While more than a few folks like to yell and scream about a recruiting class the day they sign, there’s a much better way to really evaluate such matters.
Granted, it takes five years, but at least at that point all the information is in and there is a far more credible way of assessing a player’s contributions.
The time to do so for Maryland’s class of 2008 comes now. The Terrapins’ season is over with, a 4-8 campaign that produced some promise, some progress and, yes, more than a few injuries.
This group endured its share of dark days, from a pair of 2-10 seasons to a coaching change to a six-game slide to wrap up this year. Not everyone who signed back in February 2008 made it to the end – no recruiting class ever remains fully intact – but it was a mostly productive group.
(Now, the same won’t be said when the reviews of the 2009 and 2010 classes come in the next few years. Attrition shredded those groups, especially the 2010 class.)
Nonetheless, it’s time to reintroduce the post-career star system used for this annual post:
5 stars: All-America performer or high NFL Draft selection
4 stars: Multi-year starter at a high level (i.e. all-conference selection)
3 stars: Multi-year starter or strong one-year starter
2 stars: One-year starter or organizational player who contributed for much of his career
1 star: Organizational player with modest on-field contributions
0 stars: Never played
One other rule for the purposes of this review: This is based on when a guy’s first season on campus is. So if a player grayshirted in 2007 and arrived in the spring of 2008, he counts as a 2008 guy.
As for the 2008 class breakdown, read on …
Maryland’s 2008 class did not produce a first-team All-America pick or a first-round NFL selection.
DT Joe Vellano (3-star according to Rivals.com)
It was a heck of a run for Vellano, a two-time first team all-ACC selection and a second team Walter Camp All-America pick last year. The son of a former All-America defensive lineman at Maryland, Vellano’s career was initially beset with injuries.
He generated buzz in the spring of 2010, but there was no way to tell if it was the usual hype bound to fizzle until the season started. Instead, it might have sold Vellano short. He went on to start 37 consecutive games, and his 32 tackles for loss is tied for eighth in school history.
He had double-digit tackles in his first career start against Navy, made 20 stops last year against Georgia Tech and generally was a nuisance to opponents because of an absurd motor. Vellano never entirely looked the part, but proved to be Maryland’s most effective defensive lineman since Randy Starks.
He maximized his skills, and was exceptionally gracious and good-natured with the media despite serving as a de facto team spokesman through a pair of losing seasons to close his career. It’s possible his size will work against him at the next level, but the last three years have shown that if there’s a way to thrive, Vellano will probably find it.
LB Demetrius Hartsfield (3-star)
The latest in a long line of quality Maryland linebackers, Hartsfield played a variety of roles throughout his career, starting 38 games along the way. His 338 tackles ranks 15th in school history, and he authored some remarkable moments along the way – a game-sealing sack against Clemson as a freshman, an interception to wrap up a victory over Temple this year, and plenty of other great plays in between.
His play earned attention from all-conference voters – honorable mention as a junior, second team as a senior – and he was a steady presence throughout his career. The only real what-if about Hartsfield’s career is health. He played only one full season (2010), though he lost only eight games to injury over four years. It isn’t enough to diminish an exceptionally productive record when he was on the field.
LB Kenneth Tate (4-star)
What a wild ride it was for Tate, who was heralded as an important signee at wide receiver before switching to defense the day before his first practice. He would play – and play well – at safety before moving to linebacker for his two senior seasons.
Numbers – from 239 tackles to 20 tackles for loss to 10.5 sacks – really don’t do Tate’s career justice. He turned in probably the most individually productive season by a Maryland defensive player since E.J. Henderson (and definitely since D’Qwell Jackson) with his 100-tackle output in 2010 that featured four forced fumbles and three interceptions.
That was the only season Tate started more than seven games. He got four starting nods as a sophomore, was shut down after four games in 2011 and slid back into the starting lineup just before the middle of this season. As a linebacker – and after his knee surgery last year – he wasn’t nearly the same disruptive force as he was previously. But overall, he was still a significant asset for the Terps.
T R.J. Dill (3-star)
What you saw was what you got from Dill, who started 33 games between 2009 and 2011 before departing College Park after last season. He was overwhelmed as a freshman, which wasn’t uncommon for a lineman during the 2009 season, and then improved as a sophomore.
He was one of three offensive players to start every game in 2011, though it was not a time for contentment. Dill departed in December and soon landed at Rutgers, where he has started every game at right tackle for a Scarlet Knights bunch that can win the Big East with a victory over Louisville. Maryland could have used his steadiness this year, even if it meant juggling its line a bit.
DT A.J. Francis (3-star)
The Franchyze will probably best be remembered for his personality, loquaciousness and presence on Twitter. From a beat writer’s perspective, his quick wit and humor are downright irreplaceable.
But Francis was also a solid player, starting 35 games over the course of his career. He took some lumps as a freshman, improved significantly as a sophomore, struggled as a junior and turned in an impressive senior season with career-bests in tackles (43), tackles for loss (nine) and sacks (four).
Now it’s on to the NFL, a professional wrestling career or the beginnings of a rise to political stardom. Whatever the route, it’s safe to say Francis will succeed – and be heard from as he thrives.
TB Davin Meggett (3-star)
Was Meggett ever a dominant player? Not really. He had only three 100-yard rushing performances to his name (2010 Navy, 2011 West Virginia and Towson), but also ranks seventh in school history in rushing yardage (2,411). He was solid in three out of his four seasons, and understandably struggled behind a bad offensive line in 2009. His consistency was impressive.
So he lands here. Meggett was durable and twice led Maryland in rushing (2010 and 2011), and those are valuable traits. He was a contributor from the day he arrived at Maryland and that shouldn’t be discounted, either. It would be difficult, however, to argue for a rating better than this.
CB Cameron Chism (4-star)
The Prince George’s County product was a steady presence for Maryland, starting 32 games in his career and returning two interceptions for touchdowns as a senior. It also didn’t end in the best fashion; Chism was removed from the starting lineup for his final three games and barely played.
That postscript aside, he was rushed into action because of injuries as a freshman and filled greater and greater needs Maryland had throughout his career. Chism wasn’t a superstar, but he was a consistent contributor throughout his career.
WR Kevin Dorsey (4-star)
Injuries held Dorsey back early in his career, and there was no one whose own numbers statistics were hurt more by Maryland’s calamitous quarterback situation than him. After a breakout junior year (45 receptions, 573 yards, 3 TDs), Dorsey had 18 catches for 311 yards and four TDs in his final season – with three of the scores coming in the final two games.
The final numbers? Almost two seasons worth of starts (23) over 47 career games; 1,088 career receiving yards (23rd in school history); and nine touchdown catches (tied for 14th in school history). Plus, he was a regular special teams contributor throughout his career and served as a captain as a senior. His overall contributions are probably far greater than the statistics would show.
TE Matt Furstenburg (3-star)
Just a rock-solid contributor, with 60 catches for 769 yards and five touchdowns over the last four years. After serving as a reliable safety valve as a junior in Gary Crowton’s spread scheme, Furstenburg’s numbers regressed as he was used (and needed) as a blocker more as a senior.
He finished with 35 career starts, the most of any offensive player in Maryland’s class of 2008.
T Justin Gilbert (2-star)
The straight-shooting Richmond native started 18 games – including the last 15 of his career – and got nods at both tackle spots and right guard. The question was never want-to with Gilbert; it was simply whether his body would hold up.
His ACL tear in a 2010 loss at West Virginia was completely random, just a bad step as he moved back to pass protect. Then he suffered another torn ACL as he rushed back to return in the spring of 2011. He probably wasn’t as nimble as he was before the surgeries (and, really, that was to be expected), but he did everything imaginable to finish his college career on his terms.
He’ll go down as the only offensive player to start every game for Maryland in 2012, which is a remarkable achievement both because of Gilbert’s injury history and the ailments of so many around him.
WR Kerry Boykins (4-star)
A decent slot receiver and a heck of a special teams player, Boykins wrapped up his career with 57 catches for 669 yards and a touchdown. His senior year, though, was forgettable; hip and groin injuries limited him to four games and just one start (the opener against William & Mary), and he had just four catches on the season.
Overall, he started just eight games in his career, but he certainly found ways to contribute when he was able to stay on the field.
TE Devonte Campbell (4-star)
One of a handful of Maryland recruits stuck with the “Next Vernon Davis” tag in the middle of the last decade, Campbell signed in 2007, went to prep school and wound up joining the program early in 2008.
He always looked the part of the freakish athlete, and Campbell was always a thoughtful, insightful and entertaining interview. He never did have a breakout season, managing 13 catches for 120 yards and three touchdowns while starting seven games, but he did have a solid senior season as a blocker and special teams performer.
G Justin Lewis (3-star)
Lewis started 15 games at Maryland, including all but one as a sophomore in 2010. However, he was dismissed from the program in July 2011. Had he remained even for one more year, he’d have probably earned a three-star rating in this scoring system.
TE Ryan Schlothauer (no stars)
The walk-on turned into one of Maryland’s most quietly valuable players, finding work on five special teams as a senior while pursuing an MBA in his final season at Maryland. The Terps will miss him a lot more than many people realize in 2013, even if he had only one career reception. Schlothauer played in 37 consecutive games to close out his career; only Francis, Furstenburg and Vellano also appeared in every game over the last three seasons.
TB Gary Douglas (3-star)
Douglas played in a dozen games for the Terps, collecting 18 carries for 89 yards. After dealing with his share of injuries, he left the program after the spring of 2011. The Durham, N.C., native wrapped up his career in his hometown, rushing 161 yards and a touchdown in eight games this season for North Carolina Central.
DT Masengo Kabongo (4-star)
Kabongo played in five games in 2009 and had two tackles and a sack. He left the program early in the 2010 season. He eventually landed at Stony Brook, where he has 10 tackles and two sacks in 11 games this season.
DE Carl Russell (2-star)
The D.C. product appeared in 12 games (11 as a redshirt freshman in 2009) and left the team in the middle of the 2010 season. He had eight tackles (2.5 for loss) and a sack as a Terp.