- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 3, 2016

When D.J. Durkin was hired as Maryland’s new coach in December, he was adamant about not letting the best players from the area slip from the Terrapins’ grasp and into the hands of the country’s premier college football programs.

“We have to go like crazy and do it,” Durkin said in his Dec. 3 introductory press conference. “Anytime you have that advantage in your backyard where you have a strong enough pool that you can field a team from that, it’s a huge advantage.”

That plan came to fruition on Wednesday, National Signing Day, as 19 players signed their letter of intent — including eight from the state of Maryland. The Terrapins also had four mid-year enrollees — two from Maryland — to round out the class at 23 recruits.

“That’s our No. 1 thing. We’re going to build this program around the guys in our own backyard and the DMV,” Durkin said on Wednesday. “It’s interesting because you talk to the people in this area and everyone has such great pride of the depth and level of talent in this area and it’s true. I think people feel under-respected on national terms. In the past, our guys have continued to spread out and go different places. It’s our job to put a program on the field guys are proud of where all the guys from here will want to play for the hometown team. That’s what will get this thing on the map the right way.”

The most notable is Terrance Davis, a 6-foot-3, 320-pound guard from DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Maryland. Davis, who announced his verbal commitment to Maryland in January during the Under Armour All-American game, is a four-star recruit and ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the state, according to Rivals.

Davis visited Michigan on Nov. 27 when Durkin was serving as the Wolverines’ defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.

DeMatha wide receivers Tino Ellis and D.J. Turner and running back Lorenzo Harrison all signed with Maryland. Ellis, who stands at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, is another four-star recruit and ranked as the sixth-best player in the state according to Rivals.

“What a thrill to be able to get all of those DeMatha guys as part of this class,” Durkin said. “[DeMatha coach] Elijah Brooks and his program there, it doesn’t get any better than that. We’re going to try and stake our claim there. Those [DeMatha] guys are going to contribute and probably early.”

Along with Davis, the Terrapins boosted the depth on the offensive line with Richard Merritt, a 6-foot-5, 305-pound guard from Archbishop Carroll in Silver Spring. He is ranked the No. 4 player from the state of Maryland and 14th-best guard in the country, according to 247Sports.

Durkin said he and his recruiting staff put an emphasis on the state of Florida, where they signed seven recruits, including five of the Terrapins’ six defensive backs. That included twins Elijah and Elisha Daniels, natives of Davie, Florida who attended Cardinal Gibbons. Both Elijah, a safety, and Elisha, a cornerback, are three-star recruits.

“We need as many guys as possible that can run and cover to play the style of defense we want to play,” Durkin said. “It will be a priority again next year. That was definitely an emphasis, as well as some other areas, but defensive backs was something we talked about from the get-go.”

Maryland went 3-9 last season and just 1-7 in the Big Ten. Randy Edsall, who was in his fifth season, was fired in October and Mike Locksley took over as the interim coach. Edsall’s firing impacted the recruiting class, as quarterback Dwayne Haskins and outside linebacker Keandre Jones, both Maryland natives, switched their commitment to Ohio State. Haskins and Jones were ranked the fifth- and sixth-best recruits in the state, respectively, by Rivals.

The Terrapins boosted their quarterback depth with Tyrrell Pigrome and Max Bortenschlager. Pigrome, a Pinson, Alabama native, chose Maryland over several schools, including Virginia Tech. The dual-threat quarterback was named the 2015 Gatorade Alabama Player of the Year after throwing for 44 touchdowns and rushing for 18 as a senior. Pigrome, who is 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, also rushed for 1,349 yards in his final season at Clay-Chalkville.

Durkin also credited Maryland offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Walt Bell for helping the staff adapt after Haskins’ late switch.

“I’ll tell you what, those guys can do some things,” Durkin said of his two newest quarterbacks. “Max can spin it and throw it downfield. Piggy, down in Alabama, that guy is electric. He’s unbelievable. I can’t tell you how happy we are that worked out.”

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