The greater-Maryland area is a breeding ground for elite college football recruits, but the hometown Maryland Terrapins haven't had recent success retaining backyard talents.
That is, until new Head coach D.J. Durkin began a recruiting push that practically nobody saw coming.
Until Durkin's arrival, Maryland was in trouble.
Following a 7-6 regular season with an appearance in the Foster Farms Bowl in 2014, there was enough appeal to entice local blue-chip quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. and linebacker Keandre Jones as commits for the 2016 class. They wanted to build something special in the place they grew up. They dubbed it "The Movement," using hashtags like #DMVtoUMD and #FearTheMovement to signify their commitment to reinventing the hometown program.
But as the Terps struggled through an abysmal 3-9 regular season in 2015, Maryland became less appealing as a destination by the game, prompting on-the-fence prospects to take their talents elsewhere.
Of the top 19 players from Virginia-Maryland-D.C. in the 2016 class, two ended up signing the national letter of intent with the Terps. Guard Terrance Davis and wide receiver Tino Ellis chose to stay home, but that's a fragment of what the class could've looked like. Brother of former-Maryland star receiver Stefon Diggs, Trevon Diggs, opted for Alabama instead of the school that made his brother's career. When former Head coach Randy Edsall was terminated, offensive coordinator and recruiter Mike Locksley opted to leave. And when Locklsey parted ways with Maryland, so did Haskins and Jones.
With a program growing more unstable by the day, the Terps needed a new head coach strong enough to bring Maryland back into recruiting relevance.
Durkin is selling 'The Movement,' and recruits are actually buying.
He's currently the Terps' highest ranked recruit, and chose Maryland over football powers like Clemson, Michigan State and the defending national champions Alabama. Anyone who's been following Durkin's recent recruiting success shouldn't be surprised by Jones' commitment at all.
Jones is currently the 11th commit for the 2017 class, and already the eighth from the DMV area. "The Movement" seems to actually be taking shape under the new culture that Durkin is creating.
"It's just a different vibe at Maryland now with the new head coaches and the [Hometown] Movement," Jones said. "It's for real this time."
College recruiting is a blood-bath that can change at any given moment. But as it stands, Maryland commands the No. 18 recruiting class in the country, and its done so with primarily homegrown talent. The composite ranking is even higher at No. 15 when you factor in the quality of the recruits, and not just the quantity. Durkin, a pupil of coaching icons Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer, is bringing his fiery personality to a team in need of an identity.
"Coach Durkin just makes you excited about Maryland," Jones said. "He's been telling me about staying home and being part of something big at Maryland, like building Maryland into Miami in the 1980s.
Other notable recruits include Joshua Kaindoh and Cam Spence, two IMG Academy products who have local ties to the Maryland-area. The last time players committed to "The Movement," Terps' fans were left with an uncertain outlook for their team.
Now, Maryland looks like an appealing destination to some of the country's best collegiate talent.