Best In Show:
5-Star OT Damian Prince, 6’5/295 lbs (Bishop McNamara)
This one is a no-brainer. Damian Prince represents a culmination of the hard work Randy Edsall and his regime have put in on the recruiting trail. Grabbing 50% of the two best players Maryland was vehemently going after (the other being Jalen Tabor) ain’t bad for a team that hasn’t won more than ten games in a decade.
Prince is, for lack of a better term, a meast. The minute he steps onto a college football field he’ll be on NFL radars. A perfect combination of size, athleticism, and a incredibly good anicipatory feel at left tackle pretty much assures he’s going to start from week one for the Terps. He comes in and fills a need to a T at either left or right tackle, and outside of needing to lift a bit more to compete in the Big Ten, he’s a stud from the start. Mike Locksley knocked it out of the park on this one.
Best “Play Me or Pay Me” Guy:
4-Star Linebacker Jessie Aniebonam, 6’4/230 (Good Counsel)
Aniebonam chose the Terps relatively early in the recruiting period, but don’t mistake him for a guy who jumped at the first offer. The Terps got Aniebonam over a lot of different schools (Auburn, Alabama, and Clemson among others) and there’s a good chance he makes some sort of impact right away.
Sure, there’s a lot of talent on the team right now at the pass rushing end positions as well as at outside linebacker, but Aniebonam is way too talented to not play right away. He’s got near-perfect form tackling, and his explosiveness off the snap is rare. While he doesn’t address an immediate need, he does add depth and plenty of it.
“Sleep on him and get nightmares”:
3-Star CB Daniel Ezeagwu, 6’2/200 (Colonial Forge)
Ezeagwu isn’t the most heralded recruit in this class by a long shot, but he may well be one of the more important pieces moving forward. 6’2 corners with 4.4 speed and great hands don’t grow on trees, and Ezeagwu is one of them. He’s not incredibly well-known because he hasn’t played tons of quality competition, but when he has, his performances have been great.
Ezeagwu was used a lot on offense in high school (Jet Sweep, repeat), but don’t expect much of that in college. He’s got the size and physicality to end up on special teams early in his career, but I fully expect this kid to be a regular starter at some point in his career. He’s got the hands and hips to develop into a ball hawk, so watch for him. Nice sleeper pickup.
Best “We need it but you don’t know we need it” Pickup
2-star TE Andrew Gray 6’4/215 (Chardon)
The tight end position left a lot to be desired last year, and at times I was convinced that Stinebaugh was a big factor in the Terps inability to block effectively downfield. Gray may only be a two-star recruit, but that’s mostly because his offense didn’t involve him at all. That said, Gray is insanely physical, selfless, and does his one job very well: block the living daylight’s out of teams.
He ran essentially the same type of offense in high schoo that the Terps run, so picking up the playbook shouldn’t be a burden for him. Given that Maryland will need help blocking on zone read plays right away, you can count on Gray coming in and contributing early. He probably won’t catch a single pass all season long, but I do expect him to get some burn an help the team out at a positional need.
Big Ten Class Ranking: 7
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The Terps finished off 7th in the Big Ten, which is pretty hard to be upset with given that they only brought in 17 players and still finished on par with a 9-win Nebraska team. Maryland will probably never come out with better recruits than Ohio State, Michigan, or even Penn State, but they’re punching above their weight class right now. If they can continually bring in classes like this, expect to find them competing in the Big Ten year in and year out.
Will they compete for Big Ten titles with classes like this? No, probably not. You would need about four straight top three classes to do that. But will they be as bad as Tony Kornheiser suggests? I think not. Maryland does an incredibly good job at finding sleepers (at least historically), so though this class may not have too much acclaim, it’ll certainly pack a punch.
Maryland ended up jumping six spots in the 247 team rankings for the 2014 class to 43rd nationally. That’s kicking past your coverage for a team that hasn’t won anything of note during the Edsall regime. The Terps are right in the mix with Wisconsin, Nebraska, South Florida, and Texas Christian, and it’s hard to ask for more than that. They beat out Rutgers and all but six ACC schools (just as an aside), and they’re trending upward. Plus, I think the talent they brought in has some real potential.