When University of Maryland football coach Joe Krivak signed a new, four-year contract in November, it did wonders for recruiting.
Today, when the National Collegiate Athletic Association's signing period for national letters of intent begins -- running through April 1 -- Maryland is expected to have its best recruiting class since 1985, with at least five blue-chip players.
"I think Maryland may have moved back into the top 25 in recruiting classes in the country," Tom Lemming of Prep Football Report said.
The Terps had received 21 oral commitments before yesterday, and some of the recruits said Krivak's contract extension, as well as the renovation of facilities at Maryland and the Terps' bowl appearance last year -- their first since 1985 -- were factors in choosing the school.
John Kaleo, a former Montgomery-Rockville Junior College quarterback who was named JuCo Player of the Year last season, said he waited to see what Maryland's plans were for Krivak.
If Krivak wasn't rehired, Kaleo said, he probably would have chosen the University of Hawaii.
"His job status was a major factor," said Kaleo, who has enrolled at Maryland. "I always wanted to play for the state of Maryland, in front of my parents and girlfriend. But a new coach would have brought in a new system. It may not have been what I wanted."
The Terps have commitments from four solid quarterback prospects -- Kaleo, Greg Lister of Admiral Farragut Academy in New Jersey, Tom Marchese and Scott Milanovich. Marchese, from Dunmore (Pa.) High, and Milanovich, from Butler (Pa.) High, are regarded as the best high school quarterbacks in Pennsylvania and on the East Coast.
It is doubtful that any of the four would have attended Maryland had Krivak not been rehired.
Maryland has turned out some quality quarterbacks -- the Cincinnati Bengals' Boomer Esiason, the Buffalo Bills' Frank Reich and the Pittsburgh Steelers' Neil O'Donnell in recent years -- and most of the credit for their development has gone to Krivak, who was Maryland's quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator under former coach Bobby Ross.
Last year, Krivak said he lost several quarterback candidates because he had only one year left on his contract.
"Scott was looking for a team that wanted a drop-back quarterback,"said Gary Milanovich, Scott's father, who is the athletic director at Butler. "We had visited a number of schools, and Scott really liked Pittsburgh.
"But Maryland has that reputation with quarterbacks, and, once it was known that Krivak was rehired, Scott was very comfortable about attending the university."
Wilde Lake halfback Raphael Wall, who has committed to Maryland along with Randallstown halfback Larry Washington -- giving the Terps two of the best high-school runners in the country -- also said he selected Maryland largely on the rehiring of Krivak.
In addition, Wall said he was caught up in the excitement on the Maryland campus about a bowl game and the renovations. Maryland tied Louisiana Tech, 34-34, in the Poulan-Weed Eater Independence Bowl.
"I was impressed with the whole coaching staff, period," said Wall. "I just get the feeling Maryland is on the verge of becoming a top 20 team, and I want to be a part of that. When I made a visit to the campus, it was clean and the people were nice.
"There has always been a lot of talk about the renovations at Maryland, but now you can finally see them taking place. A lot of recruits, in the future, are going to see that, and they're going to want to come and play at Maryland. I watched the Terps play in the bowl game last year and saw what Mark Mason [freshman running back] could do for them. I feel that I can contribute in my first year, too."
Kaleo said: "The Weed Eater Bowl solidified my decision to attend Maryland. You can see this program is on the rise. Everybody wants to be a part of it."
This year's recruiting crop, which features a lot of talent at the skill positions, also has landed the Terps three solid linebackers -- Eugene Gray (6 feet 3, 215 pounds) and Tom Jerome (6-2, 226), both from Valley Forge (Pa.) Military Academy, and Mike Rodgers (6-3, 225) from Haverford, Pa. And the Terps will get a high school All-America place-kicker in David DeArmas, from DeMatha High, a brother of Maryland place-kicker Dan DeArmas.
"Maryland has a pretty good class, some marquee names," said Lemming. "They got four pretty good quarterbacks and one of the premier kickers in the country. I really like John Teter [6-5, 265-pound offensive lineman from DeMatha]. I'm surprised they could get both Washington and Wall; usually, the big powers take them right out of Maryland's back yard."
"Even though their recruiting classes aren't quite as strong, at least you can now mention Maryland in the same breath with North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Clemson as far as the league [Atlantic Coast Conference] is concerned," said Allan Wallace, editor of Super Prep magazine.
Despite the recruiting coup, none of the players appears able to help the Terps at their biggest weakness for next season.
The team's offensive line was average at best last season and lost two of its finest players -- tackles Clarence Jones and O'Neil Glenn, both National Football League candidates. Last year, the Terps ran mostly off-tackle plays, ignoring power plays, traps, dives or draws.
That's something the Terps can work on in spring practice, however.
For now, Krivak and his staff are enjoying their finest recruiting effort in his four years.