- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 4, 2004

The Maryland football team may have its best recruiting class since the 1980s despite losing two marquee players in the final days.

The Terrapins yesterday landed a possible starting quarterback in Jordan Steffy of Leola, Pa., who was among 22 prep players committing on national signing day. The Terps loaded up on offensive and defensive linemen and defensive backs as they finally won over several elite Mid-Atlantic players from perennial rivals Penn State and Virginia.

“Without a doubt, it’s the strongest class since I’ve been here,” said fourth-year coach Ralph Friedgen. “Some would say it’s the best class in Maryland history.”

Rivals.com recruiting analyst Bobby Burton said it’s Maryland’s strongest group in his 15 years of rating classes.

“They addressed their needs in the defensive backfield and on the offensive and defensive lines and kept virtually all of the top players in the state at home,” Burton said. “It’s just a continuation of the rebirth of Maryland football. They were so down for so long, but coach Friedgen has completely turned around the entire program, and College Park is now a prime destination for the top tier of Mid-Atlantic recruits.”

Meanwhile, Maryland will play California in 2008 and 2009. California will open 2008 in College Park and the Terps head to California in 2009. Maryland president Dan Mote, a California alumnus, was involved in scheduling the West Coast opponent. Friedgen said he liked the opportunity for increased national exposure.

The Terps’ 31-8 mark and two bowl victories since Friedgen’s 2001 arrival helped Maryland secure its strongest incoming class since former coach Bobby Ross kept the best local players in the 1980s. Maryland lost Eleanor Roosevelt High defensive end Derrick Harvey and DeMatha receiver Derrick McPhearson on Tuesday, but still signed 12 area players. Maryland also brings in quarterback Dan Gronkowski and running back Keon Lattimore, who signed previously. Gronkowski is currently enrolled in school and will be classified as a freshman. Lattimore, a younger brother of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, will arrive in August.

Friedgen has tried to upgrade the Terps’ size and speed since arriving. He now feels Maryland is on the verge of matching up physically against top programs.

“I think we’re one more [recruiting class] away,” he said. “This is a young team that has to develop. We have 18 seniors this year so we’re going to have to have a good recruiting class next year and we’ll be where we need to be.”

Steffy was the jewel of the class. The SuperPrep All-American passed for 5,587 yards and 51 touchdowns as a four-year starter. Steffy’s mobility makes him well-suited for Maryland’s option scheme. Rivals.com rates Steffy as the No.10 dual-threat quarterback in the country.

Friedgen said Steffy could compete for the starting job since Maryland has no experienced upperclassmen to replace Scott McBrien. Joel Statham, Ryan Mitch and Sam Hollenbach will compete during spring practice for the job.

“You don’t know until you get the freshmen here,” Friedgen said. “At one time it wasn’t possible, but I’ve seen what they’ve done at Florida and Georgia Tech, and the fact that all of our quarterbacks are going to be young we’re going to have to scale it back pretty good so they won’t be that far ahead of Steffy.”

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