National Signing Day has come and gone. As this year’s top high schoolers set their destinations for the next four to five years, don’t expect a lot of buzz surrounding the University of Maryland. In fact, the Terps will not rate among the leaders on National Signing Day, but that isn’t to say this won’t be a solid class for Randy Edsall and company.
ESPN, Rivals.com and Scout.com have ranked schools based on the quality of talent hauled in, but I cannot help but think how very shallow and hollow these assessments are, because the skilled positions are severely over-emphasized. While position needs are included in their equation, I feel this area is undervalued as well. They also fail to account for recruits that can potentially create competition within the team that could improve current players already on the roster. After all, competition breeds improvement.
Nothing is more clear of this than Maryland’s recruiting classes in the early to mid years of Ralph Friedgen’s tenure as head coach. The Terps put together a few top 30 classes that were heavy on skill position recruits, many considered 3- and 4-star talent, but light on offensive and defensive line talent. Those top ranked classes never lived up to the high expectations, and because of that Maryland missed out on going to a bowl game in 2004, 2005 and 2009.
This past season the Terps won nine games with kids coming from unheralded recruiting years. You could easily argue the difference was that in recent years the Terps have made a strong effort to bring in interior linemen, as well as talented skill players.
This season fans saw a very young group on the offensive line excel. Adding depth with this class will create healthy competition for playing time.
Nathaniel Clarke, the only 4-star in this year’s class, played high school ball at Archbishop Carroll in Washington, D.C. Clarke was actually recruited for last year’s class, and like Tyrek Cheeseboro, he decided to spend a year at Fork Union Military Academy to work on academics. Clarke is a very promising prospect, and the Terps love his size, 6’5” and 310 lbs. Clarke is strong and very athletic. He has the ability to play on the defensive side of the ball, but for now he is expected to play offensive line.
During the coaching transition, many prospects such as offensive line recruit Andrew Zeller wavered for a bit on their commitment to Maryland. In the case of Zeller, his relationship with offensive line coach Tom Brattan was important. Fortunately, coach Edsall retained Bratton for his staff, and a relieved Zeller quickly reaffirmed his pledge to become a Terp. The 6’5”, 280 lb Zeller is one of five offensive line recruits in this year’s class and all are considered future starters. The Terps have also added 3-star talent in Ryan Doyle, 6’6”, 265 lbs; Stephen Grommer 6’5”, 285 lbs; and Evan Mulrooney 6’4”, 285 lbs.
The Terps increased their defensive line depth by adding Quinton Jefferson, an end out of Pennsylvania, and tackle Keith Bowers of Florida. Jefferson was the first commitment Randy Edsall received, and the 6’4” defensive end brings size and athleticism to a position of need. The Terps have not had a quality pass rushing end since Jeremy Navarre, and Quinton could quickly make an impact.
When evaluating a recruiting class, I do agree potential playmakers should factor into the analysis. Playmakers can change the course of a game and make a good team a great team. The Terps have procured three playmakers at wide receiver, and two are coming out of the state of North Carolina.
With great size, Nigel King brings a 6’3”, 199 lb frame, and he runs a 4.5 40. Marcus Leak, though not as big of a target as King, is very strong, he can squat 425 lbs, and he too runs a 4.5 40. It’s believed among many scouts that both players could become threats at the next level.
Tyrek Cheeseboro, a Baltimore resident coming with a year of prep school under his belt, is considered the gem of the three wideouts. Cheeseboro runs a sub 4.4 40, and is not just considered a deep ball threat, but a capable possession receiver as well. Tyrek is a hyper competitive player, runs smooth routes, and plays with unwavering tenacity. He should compete for playing time right away.
The Terps found a couple of 3-star playmakers on defense too. Defensive back Jememiah Hendy was a highly sought after talent and chose Maryland over Iowa, N.C. State and Virginia. Hendy, a local recruit, had an impressive senior year for Bowie High School. On defense he intercepted five passes and recorded 30 tackles. As a wide receiver, he caught seven touchdown passes, gained 592 yards; he excelled on special teams, returning three punts for touchdowns. He figures to be a tall corner back at 6’1”, and he runs the 40 in 4.4 seconds.
Another potential playmaker in the defensive backfield is Naples, FL native Makinton Dorleant. Like Hendy, Dorleant has good size for a defensive back, but is slightly faster possessing a 40 time of 4.37 seconds. Scouts rave about Makinton’s open field tackling ability and his ability to help against the run game. He’s a possibility to play either corner or safety, but wherever the staff chooses to place him, Dorleant has the ability to shine.
Other players to note in this class are running back/full back Tyler Cierski, safety Undray Clark, linebacker Lukas Foreman, punter/kicker Nate Renfro and defensive back Michael Williams. All four players will be solid contributors in the future.
Cierski’s comes from Georgia, and he’s a lumbering ball carrier with speed. At 6’, 240 lbs, and a 4.65 40 time, look for Tyler to give the Terps a boost in short yardage situations.
Undray Clark is an intriguing prospect out of Miami, FL. As a junior he caught three touchdown passes and intercepted two on defense. He’ll have to improve his speed, but he projects as a reliable safety for the Terps defensive backfield.
Foreman and Renfro were surprise additions. Renfro had originally committed to Florida State, but reconsidered on signing day. Florida State could not offer him a full ride, but the Terps were high on his list of possibilities and so he decided College Park was a better option. Foreman is tall, 6’4”, but will have to add weight because now he is light at 195 lbs.
Michael Williams is the younger brother of former Terp, now NFL safety, Madieu Williams. Williams comes from DeMatha Catholic High School, and coach Edsall is determined to make inroads with the school considered as a national football powerhouse. In fact, many inside the program believe Edsall has already meet with DeMatha head coach Scott McGregor as much as six times since being named head coach. Williams is a good start to developing a strong relationship with local high school recruits, plus he brings decent size and quality speed.
Randy Edsall and his staff have done a remarkable job keeping this class together. Though they did lose out on a couple of gems, like 4-star linebacker Travis Hughes, 20 commitments were obtained and position needs were filled. No, this isn’t a class the pundits will rave about, but it is a class that Terp fans can respect and look forward to seeing make an impact.