Recruiting Class Defies Expectations

Maryland Football

Despite 2-10 Record, Experts Expect A Top 40 Group

February 02, 2010|By Matt Bracken | Matt Bracken,mbracken@baltimoresun.com

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 mightily 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 coach Ralph Friedgen and his staff would be brought back in 2010 added another degree of difficulty to Maryland's task. But despite those factors working against the Terps, Maryland was able to compile a class that ranks ahead of nearly half of its 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 committed orally 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 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 defensive end David Mackall.

Goree and Mackall - an Edmondson graduate - signed with Maryland one year ago but spent the fall at Fork Union working on 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. Titus Till [a safety from Wise in Prince George's County] 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 in-state players 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 the Terps' 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."

Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow has said she expects Friedgen and his staff to post a winning regular-season record next season.

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