Maybe someday the Jake Funk (Damascus, Md.) commitment will go down as "the first commitment of the Mike Locksley era" at Maryland.
The next several weeks should dictate that, based mostly on how many games the Terps win in their final six after starting the season 2-4. The magic number for the postseason -- and likely Locksley's future tenure at Maryland -- obviously being six.
That said, a groundswell of local support continued this weekend for Locksley, whose relationships transcend all things local. And have so for years. Oct. 16 at Gilman we were stopped by many longtime observers of the local football situation, and we were there only for a few minutes. DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.), Gilman (Baltimore, Md.), Good Counsel (Olney, Md.), Georgetown Prep (North Bethesda, Md.), McNamara (Forestville, Md.), Roosevelt (Greenbelt, Md.) and Douglass (Upper Marlboro, Md.) are just some of the many local programs, and coaches, chiming in with their support. Fans, parents, coaches all approached us over the buzz.
Locksley certainly didn't waste time this week hitting many of the key spots, including prized four-star quarterback commitment Dwayne Haskins’ game Oct. 17 against Episcopal (Lynchburg, Va.). One Bullis (Potomac, Md.) alum told us the school president approached Locksley during the game and chatted for a lengthy period of time.
The night before, Locksley was in Florida to catch senior offensive lineman Grayson Stover (Hudson, Fla.) in action. And Stover, who Maryland still appears in the drivers' set for, will take his UMD official for the Wisconsin game Nov. 7. He is a mid-year enrollee, so the decision could come soon. There were other stops this week including St. John's (D.C.), to see four-star defensive end Terrell Hall, who if Maryland can win enough games, well Locksley, his lead recruiter, may be able to pull a rabbit out of the hat on this national elite who Alabama is well positioned for as well.
But in our weekend travels, all the buzz and questions from local prep coaches/power-brokers were, 1) they were pulling for Locksley and 2) they wanted to know his chances.
The floodgates could seemingly open for local recruiting again, and boost his resume even further. And at many programs neglected for years, for whatever reasons. Be it the past regime under Randy Edsall, or before, inclusiveness has not always been the theme.
Locksley and the Terps are opening the program in many ways this month, and Funk, the Damascus running back who was offered just last week, is a good example.
For the last decade you could hear a pin drop as far as UMD-Damascus relations. The western Montgomery County power, which has had its share of Division I talent, just hadn't hit it off with the state school. Be it too few offers, late offers, or overall not enough presence at the school, the likes of standouts Zack Bradshaw and Brandon Phelps headed elsewhere. Or looked early to the West Virginias and Penn States of the world. Most didn’t even receive offers.
It was both a good tangible and symbolic get in Funk, who is slotted at running back but could also be a return specialist, too. As we've mentioned, visions of a "bigger Steve Suter" - a big-play guy who helped ramp the Ralph Friedgen era up quickly - come to mind. Excellent athleticism, ball skills, football IQ and solid speed make this jack-of-all-trades addition a "win-win" for the program, be it on the field or off.
Back in the day, when Locksley was first on staff with Ron Vanderlinden, and later Ralph Friedgen and then Edsall, these were the types of local gets Maryland often made hay with. Sometimes undervalued guys (Suter the perfect example), or an experiment type like Charles Hill, a big athlete better known for his hoops ability Maryland took a chance on as a raw defensive lineman. When all was said and done, Hill was an all-ACC performer and had a good run in the NFL with the Houston Texans.
The list is long of these types, and they were locals who often begat more locals as pipelines were built. Look at Joey Haynos, Durrand Roundtree, Leroy Ambush, Leon Joe and so on. There were many Maryland took a chance on back then when Locksley was recruiting coordinator. It’s something the Terps haven't done as much recently, seemingly offering more borderline guys from outside the area. But many of these locals paid off, and big. Not to mention the doors to their respective programs opened. Just look at Gonzaga (D.C.) ever since Haynos and A.J. Francis played at College Park. Zilch. Nada.
Off the field, it shows the Terps are getting back in with some of the area programs that felt neglected. And backing it up with offers and pledges. List some of the power programs around the area where, for whatever reason, the Terps haven't connected, the elephant in the room, be it Franklin (Resiterstown, Md.), Calvert Hall (Towson, Md.), Wise (Upper Marlboro, Md.), Woodson (where they are finally getting some traction after the Parnell Motley commitment this summer). Overall, far too many Prince George's County public schools, where some locals have begged for offers for years only to get them very late, or never.
This year's class has 18 commits already, so there is not a lot of room for more offers after Funk's, at least in ‘16. But the future could be decidedly different as many are jumping on the bandwagon and visiting Gossett now. Clearly, you have to build your base from home (geographically) on out. That had been mostly inverted in recent years, and class ranks dipped and local fatigue set in.
Locksley and the Terps appear to be leaving no stone un-turned as they begin their forays, and there are many local and UMD power brokers taking note. It appears he has many elite boosters and local business leaders in his corner, not to mention the legion of former Terps in the NFL, led by Vernon Davis, who he recruited, not to mention kid brother Vontae Davis, who played for him at Illinois.
NFL receiver Regis Benn, another D.C. product who played for him at Illinois, was at the Terps spring game last year, as for an example of a talent that didn’t play at Maryland yet has his continued support. The connections and ties run deep, be it the Davis brothers, Shawne Merriman and Kris Jenkins and on, and all looking to get more involved with the program now after feeling shutout of late.
The Terps are coming off the bye week, and are likely scheming up all kinds of new looks and curve balls for Penn State and James Franklin in the showdown at Baltimore next weekend. And it is a pivotal game for Locksley and the program, no doubt, as all eyes locally and beyond will be affixed. It could start a momentum ride, which who knows where it could lead.
The Terps need to find a way to keep quarterback Perry Hills upright in the zone read/read option game, while getting more out of him in the throwing element. Expect just about every and any surprise you can think of when these two teams tussle come Oct. 24 as Maryland is throwing all caution to the wind and Locksley wants to team "to just go have fun and don't worry about me getting the job." The Terps will have to contend with PSU's strong ground game, and try to keep quarterback Christian Hackenburg contained like in last year's breakthrough win at Happy Valley.
The questions abound about who the Terps next head coach will be. But most at Maryland, sources indicate, see the next few weeks as Locksley's audition, with the rest seemingly in a semi-holding pattern for now.
Prospects like wide receiver Trevon Diggs, Stover, five-star defensive end Shaq Smith at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., maybe Keith Simms (Landon/Bethesda, Md.), could be the next round of recruits the Terps hear from during this interim tenure. Diggs could do something soon now that Maryland has offered him as a receiver.
Even former Terps pledge Jeff Pooler, a two-star defensive lineman from Dayton, Ohio, has renewed interest in the program this week, and may want back in after backing out of his initial Terps pledge two weeks ago. Given the Terps needs still on the future D-line, it may be worth a gander if Pooler is going to be firm this time around.
But this past week's work, both on and off the field, appears a strong start.