Coach Don Brown has brought a very complex defensive system with him to College Park, and that system requires a very specific skill set for recruits – namely, speed. Brown used his connections in Florida to help the Terps pull in a great class in his first year of recruiting in College Park.
"The big thing is this is the first year that I've recruited for this system [at Maryland]," he said. "One of the big features I always evaluate is if the guy doesn't have straight pass rush ability, that's a negative. All of the linebackers that we brought in here have the ability to straight line pass rush as well as play linebacker, these are really athletic guys, you can bring them on the edge, bump them to the flat, etc."
Coach Brown pointed to two-star cornerback Mario Rowson as one of the more impressive players of Maryland's class. Rowson stands at 6'3", 185, extremely tall for a cornerback.
"Mario Rowson's a guy who we had at our one-day camp," he said. "He's got tremendous length, he's a guy who can match up with big receivers, play press, he can get his hands on and play Cover 2 concepts and physical re-routing concepts, he's a guy who can combat taller receivers. I'm challenging him to do that, hoping that he can read it."
Brown also dismissed any worries that two-star defensive end Ian Evans is undersized. Evans, at 6'3" 230, is very quick off the edge and is surprisingly strong.
"Don't worry about that," Brown said. "He's a couple balogna sandwiches away from where we want him to be. The problem is I can't coach fat guys. I've gotta coach guys that are fast, that's how you get to the quarterback, that's how you limit big plays. He can run, the natural maturation in the 4-3 is guys that are linebackers that can put their hand on the ground and can be great defensive end-types, and he's done that. He's played up and down, we think he's going to come in very favorably to the open end side position, but he's also a strong guy and a tremendous kid."
What stands out in this recruiting class is the increased speed for the Terps, especially on the defensive end. Recruits like Jeremiah Wilson and Desmond Kearse are renowned for their speed, and Kearse, the cousin of NFL superstar Jevon, will be playing a rover-type position for the Terps. The 3-star prospect from Fort Myers, FL looks to be a pass-rushing threat for years to come.
"Coach asked me at the end of the season what we need to get better on, and I said 'Coach, obviously we need to get faster'," Brown said. "We're trying to get make up speed, we're looking for guys who maybe are not supposed to be quite there, but because of their athletic ability they solve their problems with speed."
During the press conference, coach Ralph Friedgen joked that with the combination of players already in College Park with recruits like Javarie Johnson, Lorne Goree, and David Mackall, the Terps might come out with an 8-linebacker formation. While coach Brown wouldn't go that far, he is entertaining the idea of unique formations in his defense.
"There's no question that we're definitely gonna do something with those things," he said. "We can get in to our three-down stuff, but nobody says we have to be three-down linemen and three linebackers. Or three-down linemen and no linebackers, we could very easily be five or six linebackers and one down lineman and complement from there. Again, anything we can do to complicate the other side's world we'll certainly take a good hard look at."
Again, the Terps were especially looking for speed this year. In the college football recruiting world, speed is often equated with the state of Florida. Coach Brown was able to use his connections to help Maryland score three recruits from the Sunshine State.
"When you're recruiting," he said. "You want to try to play to your assistants' strengths as well, obviously Florida has always been kind to me, even as a head coach at Northeastern and UMass, I have a strong contingent down in Florida, and familiarity helps you."
Brown echoed offensive coordinator James Franklin when talking about the Terps' goal of snagging up all the top talent in the Maryland area.
"We certainly targeted all the top guys in the area, some years it's just not a great fit," he said. "What they're looking for academically may not be a fit, what they're looking in a type of school setting, who knows, but I can tell you it's not from a lack of effort or a lack of trying [on Maryland's part]. We're doing everything we can to keep the local talent here at the University of Maryland, but in reality, it's just the nature of the beast, some years you're gonna do better than others, it is what it is."
While the players on last year's Maryland team might have had trouble adjusting to Brown's complicated blitzing scheme, these new recruits will have time to learn its ins and outs, and last year's players will be able to get even more familiar with it. Expect the Terps to bring the heat next year and into the future, and for it to show in the wins column.
Brown Gets The Right Players
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