Expectations were clear when Randy Edsall arrived in College Park in 2011. Fresh off an improbable BCS bowl run at Connecticut, he replaced reigning ACC Coach of the Year Ralph Friedgen as the program aimed to improve from "good to great," in the words of Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson.
The transition didn't go according to plan, as Edsall dropped 14 of his first 17 conference games, including a 63-0 loss at Florida State in the 2013 ACC opener. The Terrapins steadily gained stability last fall, capitalizing on crucial road victories at Virginia Tech and North Carolina State to reach a bowl game for the first time in three years.
Maryland enters its fourth season of the Edsall era in uncharted territory, becoming a new kid on the block in Big Ten Conference circles. The move, and some key coaching changes, have restored a sense of excitement more than three months before Ohio State comes to town for the team's Big Ten home opener.
Cornerback Kareem Ali, who committed to Maryland earlier this month over the likes of Louisville, Pittsburgh and Florida, sums up the sentiment.
"They're on the come up," the New Jersey native said.
The only way to acquire respect in a new conference is to stockpile victories, but Maryland is already making new foes feel its presence on the recruiting trail.
Ali is one of 14 prospects who have pledged to the Terrapins since May 23. Edsall carries as much momentum in his 2015 class as any coach in America right now, evidenced by 12 commitments during a 17-day stretch in June.
"I think they all see the same thing I do in Maryland—that we can do something special," said Mbi Tanyi, a Texas defensive end who committed the same day as Ali. "It's great to take a look at all these new commits almost every day and see that they're really solid players."
The Terrapins secured just a single commitment in the 2015 class—4-star offensive guard E.J. Donahue—before late May. The group began to blossom during the final stretch of spring and continues to add talent as summer recruiting heats up.
Edsall's commitments come from nine different states, displaying a broad reach beyond state borders.
"They're from all over the country, which really excites me," Ohio offensive lineman Mason Zimmerman said. "I'm looking forward to getting together with these guys from different areas and trying to do big things at Maryland."
Zimmerman, rated 15th nationally among centers in 247Sports' composite rankings, received interest from other Big Ten programs like Illinois and Northwestern. He cited new offensive line coach Greg Studrawa as a key factor in his decision.
"Coach Strud has a great personality," Zimmerman said. "He's super funny and really knows how to work with players. He's been successful for a long time, and I think I can learn a lot from him."
Studrawa spent the past seven seasons at LSU, including two as offensive coordinator. Another addition to Edsall's coaching staff is also drawing rave reviews from recruits.
Former NFL standout Keenan McCardell, a two-time Super Bowl champion who caught 883 passes for more than 11,000 yards during his career, took over as wide receivers coach this year. He built a football resume that commands respect, and at 44 years old, McCardell is young enough for current prospects to recognize.
"Coach Keenan played in the NFL for a lot of years," Maryland target Irvin Charles said. "He knows, from a receiver's perspective, what it takes to get to the next level. I'm going to college to get coached up, not to stay the same. I feel like being coached by him for the next three or four years would be a great thing to do to prepare for the draft."
Charles, who lists the Terrapins in his top seven, is a 4-star receiver from New Jersey. Maryland is competing with South Carolina, Florida, Penn State, Michigan State, Louisville and Miami for his commitment.
Edsall has a little help from an unofficial recruiter.
"Me and Irv are friends," said Ali, who plans to return to College Park for a visit with Charles soon.
Charles isn't the only top-tier offensive playmaker intrigued by Maryland.
Prolific Florida running back Ray-Ray McCloud will make his second trip to Maryland later this month. Clemson, Florida, USC, UCLA and several other squads are after the 4-star prospect, who appreciates the program's leap to the Big Ten.
"I think it gives the team a better chance to compete for a national championship," McCloud said. "Now they're looking to bring in players who can help the team get there. It's a good atmosphere."
Maryland hopes key in-state pickups like 2014 5-star signee Damian Prince and a regionally diverse haul like the one in this cycle can start the ball rolling in that direction.
Tanyi, who has added eight offers since Maryland extended his first scholarship, thinks the team is ready to take on the challenge.
"The Big Ten move is a huge deal," he said. "I'm the kind of person who wants to play a tough schedule and prove myself against the best. Maryland moving into the Big Ten gives me a chance to do that. If our class continues to get better with guys who feel the same way, we can make a big impact in the conference."
Increased recruiting success is a positive sign, but Maryland still has a long way to go until national signing day. How the program performs during its inaugural Big Ten campaign could determine whether this class continues to improve or eventually implodes.
Many fans remain unsure of whether the Terrapins' leader can take this team from good to great, but don't count Ali among them.
"I trust Coach Edsall," he said. "The coaching staff is excellent. They want to bring that 'Maryland Pride' back, and I want to be a part of it."
Clearly, Ali isn't alone.
Recruit information and rating courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.
All quotes obtained firsthand by B/R recruiting columnist Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.