Analysts weigh in on Terps' 2010 class
Conventional wisdom says a 2-10 football team would be unlikely to assemble anything but a poor recruiting class.
In the case of Maryland’s 2010 class, however, conventional wisdom doesn’t apply. The Terps are poised to sign a Top 40 class Wednesday, an improbable feat for a program that struggled so greatly on the field last season and had so much uncertainty off it.
“When you look at the circumstances, they did a very good job,” said Tom Lemming, CBS College Sports Network’s recruiting expert. “No one expected them to have a Top 40 class, but they will. I think that’s a testament to the stick-to-itiveness of [the Terps’ staff in] recruiting, even in the bad times. You have to keep pounding away and it worked.”
The Terps’ last-place ACC finish in 2009 made recruiting challenging enough. The late-season uncertainty over whether Ralph Friedgen and his staff would be brought back for another year added another degree of difficulty to Maryland’s task. But despite those factors working against the Terps, the UM staff was able to compile a class that ranks ahead of nearly half of their in-conference rivals.
“For them to finish in the middle of the ACC [in recruiting] after coming off a year like that and almost losing all their coaches [is impressive],” said Rivals.com recruiting analyst Mike Farrell. “They’re ahead of teams like Georgia Tech, Boston College and Wake Forest, who have all gone to pretty good bowl games in the last few years. So that’s a good job that they’ve done.”
Twenty-one players have made oral commitments to Maryland, while the Terps remain involved with a handful of uncommitted prospects -- most notably Bishop McNamara wide receiver Brandon Coleman. Four of Maryland’s recruits have already enrolled in classes at College Park -- Carver (Ga.) quarterback Devin Burns, Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy linebacker L.A. Goree, Dunbar (D.C.) linebacker Javarie Johnson and Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy defensive end David Mackall.
Goree and Mackall -- an Edmondson graduate -- both signed with Maryland one year ago but spent the fall at Fork Union improving their academics. Johnson, who switched his commitment from Miami to Maryland last month, is considered the headliner of Maryland’s class by most recruiting analysts.
“I really like Javarie Johnson,” Scout.com recruiting analyst Bob Lichtenfels said. “I think he’s got a lot of potential. If he can play linebacker at Miami, which was where he was going, I think he’s going to do well at Maryland.”
Rivals.com rates Johnson a four-star prospect, the No. 1 player in Washington and the No. 17 outside linebacker in the nation. Factoring in his early enrollment and the fact that he’ll be able to participate in spring practice makes predicting immediate playing time for Johnson a safe bet.
“Obviously the skill-position kids usually get on the field early, but the biggest get of this class, I think, is Javarie Johnson,” Farrell said. “They might grow him into a defensive end, but he could also stay at SAM linebacker. He’s the best player in this class, I think overall. [Wise safety] Titus Till is another guy who’s going to get on the field early. He’s long, athletic and can really run well. I think that’s an important get. David Mackall will get on the field early. He’s very good, and having the advantage of going to prep school and playing against college-aged kids is going to make him ready.”
The Terps missed out on their fair share of local players, as just two of Rivals.com’s Top 20 players in-state have committed to Maryland. But Johnson, Mackall, Till and Archbishop Carroll (D.C.) lineman Nate Clarke -- all Maryland or Washington natives -- represent the best of UM’s class, Farrell said. Landing commitments from those four, and other prospects from the area, was thanks in large part to Maryland’s coach-in-waiting.
“James [Franklin] is their best recruiter, so for him to remain on the staff really helps bring that class together,” Farrell said. “Moving forward, they have a tough sell ahead of them. All of the kids in Maryland know that if they don’t improve that record, and likely if they don’t go to a bowl game next year, that could be it. So next year’s recruiting is going to be a challenge for them. But [keeping] James Franklin on the staff was huge. To me, he’s the key, especially when you’re talking about the in-state kids. I know he’s not directly responsible for all of them, but when he was the recruiting coordinator years ago, he made a lot of connections at these high schools. That’s the reason why so many kids are coming there.”
For Scout.com’s Matt Alkire, the most impressive pieces of Maryland’s class came from outside the area. Abington Heights (Pa.) offensive guard Sal Conaboy, Norcross (Ga.) offensive tackle Max Garcia and Fort Myers (Fla.) Dunbar safety Desmond Kearse all caught Alkire’s eye as intriguing out-of-state prospects on Maryland’s commitment list.
The player with the brightest future, however, could be Wilson Area (Pa.) High quarterback Tyler Smith, a four-star prospect according to Scout.com. Alkire said he thinks Smith has the potential to be the best quarterback of the Friedgen era.
“Tyler, just from talking to him, he’s got that 'it' [factor] to him,” Alkire said. “He’s a confident kid but not a cocky kid. He’s a leader, and the thing I think I like most about him is that most high school passers are dink and dunk. Tyler’s offense is really predicated on making the vertical pass, stretching the field, hitting the seam routes and deep outs, having him read a defense and look off the safety. Tyler, in games, has really performed that well. On top of that, he’s a pretty good athlete. He’s not a kid who’s going to take off and sprint 30 yards every carry. But he can buy time in the pocket and get himself out of trouble once in awhile. So I think a lot of it will depend on just how well he assimilates himself to Maryland’s offense.”
The group of linemen that could be charged with protecting Smith in few years also shows promise, in Alkire’s opinion. Garcia “was a kid with offers from Alabama, Clemson, North Carolina State,” he said. “To be able to haul that kid, that’s a big pickup. I don’t care if he’s a three-star. It doesn’t matter.” Joining Garcia on the O-line are Jake Wheeler, a 6-foot-8 offensive tackle from American Heritage High in Plantation, Fla., and Conaboy, the 6-foot-5 guard.
“Another kid I like -- he might only be a three-star player -- but I think a special player is Sal Conaboy, the offensive guard from Pennsylvania,” Lichtenfels said. “I think he’s a very intriguing player. Maybe he won’t [make an impact] in the next one or two years, but over his career, I think people are going to be excited about him.”
While the bulk of Maryland’s class comes from the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions, the south wasn’t entirely ignored. At Signing Day two years ago, Friedgen said the staff would stop recruiting Florida. That changed this year, with the Terps landing commitments from three Sunshine State natives.
“Desmond Kearse from Florida is super skinny,” Farrell said. “He’s going to take at least two years to fill out into a linebacker. But he can run like crazy. ... Who knows, Jacob Wheeler is only about 260 pounds, but in two years we could be talking about him as an impact player on the offensive line. It’s just hard to project him because he’s really far away.”
Lemming, meanwhile, said he was a fan of the Terps’ third Florida commitment, Hollywood Hills defensive end Clarence Murphy.
“The Clarence Murphy kid out of [the] Fort Lauderdale [area] is small but explosive,” Lemming said. “He has a chance to put on 20-30 pounds and he could be really tough to deal with. He could be one of their difference-maker types. He needs to add more strength and weight.”
While the analysts agree that the 2010 class was a success, there’s also an acknowledgment that the Terps need significantly better results on the field to sustain -- and eventually improve -- their recruiting profile.
“I think a lot of kids are drawn to Maryland just with it being a strong ACC program,” Alkire said. “Obviously, they’re typically not a 2-10 team. After a couple years of 2-10, that’s going to be a problem. So right now, I wasn’t really surprised, but if that continues, I would be very surprised if they can keep that up.”
Click here for Q&As, season recaps and commitment stories on each player in Maryland's 2010 class. Check back with Recruiting Report later this week for more Signing Day coverage.
Check out Farrell’s Signing Day coverage at Rivals.com.
Visit Scout.com for more from Lichtenfels and Alkire.
Check out Tom Lemming on CBS College Sports Network’s National Signing Day Show -- MaxPreps National Signing Day Presented by Old Spice, which kicks off with a one-hour program from 11 a.m. - noon, followed by four live continuous hours of coverage from 3-7 p.m.