COLLEGE PARK -- Despite the prevalent wisdom that Maryland cannot win with Maryland talent, the Atlantic Coast Conference champions start nine in-state products on defense -- 10 if you include All-ACC punter Brooks Barnard, who went to Broadneck High.
High school football, in the state in general and in the Baltimore area specifically, is not supposed to be of a high caliber. There were years when single high schools in Dallas or Miami turned out more Division I-A scholarship winners than the entire Baltimore metropolitan area. Forget Texas and Florida; transplants to the local scene argue that it doesn't even stack up to Pennsylvania's coal country or the Virginia Tidewater.
Maryland will end a bowl drought that lasted 11 years. Going after top out-of-state prospects became out of the question, as the Terps were shunned even by locals, having only 21 in-state players in 1993. Maryland began this season with 45.
"At any state school, whether it's Maryland or Virginia or Texas, you need to take care of home first," said Mike Locksley, who is in his fourth season as the Terps' recruiting coordinator. "Since I've been the recruiting coordinator, we have tried to identify the top players in the state, the guys who can help us beat Florida State. Every player in the state who we felt could do that, we have aggressively recruited."
College recruiting in football is not as exact a science as it is in basketball, lacrosse or soccer, where the proliferation of club teams and summer camps makes it easier to target prospects. In football, traditionally powerful high school programs may dominate All-America and All-Metro teams, but huge Friday night crowds may not be the best barometer for college success.
"A lot more college programs are putting less emphasis on what you do in high school," Locksley said. "There are always going to be great athletes, for instance, in Baltimore City and County. They may not be finished products, but they're great athletes. If it's a political thing and a kid is not getting the recognition because of his high school, that's not going to stop us from going after him if he's still a good player."
Locksley, who grew up in Washington, D.C., and played for Towson University, tracks the number of in-state players who receive football scholarships.
"You can definitely see a trend," Locksley said. "That number goes up every year. Last year it was 34 or 35."
Now that they have become a national item, will the Terps turn their back on Maryland prospects?
"A lot of colleges try to recruit nationally, and lose sight of the fact that there are a lot of players in their own back yard," Locksley said. "We're going to be in every high school in the state once a year, whether there are recruits there or not. You never know when the next E.J. Henderson [Aberdeen] or Durrand Roundtree [Lansdowne] is going to pop up."
Maryland's defense has prospered with local talent. Nine of the Terps' 11 regular starters played at state high schools:
C.J. Feldheim.......DT......Helped Hereford to its first state title in 1997
E.J. Henderson....LB.... Aberdeen won 36 games in his four years
Charles Hill...........NT..... Eleanor Roosevelt earlier had Jermaine Lewis
Tony Jackson........SS.....Sun's Athlete of the Year at Wilde Lake
Leon Joe.................LB......Went both ways for 13-0 Friendly in '98
Randall Jones........FS......Three-sport standout at Thomas Johnson
Tony Okanlawon......CB.....DeMatha always a must stop for recruiters
Durrand Roundtree...DE...Rare scholarship winner out of Lansdowne
Aaron Thompson.......LB....Sun's Offensive Player of the Year at St. Joe