The Maryland football program has had an interesting two weeks.
With Mike Locksley taking over as interim coach, there’s a lot at stake against Penn State.
The Terrapins may only have one full season of Big Ten experience under their belt, but it’s very clear that a rivalry with the Nittany Lions has already been established. Before the 2014 contest, the rivalry was kickstarted due to the fact that Maryland’s captains refused to shake hands with their Penn State counterparts.
When facing a team in a similar geographical area, the recruiting angle immediately becomes an important factor.
“Rivalries take some time,” Locksley said on Tuesday. “Obviously, we’re pretty new in the conference. Fortunately for us, we were able to get a jump last year with the win, but it’ll take some time to build this thing into a rivalry that I’m sure our fans will like to see. Rivalries are usually started with being competitive on the field, and we got a pretty good start last year with coming up with a win in a tough place to play.”
Both schools target several of the same players, and Penn State coach James Franklin has made it a point to attack the DMV. In the 2016 class, Franklin has secured commitments from local prospects such as defensive tackle Ellison Jordan (Gilman), cornerback Zechariah McPhearson (Riverdale Baptist), and defensive end Shane Simmons (DeMatha Catholic).
The class currently is rated as the No. 2 class in the Big Ten and the No. 4 class in the nation, according to 247Sports.
With Locksley or perhaps another coach taking over the Maryland program next season, the opportunity to make some noise against Franklin is one that the Terps need to take advantage of.
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“James has always been an enthusiastic guy and has been very passionate from the times that we’ve worked together,” Locksley said. “From afar, I’ve seen how he’s matured and grown as a coach, and the success that he’s had as a head coach. I have a lot of respect for the job that he’s done. I’m excited about having the chance to go compete.”
As many Maryland fans remember, Franklin served as the team’s offensive coordinator from 2008 to 2010 under Ralph Friedgen. Once Friedgen was fired, Franklin became the head coach at Vanderbilt where he remained until 2014 when he accepted the job in Happy Valley.
Maryland currently has the No. 35 class in the nation and the eighth-best class in the Big Ten. Obviously, there is plenty of talent in the 2016 group, including wide receiver Tino Ellis (DeMatha), quarterback Dwayne Haskins (Bullis School), and linebacker Keandre Jones (Good Counsel).
However, the Terps will need to make sure those players stay committed to Maryland, and persuade a few high-profile targets that are still available, to come to College Park.
Saturday will be a very mixed crowd in Baltimore, but the recruits will be watching. This is Maryland’s chance to make an impression.