Maryland had a lot of strikes against it late in the recruiting season. With coach Ralph Friedgen's job security publicly questioned in November, and with his long-term future still very much in doubt, the lack of stability in the program was far from an asset as the coaching staff looked to seal the deal with top high school players.
That seemed to hurt the team with the in-state prospects, but Maryland did well enough nationally that its class was widely considered to be in the Top 40. Despite the fact that Friedgen's future, along with that of designated coach-in-waiting James Franklin, is tied to a strong season in 2010, an impressive group of newcomers bought into the dream and will arrive on campus looking to take the Terrapins to the next level.
Eleven of those 21 players come from outside the state. While local wide receiver Brandon Coleman was a disappointing late scratch, choosing Rutgers over Maryland at the last minute, the Terrapins did a nice job addressing areas of need.
Four of the eight players who faxed their letters of intent to the school on Signing Day are offensive lineman, and five are cornerbacks. Considering the former area is one where pretty much any big body on campus was playing at various points in 2009 given the injuries, and the latter was one of the thinnest areas on the team, it's no surprise that Maryland was an attractive target for top high school players at those positions.
Maryland also signed a pair of quarterbacks, Tyler Smith and Devin Burns. They join a crowded field of signal-callers looking to replace departing senior Chris Turner, and though Jamarr Robinson enters the spring as the starter, it's anyone's ballgame as far as winning the starting job is concerned.
"The message I have been relaying to the quarterbacks is that we have an unbelievable tradition and history here and we are getting back to that," Franklin said. "Those guys are going to leave our program where they want to be."
--Maryland may be about to get some "help" from the state government in formulating its nonconference schedule. State Del. Jay Walker, who comments on college football for ESPN, has introduced a bill that would require the Terps to play in-state Football Championship Subdivision schools Morgan State or Towson at least once every four years. Both schools are on the schedule over the next two seasons anyway, with Morgan State coming to Byrd in 2010 and Towson in 2011.
--Nick Ferrera was a consensus choice as the kicker on All-ACC Freshman teams. He made seven kicks of 40 yards or more.
--LB Javarie Johnson, Washington, D.C. -- Johnson was a late get for the Terrapins, and arguably the best talent in the class. The linebacker committed to Miami early last summer, but switched to Maryland in January and enrolled in classes for the spring semester. That will make him a strong candidate for playing time as a true freshman next season.
--QB Tyler Smith, Easton, Pa. -- It wouldn't be a Ralph Friedgen recruiting class without a quarterback, and with Chris Turner's departure the competition at the position should be wide open this offseason. Smith is a drop-back passer with a cannon for an arm and the speed to avoid the pass rush. He has a great shot at being the Terrapin quarterback of the future.
--DE David Mackall, Fork Union, Va. -- Mackall signed with the Terps in 2009, but had to spend a year at prep school and got numerous overtures from programs hoping he'd switch his commitment. But Mackall was true to his word, and the 230-pounder, who led his team in sacks and tackles-for-loss a year ago, has already enrolled in classes and will be a strong candidate to get into the playing rotation early in his career.
--FB Rahsaan Moore, Baltimore, Md. -- Moore isn't the sexiest of recruits, as the 6-2 fullback wasn't at the top of the recruiting rankings. However, he might be the best bet to see playing time right away because there's a hole at the position created by Cory Jackson's graduation. Jackson started all four years on campus, and Moore looks to follow in those footsteps.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "That's the whole reason we have a head coach in waiting is to counter that. That's the reason people do it. Whether a coach is coaching conservatively or whether you are getting a coach that is a getting older in years or only has a couple years in his contract. People are going to use that against you. I don't really look at the head coach in waiting as a disadvantage." -- Assistant coach and designated head coach in waiting James Franklin, on the challenges of recruiting given the team's coaching situation.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010 LOOK AHEAD: Maryland gets off relatively easy with graduation losses, and most of the skill position players return. The team will be inexperienced under center and will again be breaking in new starters on the offensive and defensive lines as well as the secondary, but after a 2-10 record it's not like any of the old guys was irreplaceable anyway.
SPRING SNAPSHOT: Maryland's spring practice schedule caps off with the annual scrimmage on the university's "Maryland Day," scheduled for April 24.
On offense, the big question concerns the quarterback battle. Jamarr Robinson did better than most expected when he was called upon following Chris Turner's injury, but the job is still wide-open heading into the Spring.
The Maryland defense started off awfully last season, and then seemed to get the hang of the Don Brown attack. With Alex Wujciak leading a strong group of returning players, the Terrapins should be much improved on that side of the ball.
PRO POTENTIAL: Maryland has three players invited to the NFL combine, with two others making postseason all-star games. Only one is expected to be a first-day selection, but the Terrapins could see multiple players taken in the upcoming draft.
--OL Bruce Campbell -- Campbell battled injuries throughout his Maryland career, starting 17 games as a Terp including nine in 2009 at left tackle. He has the size and strength to start in the NFL, but is still raw and needs to show that he can stay healthy in order to justify the high expectations at the next level. Campbell is expected to be a first- or second-round pick in the upcoming draft.
--DL Travis Ivey -- Another Terrapin who battled injuries during his college career, Ivy started the final 16 games of his tenure in College Park. He'll get a look at the next level with a strong performance at the NFL Combine, and was set to play in the Texas vs. the Nation game on Feb. 6.
--CB Nolan Carroll -- This was supposed to be Carroll's year to shine, but the former wide receiver saw his senior season end after two games with a broken leg. Testing well at the NFL combine will be critical for his chances at a pro career.
--FB Cory Jackson -- Jackson got a last-minute trip to Mobile for the Senior Bowl when the coaching staff realized that its NFL-style offense lacked a fullback. He's one of the top options available, but may have to battle for a job as a rookie free agent, since not many teams prioritize his position on draft day.
--One player who is expected to join the team but doesn't appear in the rankings is Will Yeatman. The Notre Dame transfer is both a lacrosse player and a tight end, and is expected to join Ralph Friegen's team in the latter role in time for the 2010 season.
--Alex Wujciak won his second consecutive Defensive MVP award at the offseason team banquet. He will likely be on the sidelines for Spring Practice, but should be at full strength before the fall.