While in the midst of back-to-back weeks against top 10 league opponents on the field, off the field the Terps snagged yet another verbal commitment, this week's offing Philadelphia three-star defensive back Kenny Bennett. The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder became Maryland's 21st pledge Nov. 9, and put the class at No. 14 nationally. Last week, the Terps snagged three-star Georgia receiver Jayden Comma, their third three-star wide-out from the Peach State alone, coming off the Indiana loss. So consecutive losses didn't slow Maryland's recruiting success much.
And while Terps' head man D.J. Durkin can't comment specifically about commitments until they sign in February, he paused today during his Thursday teleconference with beat reporters to discuss the class and needs going forward, while also shedding more light on how many prospects he may bring in early. And Saturday's showdown with No. 6 Ohio State undoubtedly will attract a slew of top recruits to Maryland Stadium for the 3:30 p.m. matchup as well, as the Terps look to put more finishing touches on Durkin's second class.
"Yeah, you know we are really excited about our class. I think we have some great players we are bringing in the program, and we want to carry that through till Signing Day," Durkin said. "We have a lot of needs and we are going to have a great class not only in terms of quality, but also in terms of quantity. We are going to sign a lot of guys, and there's a lot of areas that need to be addressed. I don't think there is a focus on one certain thing, there's a lot of areas we got to continue to upgrade where we are at.
"And we've got some guys here, and when you you bring in great players, well competition is the best thing for everyone. It solves a lot of problems and makes everyone better. So their level of play is going to need to rise and they are going to continue to develop moving forward. And when you bring in really talented guys, well they know they got to work hard to keep the job. And when you bring in those talented guys, they have to compete hard to try to gain on those jobs. So at the end of the day you make everyone better, and that is our intent. And its looking really good right now, and we have to keep it going, and there's plenty more out there for us."
Durkin said he may bring in 5-6 players mid-year for the second semester, which gets them in for class, spring ball, and up and running in program early, as he did with a few last year in his first UMD class. The total incoming class could mean 25-30 players at that rate, and there is expected attrition at the end of the season.
Meanwhile, sophomore tight end Avery Edwards, who played as a true freshman last season after signing out of IMG Academy in Florida and showed such promise as a field-stretcher, well he caught his first ball of the season last week against Michigan. In fact, he had only been truly targeted once before this season, perhaps a function of QB Perry Hills not always seeing the middle of the field well, or the fact tight ends have been mostly blocking this year in Walt Bell's system.
Edwards represents the Terps best option after-the-catch, but his blocking has been a work in progress just the same. Durkin commented today on his continued work and improvement.
"Yeah, he has worked hard to improve blocking, and he has made a conscious effort to improve that," Durkin said. "I have definitely seen improvement. And Avery is a very talented player and talented tight end who I would see his role continue to increase. And I think he has a bright future ahead of him."
On the safety spot in general, and the competition with youngsters/reserves Qwuantrezz Knight, Elijah Daniels and Jarrett Ross elevating some in the rotation, Durkin said it's an on-going process to find the best rotation. Junior Josh Woods has clearly struggled at times of late, and the others have seen more field time.
The cast got juggled initially when starter Denzel Conyers went down to a season-ending knee injury, and more recently when starter Darnell Savage dinged his knee and missed a game. He is back, but the unit has a lot of run support pressure on it of late and has had some up and downs tackling and the like.
"Those are on-going, daily analysis for the practice week. So all those guys are working and competing well and that's why we are keeping that way,” Durkin said. “Every day in practice holds weight, how they perform and how they go out and practice carries weight in terms of whether they will start or not, and how much the rotation will be and all of that. We will just continue to evaluate them to make the best decision."
Meanwhile, while the Terps haven't repped a ton of backup linebackers this fall behind the starters, but Durkin said he is high on freshmen Antoine Brooks and Brett Shepherd.
"You now what, we are really excited about those guys," he said. "I think they will be great players here. They are continuing to do a great job, and their role keeps increasing on special teams for us and they are getting valuable college football experience.
"And linebacker is a real tough position to play right away as a freshman as there is so much communication and thinking and the mental aspect to play linebacker. What the D-line is doing, what the back-end is doing. It's almost, you can compare it to playing quarterback as a freshman on offense because you are involved in all aspects and you do a lot of communicating. So that makes it difficult for a freshman to play at linebacker. But it's certainly not what their ability level is about because those guys can really play and we're really excited about them."
On the injury front, Durkin said QB Perry Hills (shoulder), Michael Dunn (arm) and Ty Johnson (shaken up at Michigan) have been working hard to get back this week, "and have a really high care factor about the team and what's going on. And they are working like crazy to make sure they are out there."
Also, Durkin said senior Will Likely, who had knee surgery last month and is done for the year, addressed the team last week and continues to be a vital part of the team while rehabbing now.