As hotshot quarterbacks, ultra-hyped tailbacks and heralded wideouts formalize their college football plans today, Maryland is looking at a decidedly substance-over-style Signing Day.
The Terrapins are expected to haul in a deep collection of linemen on both sides of the ball and a pair of potentially valuable tight ends as national letters of intent trickle in throughout today.
There are few marquee recruits at skill positions in a class ranked 32nd nationally by rivals.com as of yesterday afternoon, although analysts believe coach Ralph Friedgen has secured a relatively solid group.
“This Maryland class is one that is going to finish in the middle of the pack in the ACC,” Dave Glenn of the ACC Sports Journal said. “Nuts and bolts is a good description. There’s not a lot of big names.”
Perhaps the biggest is 6-foot-7 offensive tackle Bruce Campbell, a holdover from last year’s class who attended Hargrave Military Academy. He is one of seven offensive linemen to commit to Maryland and Friedgen, who stressed the importance of building and maintaining a deep, experienced line throughout last season.
Tight end is another curious position for the Terps, especially if commitments Devonte Campbell and Lansford Watson sign as expected. Maryland has successfully utilized tight ends throughout Friedgen’s six-year stint, with Vernon Davis’ prominent role and eventual rise to the No. 6 pick in last year’s NFL Draft the most impressive example.
“I think it’s a huge thing,” said Andrew Joyner, the ACC editor for rivals.com. “At the position of tight end, when you’ve had the success they had with some of those bigger tight ends and you see them doing well in the NFL, that really translates to kids, especially where there’s not many schools out there that have that speciality.”
Another intriguing prospective signee is Tony Logan, a small-but-athletic high school quarterback from New Jersey who will be utilized elsewhere in college. Yet there aren’t many prized recruits, especially from the area.
Maryland didn’t land either of the District’s top recruits: wideout Arrelious Benn (Dunbar), who has verbally committed to Illinois, or defensive tackle Marvin Austin (Ballou), who will choose his destination today. Devonte Campbell is expected to be the only one of the top 10 in-state prospects to sign with the Terps, according to rivals.com.
“I think Ralph Friedgen is going to rise and fall based on his staff’s talent evaluation because he’s not going out there and winning a lot of head-to-head battles for the highest profile kids,” Glenn said. “Maryland is still not seen as a starry destination by the highest-profile kids. That doesn’t mean you can’t build a good program. But most coaches would admit they would like to have their pick of players like Florida does.”
The class might not have an immediate impact on the Terps, who only lost seven starters. It would be in line with last year’s class, which produced only one true freshman (fullback Cory Jackson) who made it onto the field.
“I don’t see a lot of guys whose talent is so overwhelming that they’ll be able to crack the lineup on an experienced and top-heavy Maryland team that brings lots of starters back,” Glenn said. “I think that’s the sign of healthy program.”
It isn’t certain how much the Terps’ 9-4 season and Champs Sports Bowl victory helped lure recruits, especially since so many players committed before the season even started.
Yet it couldn’t have hurt, especially since it signaled a reversal of consecutive 5-6 years.
“I don’t think you see it with that big impact kind of guy,” said Joyner, who doesn’t anticipate any surprises for Maryland today. “There isn’t one of those that’s immediately tangible in this class because of the season they had. Last year, they thought they had a very good class, and it ended up falling apart. Maybe where you judge it is it held together a little more. Maybe that’s what the good season did.”