Ralph's recruiting address

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The good feelings of the spring game and Darrius Heyward-Bey’s early selection in the NFL Draft on Saturday clearly fired up Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen.

Friedgen got rolling on the subject of recruiting after praising Heyward-Bey’s rapid ascent up the draft board (well, at least Oakland’s draft board), and things quickly turned into the sort of thing he would say at a pep rally.

Granted, reporters aren’t the greatest target for such spirited discussions. But it was clear Friedgen wasn’t interested in hearing about his team’s local recruiting flaws after having a player go in the top 15 for the third time in five years (Shawne Merriman and Vernon Davis were the others).

“We get criticized about recruiting, but we’ve had a sixth, a [12th] and a seventh pick,” Friedgen said. “When has that ever been done at Maryland? In the history of Maryland football? You know what’s even better? Every one of them is from this area. So don’t tell me you can’t come to Maryland and reach your goals, because you can, and I think these guys are very indicative of that. We have 26 other guys who are active now also and have done well also and many of them are from this area. We’re going to continue to recruit this area. There’s a lot of great players, and they don’t have to go far to reach their dreams right here.”

It’s only fair to give Friedgen a full airing if there’s going to be some quibbling (and a little enhancement of his argument, too).

Yes, Maryland has taken some hits for its recruiting, notably the 2006 fiasco when Penn State set up shop in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, took out a Hoover and sucked most of the best prospects out of the area.

Maryland was criticized for that class, and rightfully so. Unsurprisingly, the Terps’ recruiting class for that season has been decimated by all sorts of attrition – talent deficiencies, academics, you name it.

But Penn State’s group had its share of misses, too. For every Aaron Maybin there was an Antonio Logan-El, and that sometimes gets forgotten about, too.

Local recruiting is clearly important to Maryland, and not just for the Heyward-Beys and Merrimans but the Kevin Barnes and Erin Hendersons, too.

Of course, that isn’t the only place that’s important. Maryland’s last four starting quarterbacks came from Georgia, Pennsylvania (times two) and California. Its starting tailback is from Pennsylvania. Its most viable tacklers were from New Jersey and New Hampshire.

As for draft picks, the Terps have had guys from Florida, New York (times two), North Carolina and Pennsylvania drafted in the last four years. Plus, one of the local draftees (Moise Fokou) walked on at Maryland.

So the local recruiting? Important, but getting talent from elsewhere is significant, too.

Still, Maryland does have three top-15 picks in the last five drafts, something only a handful of other schools can say. And since all of them were from close to College Park, it does lend some significance to Friedgen’s talking point.

After all, a spot in this neighborhood most certainly does not stink:

7: Southern Cal

5: Ohio State, Texas

4: Florida State, Louisiana State, Virginia

3: Auburn, Georgia, Maryland

2: Arkansas, Boston College, Clemson, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Troy, Vanderbilt

1: Alabama, Baylor, Boise State, California, Florida, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami, Mississippi, N.C. State, Nebraska, Penn State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Utah, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Wisconsin

The most important thing is Maryland just added to this list. Four seasons have come and gone since Merriman’s departure, three in the case of Davis.

But Heyward-Bey’s just been through College Park, and likely any school that exports a high draft pick, it’s probably going to do a little bit to help recruiting in the short term.

Patrick Stevens

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