Maryland finally has its man.
Four-star Bullis (Potomac, Md.) junior quarterback Dwayne Haskins, a potentially franchise-changing recruit; the proverbial straw that stirs the drink; the most paramount domino in not just the 2016 class, but a few years down the road; committed to Maryland during an after-school ceremony May 15.
“I’m gonna be a Terp,” Haskins said. “I wanted to go there because it’s a great opportunity there. I feel like I can do something and be part of something that is bigger than myself.
Haskins has long held the Terps in high regard.
“[Maryland] is a great opportunity and it’s great people,” Haskins said. “Maryland has a chance to be one of the top programs out there. I honestly believe that.”
The 6-foot-3, 185-pound gunslinger, who has drawn comparisons to Cam Newton, not only brings an elite talent to College Park, Md., someone who can anchor the huddle for three-plus years, but who could start a windfall of Terps commitments. Haskins is a known leader on the field, but the respect he commands off it may pay major dividends for Maryland.
Haskins counts junior cornerback/receiver Trevon Diggs (Avalon/Bethesda, Md.), the brother of former UMD star receiver Stefon Diggs, as one of his closest friends, and the two have often discussed attending the same college. The Bullis product also knows DeMatha 2016 running back Lorenzo Harrison (a current Terps pledge), wideout Tino Ellis, athlete Darryl Turner (another Terps pledge) and Stags’ offensive lineman Terrance Davis well.
Meanwhile, Gilman (Baltimore, Md.) four-star defensive tackle Ellison Jordan, another junior local with UMD on the mind, has spoken to Haskins on numerous occasions, while the Bullis gunslinger is friends with Landon (Bethesda, Md.) outside linebacker Keith Simms too. D.C. cornerback Parnell Motley (Woodson/Washington, D.C.) has been in touch too and also has the Terps firmly on the brain.
Not to mention the potpourri of recruits, locally and beyond, who Haskins doesn’t talk to personally, but could view his pledge as a sign Maryland is truly ready to rise up.
A cerebral, savvy recruit, Haskins is well aware the weight he holds with other prospects.
“It’s something I’ve thought a lot about, how I can bring [recruits] in. I definitely want to be someone who brings other guys in,” said Haskins, a DMV convert who is originally from New Jersey. “Staying home, building something here, I can definitely talk to a lot of top local guys. I understand if guys stay home around here, we can do something special. So it’s something I’m definitely thinking about and is definitely real. Not everyone wants to stay home, but it’s something I pay attention to, what [other local recruits] are saying about Maryland, and what we can do if everyone [stays local].
“But whoever wants to go can come with me. [The recruits] will come if they really want to come and follow me. We’ll see what guys do. Guys like Tino, Terrance, Trevon, guys like Richard Merritt, the top local guys, I’m talking to them. We’ll see what they do.”
Yes, the hometown movement is in effect, but it started well before May 15.
Of course, DeMatha’s Lorenzo Harrison began DMV-to-UMD when he pledged to Maryland back in July. A little less than five months later, Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) junior outside linebacker Keandre Jones joined Harrison, citing that he felt “something special” about to go down in College Park. Since then, locals like D.J. Turner, Travon Stott (Good Counsel), Brian Plummer (South Carroll/Sykesville, Md.) and Joey Fisher (Clear Spring, Md.) have joined in too.
“Definitely LoLo committing impacted me,” Haskins said previously. “I’ve talked to Lo and then D.J., and those guys were always on me [about Maryland]. We’ve talked about getting other kids to stay home too, and it’s something we’ve been working on.”
Soon after Jones committed, the Terps pulled in their most significant piece yet when class of 2015 four-star defensive lineman Adam McLean (Quince Orchard/Gaithersburg, Md.) chose Maryland after a falling out with Penn State. McLean, like Haskins, has connections in the DMV and beyond. In the months since his Dec. 4 commitment, he’s been all over social media hyping the hometown, reaching out to Haskins in particular.
“Adam has always been in my ear, ever since he committed to Maryland,” Haskins said previously. “He just keeps telling me about the opportunity we have there, and how we have a chance to do something big at Maryland and compete for championships. He’s been telling me how I need to be on board and get this thing [the Movement] started. So that’s something I’ve thought a lot about.”
While Haskins dropped hints of his Terps affinity from time to time, he kept up the guise of a poker face for the most part.
Truth is, however, he began to favor the Terps before the fall even began. When Gilman senior gunslinger Kai Locksley, who many, including Haskins, assumed would end up at Maryland (he is the son of UMD offensive coordinator Mike Locksley after all), opted for Florida State in July, Haskins immediately saw an opening.
He’d already been in touch with Mike Locksley via social media and the like, having earned a Maryland offer back during the spring. But in the wake of Kai Locksley’s selection, Haskins knew the Terps were serious about him.
“There’s an opportunity at Maryland now,” Haskins said earlier. “I’m not going to say [Kai Locksley’s decision] definitely impacts me, but there’s definitely an opportunity now…. [Mike Locksley], he’s telling me I’m his guy and he really wants me there.”
The Bullis quarterback proceeded to visit College Park four times in the next couple months, while building a rapport with Locksley, area recruiter Chad Wilt and Edsall. He attended a practice in August, and then followed up by attending four Terps games: Oct. 4 versus Ohio State; Nov. 1 when UMD played at Penn State; Nov. 15 against Michigan State and Nov. 29 versus Rutgers. (Ironically, the only UMD victory he witnessed live was the game at Penn State.)
While Haskins made sure to laud the atmosphere and coaches following a couple of those games, he paid more attention to Maryland’s offense -- both what it had and what it didn’t have.
Fitting in wouldn’t be a problem, he surmised, even though the Terps’ attack centered around quarterback C.J. Brown’s signature zone-read rather than Haskins’ preferred shotgun spread. Haskins, though, hinted that Locksley and Co. had assured him adjustments would be made to suit his game.
“I can definitely see myself in Maryland’s system,” Haskins said previously. “I like how they run things, and I think I’d fit well. They do a lot of different things, use some unique formations, and I like that. They do zone-read, and that’s not something I prefer since I like to stand in the pocket, but I can scramble a little bit.”
Haskins also believes Locksley can help develop his game.
“I think he’s a great guy and someone I can learn a lot from. He’s an experienced coordinator, a good coach and someone I could see myself playing under,” Haskins said. “Coach Locksley and I, I really like his personality and our relationship has grown a lot. I like how he installs the offense, how he coaches, how he coaches his quarterbacks. Coach Locksley, he calls me ‘The Franchise’ actually (laughs). We’re always in touch and talk about everything. He definitely wants me there, and says he needs me. He’s really cool too.”
Moreover, Haskins realized that Brown would be graduating following the 2014 campaign, and the Terps didn’t have an elite quarterback ready to step in for him. The current Terps crop consists of Caleb Rowe, who is coming off an ACL terror, along Perry Hills and Shane Cockerille, who haven’t established themselves yet. Moreover, the only triggerman Maryland recruited in 2015 was Gage Shaffer (Frankfort/Ridgeley, W.Va.), who may be more of a developmental prospect.
So it’s conceivable Haskins could see time soon after arriving on campus, or the year after provided he needs time to adjust to FBS-level speed.
“There’s a chance I can come in there, play early and have a real impact there,” Haskins said earlier. “That’s one of the main things I’m looking for – a chance to be a leader and lead the offense for several years.”
During later visits to College Park, including two in February for a junior day and a basketball game, Haskins lauded the new facility upgrades, the Under Armour connection and Maryland’s academic advantages. The fact the Terps are adding indoor practice fields, building an underground tunnel and upgrading the weight room didn’t have a major influence per se, but it certainly didn’t hurt UMD’s chances.
Aesthetics aside, it was Haskins’ longstanding rapport with the staff that resonated. Following the junior day, the Bullis product made sure to give plenty of credit to head coach Randy Edsall.
“Coach Edsall and I are really close. It’s important for head coaches to have a great relationship with their quarterback, and Coach Edsall and I had one of the closest relationships out there,” Haskins said. “Coach Edsall was saying how interested they are in me, where they are as a program, where Maryland stands right now and where it wants to be in the future.
“He was talking about the brand at Maryland, and how you can build your brand there. He was saying how you can intern at places right around there, go to the NFL from there, and get a great job after college if you don’t [play professionally]. [Edsall] said Maryland is just a great university to be apart of, aside from football. But then he was saying how he wants to win a Big Ten championship and a national championship and how some people in this room can help them get there.
“It was a great speech and it meant a lot. Just in general I like the coaching staff and find them very genuine.”
Edsall further endeared himself to Haskins when the headman chose not to extend an offer to any other class of 2016 quarterbacks. Haskins was priority No. 1 from the jump.
“They could have offered and went after other guys, but they put their faith in me,” Haskins said. “That’s definitely important and it means a lot, to know the coaching staff values me that highly.”
While Haskins had been hot for the Terps for the last several months, he originally favored Ohio State, going so far as to call it his “dream school.” But the longtime Buckeye love (Haskins envisioned himself as the next Troy Smith) quickly faded when OSU brought in a couple other heralded quarterbacks, not to mention freshman J.T. Barrett’s and sophomore Chandler Jones’ ascension.
The Bullis signal caller also mentioned Notre Dame, Texas and his original hometown school, Rutgers, and others as possibilities, but he also knew the Irish and Longhorns had other elite triggermen coming in too. Basically, Haskins was aware there was a distinct possibility he’d either have to wait before taking meaningful snaps, and/or he’d get recruited over.
Haskins was also connected to Penn State at one point, but he never favored the Nittany Lions the way some assumed.
Later in the process, Haskins’ focus turned primarily to UMD, Notre Dame, Rutgers and Florida, the latter making a late charge following a campus visit. But even as Haskins talked up the Irish and Gators, while giving Terps fans heart palpations after back-to-back weekend visits to Piscataway, N.J., he never really wavered on Maryland.
Instead of trying his hand at the traditional powers, Haskins is taking a chance -- the same chance predecessors Stefon Diggs, Wes Brown, Derwin Gray and Damian Prince took on the Terps.
But Haskins is betting this time the hometown movement is for real -- and complete -- this time. He’s betting that Maryland can enter the local consciousness the way Florida/Florida State do in the Sunshine State high schools; the way Ohio State does among Midwestern locals; the way Penn State does in Pennsylvania; and the way Alabama does in the Midlands.
“With the Movement, guys are really interested in what’s going on over there,” Haskins said. “What’s going on there, it’s real.”
Maryland Has Its Man: Haskins On Board
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