COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland's football program has attracted few if any blue-chip players, but the Terps still had a solid recruiting class, according to several national recruiting authorities.
"When you consider the fact that Maryland started a month late in recruiting, that staff has done a tremendous job," said Tom Lemming, publisher of Prep Football Report. "They got some outstanding players from Florida and two of the best from New Jersey. It's not a great class, but it will be a competitive class. Overall, Maryland should be happy."
The Terps got off to a late start because head coach Mark Duffner didn't take over until Dec. 31. Joe Krivak resigned under pressure Dec. 6 after a 2-9 record, Maryland's worst since 1971.
But Duffner's reputation of winning (60-5-1 record in six years at Holy Cross) and a new recruiting campaign in Florida have apparently benefited the Terps. Maryland had at least 18 players who had committed orally before today's national signing day, and barring major changes, most will sign this week.
Two more players, cornerback Jonathan Simmons from Miami Central High and cornerback Kenyon Drayton from Boca Ciega (Fla.), committed yesterday.
Meanwhile lineman Duane Ashman (6-5, 260), from Fork Union (Va.) Prep, said yesterday that he will attend Virginia rather than Maryland or Wake Forest.
"Basically, Maryland's pitch was returning Maryland to the glory days," said Wilde Lake coach Doug DuVall. "Their feeling is they may lose a few games in the beginning, but that's fine. In a year or two, it will be reversed and the kids will have a chance to be a part of a winning program."
Kevin Walker, a wide receiver at Cinnaminson (N.J.) High, said Duffner also stressed the numerous majors (130) at Maryland, as well as the school's location and the Terps' membership in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Facilities were part of Maryland's appeal, according to several players. Byrd Stadium recently underwent a $13.2 million face lift that included new seats, a huge concession area and a five-story press box. Construction is under way on a $6.1 million football team center.
"He said the team was going to get new uniforms and had modern facilities," said Cinnaminson free safety Mike Nelms, who committed orally to Maryland but could not meet the school's academic requirements. "He said this was our chance to be part of something new and exciting, to re-establish a tradition. He had a way of getting you excited. I was sold."
Duffner, who had recruited in New Jersey when he coached at Holy Cross, received commitments from Cherry Hill East quarterback Kevin Foley and H-back Erik Henry, two of the finest players in the country, according to Lemming. Foley passed for 2,100 yards last season.
"Quite honestly, Maryland did the best of any college recruiting this state," said Cherry Hill East coach Bill Wood. "There was a time everything was put on hold because of the coaching situation, but we felt comfortable when Duffner was named coach. We knew him from previous visits done by Holy Cross, and he has the reputation of being a winner."
Maryland stayed mostly within its traditional recruiting territory of New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware. But the Terps also sought players in Florida and in Duffner's previous stomping ground, New England.
"There's enough talent in Florida to go around, and I think Maryland has gotten some of it," said Allen Wallace, publisher of SuperPrep magazine.
Maryland has gotten oral commitments from Florida players Drayton; Simmons; Brent Schrode, an Apopka offensive lineman; Dee Reed, a Pasco County quarterback; Matt Davenport, TC Tallahassee offensive/defensive lineman; and Al Wallace, a Spanish River wide receiver.
Lemming said Drayton is an outstanding prospect, but that Simmons may be the best of the bunch. Simmons turned down Miami, Minnesota and East Carolina. He had 125 tackles and five interceptions last season.
"A lot of the Maryland players committed are what you call seconds to the ones left behind by Florida, Florida State and Miami," said Bill Buchalter, a respected high school writer who regularly evaluates the national recruiting picture for the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel. Buchalter said there are nearly 150 major-college prospects in the state, of whom about 60 are signed by the big three colleges.
"Whatever is left, they're still legitimate major-college prospects and they're going to help Maryland's program," said Buchalter.