Thanks to graduation and a handful of early departures for various reasons, Maryland found itself in the position to load up, and that's exactly what the staff did, picking up 25 players. The group, rated among the top 50 in the nation by Scout.com, is heavily geared toward the offensive side of the ball, as 16 commits are expected to play offense.
Clearly, there was an emphasis placed on fortifying the lines. Maryland signed 11 linemen, the vast majority of them high-school tackles, some of whom will switch to other spots.
The vast majority of the players were early commits, leaving the staff only a handful of spots to hand out later in the recruiting season. They filled those remaining openings with players at need positions, like fullback and defensive tackle.
This was not a heavy class at the skill positions, as the Terps didn't take any players expected to be halfbacks or quarterbacks in college. No doubt, that had a lot to do with the current depth chart, which is loaded with talent at both positions. So it's safe to say the Terps are going to be on the prowl for big-time players at both of those spots in the '08 class -- which can be followed by checking out the TSR Recruit Tracker.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, let's take a look at some superlatives for the newest crop of Maryland Terrapins.
Most likely to become a star: Tony Logan (WR/DB, Piscataway, N.J.)
Possibly the best all-around athlete in the class, Logan was a major pickup for recruiting coordinator Dave Sollazzo, who recruits the New York-New Jersey corridor tirelessly. A four-star prospect rated among the top 35 cornerbacks in the nation, he'll likely start out at wide receiver -- his position of choice.
Logan was courted heavily by Rutgers and Tennessee after verballing, but stuck to his commitment. Also a good student and a standout high-school quarterback, he's got excellent speed and agility.
It would be surprising if Logan did not get onto the field as a true freshman. He looks like he could be a big-time playmaker somewhere on the field within a few years.
Most likely to become a star, Part II: Antwine Perez (S, Camden, N.J.)
OK, so Perez technically might not count as part of this class, but he was brought in at the same time as the rest, and he is a MAJOR pickup. The Southern Cal transfer was a 5-star recruit and the No. 5 safety in the nation a year ago when he chose USC over Michigan.
Perez has excellent size (6-2, 200) and explosiveness, and his skills have earned him comparisons to former NFL great Ronnie Lott. He was the first player named to the Army All-American Bowl last season. He'll have to sit out the season as the NCAA requires of transfers, but if you were to include him with the rest of the incoming players, there's not a more prized player in the bunch.
It's easy to see that the staff, always academically inclined, is now going out of its way to bring in players with above-average academic skills. A handful of the recruits boast grade-point averages in the upper 3s. Ralph Friedgen and staff have made it abundantly clear they're looking for players who are smart on the field and in the classroom, for which they should be commended.
Speaking of academics, though, the staff reportedly is still waiting for three members of last year's class -- all of whom are spending this year at Hargrave Military Academy -- to achieve qualifying test scores. The biggest of the group, in terms of both size and impact, is ultra-gifted lineman Bruce Campbell (6-7, 275). Campbell was rated the No. 4 prep school player in the nation this year and could see playing time next year if he makes the grade.
His Hargrave teammates Ronnie Tyler and Quintin McCree, meanwhile, were also among the top-50 prep players nationally. McCree was ranked 33rd, but he looked strikingly thin when he showed up at Terps fall camp, and thus would seem likely to benefit from a redshirt year.
Weak In-State Crop
There has been some belly-aching in recent years about local players going away for school, most notably last year, when Penn State signed a large group of local standouts. There should be no such complaints this year -- not because UMD hauled in a lot of locals, but rather, because it was a down year for talent in the area. Whereas there were three Maryland players rated in the top-100 last year, none made the list this season.
Friendly High quarterback Joe Haden will be a star in college, though, and clearly should have been on that list, perhaps even in the top-25 range. But Haden didn't hear from the Terps until too late -- a mistake Friedgen acknowledged by visiting Friendly in person and apologizing.
Benn and Austin leave town
A year ago, most of the talk among Terps football recruiting diehards focused on landing D.C. stars Arrelious Benn and Marvin Austin. Well, as everyone knows, it didn't happen. Both players considered Maryland, and both were showered with attention from the staff. But Austin (North Carolina) was never interested in staying home and seemed to become a bit too enamored with the recruiting process and the hype that enveloped him.
Benn, meanwhile, went for the friend-and-family package at Illinois. D.C. native Mike Locksley continues to do a fantastic job of recruiting this area for the Illini, and is already in good with many of the area's top juniors. Terps wide receivers coach Bryan Bossard, who recruits the area's public schools, does not have an enviable job, going up against one of the college football's smoothest salesmen. Bossard did beat out Locksley in a head-to-head battle for Devonte Campbell, though, who could be one of the best players in this class (see below).
It's one of the first thing everyone asks about a class: Who are the 'sleepers?'
It's a tough, subjective question, because there's no way to be sure who will work hardest, who will be put in the best position to succeed and who was over-hyped or under-hyped without spending a lot of time watching the players in person.
But we'll take a stab at it.
DT Dion Armstrong: (6-2, 300): Built like a refrigerator, Armstrong just looks like a defensive tackle -- which, coincidentally, is one of the Terps ‘need' positions. Despite being overlooked by his home-state University of Georgia and most other SEC programs, Armstrong is major talent. For a menacing run-stuffer, he also has good speed and agility. He could play early and often.
H-back Devonte Campbell (6-2, 230 pounds): Seeing as how Campbell was also recruited by a handful of big-time programs, it might seems silly to call him a sleeper. After all, Tennessee and Georgia Tech wanted him badly, and even LSU jumped in late with an offer.
But Campbell was vastly underrated – he was Scout.com's No. 34 tight end – and could conceivably end up in the same class as Benn, Austin and Haden. With a great combination of size, toughness and explosiveness, he has that much potential. The question is, where will his talents end up being used? For now, he's slotted as an H-back and possible slot receiver. But with Maryland loaded with players having similar skill sets – including highly touted recruit Lansford Watson – he could conceivably end up at linebacker.
Either way, it's safe to say he's going to be a very good one.
S Dominique Herald: Herald is a big-time hitter. He's undersized, but will put on weight once he gets to college. With he and Perez patrolling the secondary, look out.
Sticking with it
Credit Sollazzo for fighting the long and surely tiring battle to keep Watson to stick with his verbal commitment. The gifted 6-foot-4 pass-catcher from Brooklyn pledged Maryland at the beginning of last August, but was chased by a handful of schools throughout. Syracuse, Rutgers and UNC were very persistent in their efforts to get him to re-consider, and at times that seemed likely.
But Sollazzo put in the due diligence and stayed on top of the situation throughout, thus avoiding a situation like the Terps had a few years ago with Watson's friend and former teammate Nyan Boateng, who de-committed from Maryland.
'Woulda, coulda, shoulda'
Everyone would have loved to have Austin and/or Benn and Haden, but that's a tired subject. Who were some of the other close-call type of players who would have looked good in Maryland uniforms?
Doug Hogue (Syracuse): Hogue is a brickhouse athlete with tremendous potential. He'll enter Syracuse as a running back but could end up at linebacker. He has star quality, and Maryland was ultimately his second choice. In their recruitment of him, Penn State's coaches compared him to Larry Johnson. And Ohio State wanted him to play linebacker.
Rob Gronkowski (Arizona): Maryland did everything it could to give Gronkowski the attention he wanted, but it was apparent for a while that for some reason he wanted to go elsewhere. This one was especially befuddling since he has two brothers who play for Maryland. Gronkowski is a classic tight-end with pro potential, but alas, it wasn't meant to be.
Terence Kerns Little-hyped a year ago, the speedy running back from Thomas Johnson High in Frederick is being touted as a possible star at WVU. Then again, there were reportedly questions about qualifying and a serious knee injury suffered during his senior year.
The staff did a nice job of picking up solid players late in the game, most notably Armstrong, and the Phoebus (Va.) tandem of lineman Maurice Hampton and fullback Haroon Brown. Hampton has great potential at the guard position, and Brown is a bulldozing fullback who could play early. They also landed touted transfer Perez this winter, which may have been the biggest pickup of them all.
Looking ahead to next year, it's safe to assume the Terps will be looking to load up at the skill spots. They already have commitments from Forestville WR Kevin Dorsey and defensive tackles Teddy Dargan of Milford Mill and A.J. Francis of Gonzaga.
Fortunately, the area and region appear to be blessed with a good amount of top-notch prospects across the board. And the inroads Maryland made this year down south and in Virginia Beach -- thanks to O-line coach Tom Brattan -- surely won't hurt its ability to draw from a larger pool of players.