With Maryland’s signing day in the books barring an unexpected development, it’s time to take a comprehensive look at some themes and superlatives in the Terps’ 2013 recruiting class.
Which Maryland signee is best positioned to make an immediate impact in College Park? The smart money's on Deon Long.
Best Recruit: Deon Long
Lost in the signing day shuffle is the addition of Long, who signed with the Terps in December. Big, physical and fast, he’ll likely start from Day One and will take pressure off of emerging star Stefon Diggs. Coming off the most prolific season of any receiver in the history of junior college football, Long is an NFL prospect who’s already proved he can fill up the stat sheet as a freshman at New Mexico.
Best Recruiting Victory: Jacquille Veii
The Terps overcame several obstacles in Veii’s recruitment. They parted ways with him in early November because of an academic hiccup, a move that could’ve caused resentment if not handled gracefully. When his transcript issue was resolved, they jumped back in and reclaimed pole position over Iowa. Then Nebraska swooped in late with an offer and Veii canceled his visit to College Park, instead flying to Lincoln.
As recently as yesterday, Veii was said to be slightly leaning toward the Cornhuskers. With help from Maryland commit DeAndre Lane, a close friend of Veii’s, the Terps nosed past Nebraska at the finish line for the in-state speedster.
In the running: Taivon Jacobs.
Best Switch: Andrew Isaacs
While Taivon Jacobs’ signing day flip from Ohio State will generate headlines, his decision was largely influenced by his family situation. In Isaacs, Maryland got an athletic, physically impressive prospect who can do a bit of everything and could prove to be one of the best tight ends in the Class of 2013. Other recruits Maryland flipped from prior commitments: Jacobs, Moise Larose (Rutgers), Chandler Burkett (Florida International).
In the running: Taivon Jacobs.
Painful De-Commit: Tanner Hartman
Hartman might’ve helped Maryland along the defensive line down the road. And for Maryland, which was the first big program to offer him, it surely stung to lose him to Penn State in the midst of a scandal. But he’s only listed here by default; the Terps didn’t suffer any major de-commitments in this cycle. Stefan Houston, a physically gifted linebacker, would’ve earned this superlative had Maryland not been the side to cut ties for non-football reasons; the Terps did the same with Demetri McGill. Other de-commitments: Richy Anderson (Penn State), Mike Williams (Villanova), Demetri McGill (East Carolina), Stefan Houston (Marshall).
Cockerille may be regarded as one of the top quarterbacks in the Mid-Atlantic now, but he wasn't when Maryland offered.
In the running: N/A
Best Scouting Job: Shane Cockerille
Cockerille, rated the No. 13 dual-threat quarterback in the nation, wasn’t always so highly regarded; when Maryland offered him midway through his junior year, it was the first school to offer him as a quarterback. The Terps were rewarded for their advance scouting last April when they gained a commitment from Cockerille, who emerged to earn Elite 11 honors and garner offers from schools like Michigan, Wisconsin and Arkansas.
In the running: JaJuan Dulaney
Immediate Impact: Deon Long, Milan Collins
There will be little transition for Long. Three full seasons removed from high school, he comes in a ready-made player. With Diggs drawing the attention of opponents and Marcus Leak having shown flashes of big-play ability, he’ll see plenty of one-on-one opportunities. The only questions about Long in the past pertained to his work ethic, and those seem to have faded.
Redshirt Now … Watch out Later: Derrick Hayward
Hayward was a hidden gem playing on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, which is no hotbed for recruiting. But he’s a rangy athlete who could become a big-time playmaker rushing the passer and in coverage. At 6-5 and 200 pounds, he’s got the frame to add plenty of muscle, which may require a redshirt year. He’s a promising long-term stock. Credit assistant John Dunn on this one.
Best NFL Prospect: Derwin Gray
Gray’s already got the size and athleticism of an NFL offensive tackle. He runs better than a lot of high school tight ends and has shed baby fat during the past year. Opinions vary on whether he’ll be ready to start as a freshman, but he’s Maryland’s highest-rated signee – and the No. 6 offensive tackle in the nation – for a reason. You don’t find many high school linemen with his physical gifts, and when you do, they usually sign with national powerhouses.
Ngakoue's commitment turned Maryland's linebacker haul from good to potentially great.
In the running: Deon Long
Position Filled: Linebacker
With Hayward, Jalen Brooks, Jermaine Carter and Cavon Walker already committed, Maryland already had a nice group of linebackers heading into signing day. The commitment of Yannick Ngakoue, a potential star whom Florida State wanted badly, puts this crop over the top. With Demetrius Hartfield, Darin Drakeford and Kenneth Tate graduating, Randy Edsall needed to replenish his linebacking corps and did so successfully.
In the running: Maryland also had a blockbuster cycle in recruiting possible slot receiver-returner types, adding dynamic prospects like Will Likely, DeAndre Lane, Veii and Jacobs. It also added a speedster on the defensive side in cornerback Jarrett Ross, who is the younger brother of Maryland running back Brandon Ross and was the first 2013 recruit to verbal.
Position Lacking: Defensive Tackle
For the second year in a row, Maryland struggled in its search for interior defensive lineman, signing just one in Kingsley Opara. Stalwarts Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis are gone, leaving the roster thin at the position. It’s safe to assume it will be a top priority again in 2014.
In the running: Maryland didn’t sign a single running back, which is highly unusual, but the Terps already have a young stable of players at the position led by Wes Brown.
Biggest Miss: Micah Kiser
Maryland was in the hunt for Kiser, a heralded linebacker from Gilman School, even after he committed to Virginia. And at times it appeared the Terps, who’ve made huge recent inroads at the Baltimore power, might be able to flip him. But that never materialized. There were higher-rated in-state prospects who went elsewhere, but Maryland had the best shot with Kiser.
In the running: Dorian O’Daniel
Unsung Hero: Randy Edsall.
Discussion of Maryland recruiting inevitably revolve around Mike Locksley, and for good reason; Locksley’s played a starring role in the Terps’ recruiting resurgence. But head coach Randy Edsall organized an effort that produced local groundswell and was able to attract highly regarded prospects despite back-to-back losing seasons.
Credit Edsall with making Maryland an attractive landing spot despite its recent on-field struggles.
Expert Opinion: "This was a very good class for Randy Edsall in terms of continuing to recruit the D.C.-area well and also filling positions of need. Deon Long can make an immediate impact and can keep opposing defenses honest playing Stefon Diggs. I also really like Shane Cockerille. I think Maryland wins more games last year if he's on the roster rather than having to play a linebacker. Milan Collins is 6-foot-2, can run and is an excellent athlete and leader.
"I think at cornerback and safety, he can be excellent in time. I am also intrigued my Moise Larose and Elvis Dennah in terms of size/frame prospects that have a chance to grow and develop. Moving forward, if Maryland can keep more of the in-state, non-D.C. talent at home, I believe it can build a roster that will allow it to compete at a high level in the Big Ten." – J.C. Shurburtt
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