The Maryland football team’s spoils of signing day do not always influence the course of events on Saturdays.
It’s a trend that might need to change this fall.
After producing an 8-5 season with 22 scholarship seniors in 2008, the Terrapins probably will look to members of their 26-player haul announced Wednesday to fill in holes created by the exodus of veterans.
And nowhere is that more apparent than linebacker, where the Terps lose five seniors. Maryland signed eight linebackers as part of a class that Rivals.com ranks 26th and Scout.com ranks 27th nationally.
“I don’t think we have a choice,” coach Ralph Friedgen said while announcing the class. “I think especially at the linebacker position. Hopefully we stay healthy there. [Adrian] Moten will be one linebacker and [Demetrius] Hartsfield and [Alex] Wujciak. We’re going to have to have some of those guys come in and help us.”
Two already are in College Park. Avery Murray and Darin Drakeford both enrolled early and started classes last week, and their presence will be especially valuable during spring practice.
Both Wujciak and Ben Pooler are still recovering from knee surgeries, so Murray is tentatively set to collect plenty of snaps at middle linebacker when the offseason drills begin next month.
The early arRivals might not be the only ones to appear as true freshmen. Ryan Donohue and Bradley Johnson are among the other candidates to contend for playing time - and that’s just among the linebackers.
That type of reliance on true freshmen would be in stark contrast to the last three seasons, when Maryland has become more cautious while using a combined nine such players. Dave Philistin (2005) is the only true freshman linebacker to play in the last six seasons for the Terps - a number certain to change this year.
“They’re going to have to make an immediate impact,” recruiting coordinator Dave Sollazzo said. “We lost a lot of good players at that position. We’ve always had good linebackers since we’ve been here the past eight years. We expect these guys to come in and be impact players. We recruited that position to bring in players of that capability.”
It’s far from the only group that could secure early playing time. Defensive end De’Onte Arnett (another early enrollee), defensive back Travis Hawkins and tailback Caleb Porzel are among Maryland’s most well-regarded recruits, and kicker Nick Ferrara will have the chance to win the job Obi Egekeze vacated.
There could be roles for the late additions to the class. Nick Klemm, who decommitted from Boston College after the Eagles’ coaching shakeup last month, and massive offensive lineman Pete White announced Wednesday they would play for Maryland.
“[White] called me [Tuesday] night and said he’s going to be a Terp, and I think I screamed out loud in the car,” Friedgen said. “I was very, very excited because it’s so hard when you work so hard for a young man and you don’t get him. He took it right to the end, but it turned out right.”
Still, linebacker remains the obvious place to look for immediate dividends from this class.
“To me, it’s wide open,” Friedgen said. “That’s the reason we recruited so many linebackers - because we lost so many. Offensive line-wise, we have some kids here who have been here a while, but there’s not that much of a difference from the guys who are coming in. It should be competitive.”