, who will announce his decision between Maryland and Tennessee on Jan. 2.

Locksley and his staff still have some wiggle room to try and fill up the roster how they please with the second signing window in February and the typical offseason transfer portal madness.

“We didn’t use all of our scholarships up today,” Locksley clarified Wednesday. “We have a little rainy day fund because you never know what happens after signing day.”