It’s almost a badge of honor for a program in recruiting, winning a fight for a prospect in talent-rich Florida.
For a while, anyway, those days could be nearly over for the Maryland football team.
The Terrapins began camp this week with only two Sunshine State natives on their roster, the program’s lowest total at any point this decade.
It’s not an alarmingly low number. Nearby ACC rivals Virginia and Virginia Tech match the Terps for fewest Floridians in the league. But it is a sign of both recruiting and economic realities merging to create different target areas for the Terps.
“I think it’s going to be a factor,” Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. “Gas prices keep rising, and it’s not easy for those kids to get back and forth. They have to go by a lot of schools to get to us. I think it’s expensive recruiting down there. I think you have to look at ‘What’s the productivity of it?’”
It wasn’t long ago the Terps regularly poached players with at least significant Florida ties. Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, a three-year starter and Butkus Award finalist in 2005, was the most notable of the bunch.
But there were others. Tailback Josh Allen moved from Florida to Maryland while in high school and started 17 games for the Terps, and Donnie Woods started 21 games at guard in the middle of the decade.
The Terps’ roster included nine players from Florida in both 2005 and 2006. But a mix of graduation and attrition have pared the number.
Now, cornerback Nolan Carroll and safety Terrell Skinner are the last of the Floridians. Both juniors could start for Maryland this season, and they might be the last ones for a while.
Carroll believes homesickness also plays a role in keeping the numbers low. He grew up outside of Jacksonville but has an aunt a 20-minute drive from College Park in Fort Washington to provide a dose of family - not to mention plenty of Southern-style food.
“Most of the guys from Florida, they’ve never really experienced being outside the state of Florida,” Carroll said. “To make the transition, a long drive like that, most guys aren’t used to it. They don’t have family up here. I’m fortunate enough to have somebody up here.”
That, however, is no guarantee for most players, and it has prompted Maryland to redouble its efforts closer to home. The bulk of the Terps’ recruiting class this year and commitments for next year are within less than a day’s drive of campus.
It likely will remain the long-term plan, even if a handful of recruits could come from North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. As for Florida, it appears unlikely the Terps will go much deeper into the state than they needed to secure either Carroll or Skinner, who came from St. Petersburg.
“I think if there’s an interest, we’ll go down in there, but I don’t think we’ll go pound it like we’ve been,” Friedgen said. “We have more chances of getting more kids in a five-hour radius than spending a lot of money going down there and the chances of getting someone to come here [aren’t great].”
There are also the competitive realities: Three highly visible powerhouses in Florida have won national titles in the last decade, and three more growing programs (Central Florida, Florida Atlantic and South Florida) played in bowl games last year.