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Less than one month ago, Randy Edsall was introduced as the head coach of Maryland, the first person not named Ralph Friedgen to embrace that title in a decade. For Edsall, all of his moves with a new college football program are firsts. Today marked his first recruiting class.
Edsall credited the incumbents on his coaching staff for their work recruiting in such a short period of time. Said Edsall, it was hectic but it was fun. Defensive coordinator Don Brown, wide receivers coach Lee Hull, offensive line coach Tom Brattan and assistant recruiting coordinator Ryan Steinberg all played a significant role maintaining contact with the recruits, and judging which areas the team needed to be addressed.
But Edsall had to battle more than just the clock. In the competitive war within recruiting, at least one head coach from a B.C.S. program made public he was targeting Maryland commits. One possibility: Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin, the former offensive coordinator and head coach-in-waiting for the Terps.
On the contrary, Edsall believes his honest, up-front approach with recruits and their coaches and families is compelling enough to overcome the obstacles. And he will exercise all of his powers to be a prominent recruiter for this team.
"The life blood of your program is recruiting, and I want to be able to touch as many parents, as many kids, as many coaches as I can," Edsall said at his press conference Wednesday. "As a head coach you have to be involved because it's important," promising to venture out to high schools whenever the opportunity presents itself.
What Edsall will be looking for during those recruiting trips consists of three specific criteria. Student-athletes who understand the importance of academics, who possess a strong work ethic and who have a strong support system to fall back on, Edsall said, will help the Terps to win an Atlantic Coast Conference championship.
Those measures are intended to provide a guideline of the kind of the players Edsall wants to coach. If they do consider graduating a priority, they are not welcome. If they are not willing to tackle the expected workload, they will not achieve success. If they do not strike you with their character, they cannot elevate the program to elite status.
Here is a listing of the 20 recruits for 2011 season:
1. Tyler Cierski was one of two running backs in this recruiting class. He is a true fullback, something Edsall felt needed to be added to the rotation in his pro-style, run-heavy offense. The 6-1, 225-pound bulldozer ran for 792 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, breaking six school records at Mill Creek High School (Ga.).
2. The other running back, Brandon Ross, was one of the two Delaware products Maryland added to their team, both of whom ranked among the top four players in the state. Ross, another downhill runner, will provide depth at the position after recording nearly 1,200 yards on the ground last year.
3. Tyrek Cheeseboro is one of five Maryland-Washington, D.C. area recruits. A three-star wide-out from Baltimore, Cheeseboro is a downfield threat with strong enough footwork and hands to make his presence felt in the short-passing game.
4. Wide receiver Nigel King hails from North Carolina stands 6-3, 200 pounds, and is the one of the three first-year players who will help ease the void left by Torrey Smith, LaQuan Williams and Adrian Cannon. King's build and athleticism is intriguing, and with help from Hull could help polish his route running.
5. Marcus Leak, the team's fifth commitment, provides a dangerous weapon for the offensive to use in open space. His quick burst of speed and punt return ability may help make an instant impact on the team.
6. Along with King and Cheeseboro, local product Nathaniel Clarke enrolled in the university this semester, therefore will be eligible to participate in Spring Practices. Clarke missed his senior season at Fork Union Military Academy with an ankle injury.
8. Stephen Grommer played offensive guard at Spartanburg High School (SC) but is expected to take on the tackle position with the Terps. His foot speed, size and athleticism makes him an intriguing prospect.
9. After re-opening his commitment following the departure of Friedgen, Evan Mulrooney honored his pledge to become a Terp once he was reassured Brattan would return to the staff. Mulrooney earned First-team All-State in Delaware last season on the offensive line.
10. Like Mulrooney, offensive lineman Andrew Zeller nearly took his talents elsewhere following the coaching changes at Maryland. However, Zeller stayed true to his word, despite offers from Oregon, Rutgers and Duke. His 6-6, 280-pound allows a high ceiling.
11. Late last month, defensive tackle Keith Bowers committed to Maryland after a 74-tackle, 15-sack season at William T. Dwyer High School (Fla.). Bowers earned a First Team All-Area selection.
12. Lining up next to Bowers will be one of the centerpieces of this recruiting class, defensive end Quinton Jefferson. The three-star prospect accounted for over 80 tackles and 15 sacks last year at Woodland Hills High School (Pa.), and can play at either DE or an OLD in a 3-4 system. He was Edsall's first commitment.
13. Cole Farrand will be one of two linebackers trying to work into the linebacker rotation after seniors Alex Wujciak and Adrian Moten graduated. Farrand played OLB, demonstrating a strong pursuit for the football and create havoc in the backfield, as well as cover in space.
14. Another OLB, Alex Twine, is considered one of the more underrated players in this class due to his smaller size. Regardless, Twine is a physical defender, who recorded 52 tackles, 18 for loss, four forced fumbles and three interceptions. He was an All-State selection after his senior season at Quince Orchard High School.
15. Undray Clark is one five defensive back commits, and one of four commits from the state of Florida. Clark displays good awareness on the field, excelling in deep coverage and reading opposing signal-callers.
16. Another Florida product joining Clark in the defensive backfield is Makinton Dorleant, a three-star safety who committed to Wisconsin a month before changing his mind. Dorleant is considered a sleeper cornerback because of his 5-11, 170-pound frame, but his man coverage skills and quick recovery speed makes him a strong prospect.
17. Lukas Foreman, considered a prospect at safety, doubled as a linebacker at Naples High School (Fla.). Foreman seems to be a great fit for Brown's attacking style of defense. He recorded 43 tackles and two INT, earning First Team All-Area.
18. The other notable name in this recruiting class is Jeremiah Hendy, the three-star cornerback out of nearby Bowie High School. Hendy committed to the Terps the evening before National Signing Day, Iowa the other program he considered. Edsall said his visit with Hendy and his father this weekend may have been the deciding factor. Last season, Hendy picked off five passes.
19. Michael Williams will be the third Terp to call DeMatha Catholic High School his Alma matter, joining Kenny Tate and Pete DeSouza. The cornerback is praised for his fluid turning, exceptional footwork, balance and closing speed.
20. Nathaniel Renfro is the lone specialist in the recruiting class. The Tenneesee punter did both punting and placekicking duties for Brentwood Academy, and will have to honor of filling the shoes of All-ACC punter Travis Baltz.
This year's crop ranges contains players from the Maryland and D.C. area, as well as New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee. For the most part, Esdall considers these regions the core states for acquiring talent. He said he was pleased with the five recruits hailing from within the state.
Scout considered Maryland's 2011 recruiting class the 52nd-best in the nation, ninth in the ACC. A report earlier this week from ACC Sports blamed poor local recruiting for the lack of four- and five-star recruits, and the top talent in the region taking their talents elsewhere.
Edsall claims that not every player fits the mold he has set for playing at Maryland. Therefore, he does not invest too much in the stars next to a recruit's names or their hometowns. Instead, he pays more attention to the calendar.
"People get caught too much on these rankings. I've been in [college football] over 30 years and I've been at all different levels. The only ranking that really matters is what me and my staff thinks," Edsall barked. "We might not have had recruiting classes that ranked that high but we went out and won the games. The bottom line is winning games."
Edsall would not name any programs in specific, but let it be known that even the best recruiting classes doesn't equate to national championships. "You don't win the championship in February. There are a lot of people who win in February, but they don't win September through December. That's where it counts."
The journey towards winning the ACC begins in 55 days, when Spring Practices commence on March 29.
News and Notes:
-New Terps running back coach David Walker has accepting the same position with the Indianapolis Colts, where he will be reunited with former Connecticut RB Donald Brown. A replacement is expected to be named by the end of the weekend.
-In addition to coaching tight ends, John Dunn will Maryland's recruiting coordinator, the position formerly held by James Franklin. Ryan Steinberg will be the assistant recruiting coordinator, although Edsall preached everyone on the staff has a role.