Analysts weigh in on Terps' 2011 recruiting class
One year ago the Maryland football program weathered a tumultuous 2-10 season and a seemingly unstable coaching situation by landing a recruiting class ranked in the upper half of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
This year, it appears that the Terps’ past has caught up to them. The dismal 2009 campaign and the uncertainty that followed, combined with the departure of ace recruiter James Franklin to Vanderbilt and the unexpected firing of coach Ralph Friedgen, have led to what most analysts think is a solid yet unspectacular first recruiting class for Randy Edsall's Maryland program.
“I think overall it’s an average or below average class for Maryland this year,” said Mike Farrell, national football recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. “I think a lot of that has to do with the instability with the coaching situation even before this year. … When they started winning [in 2010], it was too late. Most of the kids from the state of Maryland were looking elsewhere and had already established relationships with other programs. Then you have a coaching transition on top of it, and there’s absolutely no way that this class would finish in the top of the ACC.”
Tom Lemming, CBS College Sports Network and MaxPreps.com’s football recruiting expert, called the Terps’ 2011 class “not bad, not great.”
“The coaching change hurt, but the old staff had done a decent job with the players,” Lemming said. “This staff is just trying to kind of rally, circle the wagons and make sure they have quality athletes coming in. It’s not going to be a great class, and you won’t know how good the staff is [in recruiting] until next year. In the conference, they’ll be near the bottom, but that’s to be expected with the coaching change.”
Maryland is poised to sign a 19-man class -- give or take a recruit or two -- Wednesday on National Signing Day. Rivals.com currently rates the Terps’ group as the No. 44 class nationally and the ninth-best class in the ACC. The majority of Maryland’s class was assembled prior to Friedgen’s dismissal, leaving Edsall the challenging task of keeping those commitments solid while also trying to get involved late with a few other key targets.
“All the other schools had an 11-month head start on you,” said J.C. Shurburtt, national recruiting analyst for 247Sports.com. “We all know recruiting is about relationships. It’s tough to establish good relationships in a short period of time. What [Edsall] did a good job of was holding on to the majority of guys that were in the class that had already committed to Maryland. … It’s tough to put together a top, top class when you have a coaching change, but there are some guys in this class that I really like.”
While the vast majority of Maryland’s class has stayed intact since the coaching change, the Terps have parted ways with three Friedgen recruits: Fork Union (Va.) offensive tackle Larry Mazyck (Vanderbilt), Milford Academy (N.Y.) safety Rodman Noel (North Carolina State), and Hertford County (N.C.) defensive end Dontez Tyler (Old Dominion). DeMatha running back Delonte Morton – who committed to the Terps last March – is expected to miss the cut academically and not be a part of Maryland’s class.
Ryan Malleck, a three-star tight end recruit from Point Pleasant Borough High in New Jersey, switched his commitment from Maryland to Virginia Tech last week. The biggest question mark heading into Signing Day is whether the Terps will land Bowie cornerback Jeremiah Hendy, a three-star prospect and the No. 8 player in Maryland according to Rivals.com. Hendy, who was recruited by Franklin and committed last spring, is reportedly also considering Iowa, North Carolina State and Virginia.
“I really like the Hendy kid because he’s got such a great upside,” Farrell said. “He’s tall and he can run, he’s lanky and long. And he’s the type of kid that I think can be a special player for them.”
Said Shurburtt: “I think if they did get Jeremiah Hendy back in the fold, which they have a shot at doing, that would be very important. He’s an excellent player.”
While Edsall focused much of his energy on solidifying commitments, he also hit the trail to nab two of the Terps’ more promising prospects of the class. Keith Bowers, a 6-foot-1, 265-pound defensive tackle, committed to the Terps last week. The three-star prospect is one of five players in Maryland’s class from Florida – which is recruited by defensive coordinator Don Brown. The other Edsall pledge came from Quinton Jefferson, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound defensive end from Pittsburgh-area powerhouse Woodland Hills.
“I like him a lot,” said Scout.com recruiting analyst Matt Alkire. “He’s got a big frame. ... I still think he’s getting taller. He doesn’t have a whole lot of [bulk] on him. He’s got a lot of growing to do. He could get up into that 265-range. He’s an athletic kid, he’s rangy, he’s got a quick burst off the line. I think he’s a kid that Randy Edsall probably hasn’t had in the past in terms of talent, and he will really be able to develop him into a nice player. I do like Quinton a lot.”
Bob Lichtenfels, Scout.com’s East regional recruiting manager, had a similar assessment of Jefferson’s game.
“The difference in that kid between his junior year and his senior year was phenomenal,” Lichtenfels said. “I think he had 15 sacks this year. Woodland Hills plays [4A] football, the biggest in the state, advanced to [Pittsburgh’s] championship game. Physically, he’s nowhere near where he’s going to be. He has a chance to be a pretty special kid. Once he gets in the strength and conditioning program, if he redshirts and is able to build up his body, I think he has a very high ceiling.”
The consensus take on Maryland’s class is that it’s high on sleepers and short on instant-impact players. Shurburtt thinks Makinton Dorleant, a three-star cornerback from Lely High in Naples, Fla., will eventually be a “big contributor” for the Terps. Lichtenfels likes the potential of wide receiver Tyrek Cheeseboro, a Milford Mill grad who spent the fall at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia and has already enrolled in College Park. Farrell sees Nate Clarke, a teammate of Cheeseboro’s at Fork Union, as an intriguing offensive line prospect with upside. And Alkire expects big things from Cole Farrand, a two-star linebacker from Green Pond, N.J.
“Cole wasn’t highly productive in high school, but he was all over the field,” Alkire said. “He’s a very active player with a great nose for the ball. He’s kind of that field general type of kid. Not a whole lot of people at Maryland are even talking about him. He’s probably the unsung player in the class, but I think he could be a real nice player for them.”
Most analysts felt Maryland did a solid job addressing needs at key positions. At wide receiver, the Terps are bringing in three three-star prospects in Cheeseboro, Parkwood (N.C.) High’s Marcus Leak and Oak Ridge (N.C.) Military Academy’s Nigel King, who has enrolled early and will participate in spring practice along with Cheeseboro and Clarke. Offensive line and the secondary were also clear points of emphasis for the Maryland staff.
“I think they always need help on the offensive line, and I think they have some guys down the road that can help,” Shurburtt said. “Nathaniel Clarke is certainly a guy that can help, [along with Stephen] Grommer [of South Carolina and] Evan Mulrooney from Delaware. Ryan Doyle from North Carolina and Andrew Zeller from Pennsylvania are two tackles that are pretty good players. I like the defensive backs as well, certainly if they get Hendy back in. Combine him with Makinton Dorleant and Undray Clark from Florida and Lukas Foreman, a very physical safety [from Naples, Fla.], and [DeMatha’s] Michael Williams, a solid corner, and those DBs are a good group. The offensive line is a good group, the DBs are good and the wide receivers” are solid.
While Maryland’s class may be short on star power, Lemming said this group addresses needs and builds quality depth for the future. With the bulk of a 9-4 team coming back this fall, the Terps won’t have to rely on any true freshmen contributors. A team that seems built to win immediately can afford one less-than-stellar recruiting class. The next year, however, is crucial for Edsall and the Terps.
“They are all good, solid players. But there are no marquee difference makers in this class right now,” Lemming said. “It’s the middle to lower part of the conference when it’s all said and done. … They’ve got good, solid athletes, but next year they need to bring in the impact players. They have some on the team already. They can get by on one year without them. But they have to make sure 2012 is their year.”
• Click here for Q&As, season recaps and commitment stories on each player in Maryland's 2011 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.
• For more from Shurburtt, go to 247Sports.com.
• Tune in to CBS College Sports Network on Wednesday, where Lemming and former Michigan and West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez headline seven hours of Signing Day coverage. First up is a three-hour block from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., followed by four hours from 3-7 p.m.