For Coach Randy Edsall and his Maryland football staff, everything starts on Sunday.
Sure, the Maryland football team still has its season finale remaining, a Saturday matchup at North Carolina, but for an athletics department that on Monday announced a massive and surprising upheaval by switching from the ACC to the Big Ten, the Terrapins must call a recruiting audible as well.
Reaction from Edsall’s recruits and commitments was swift, mostly on Twitter. Some expressed surprise, others dismay that Maryland would, beginning in the 2014 season, begin playing conference games further away from home, making it difficult for family members to travel.
But others affirmed their commitment and interest in Maryland, declaring that it was the up-and-coming program which piqued their interest, not the allure of playing ACC football.
“There’s no issues” with recruits, Edsall said Tuesday. “Here’s kids in high school, they have a lot of emotions. Yesterday, when the news broke, people get on the phone and say, hey what do you think about this? They don’t know anything. They’re probably hearing it for the first time. They react. But when you get a chance to talk with them, say here’s what happened, here’s why…we don’t have any issues with them.”
Since Edsall arrived in College Park, he and his staff have emphasized keeping local recruits at home, establishing relationships with area high schools in an effort to attract top Washington area talent. The prize was Stefon Diggs, who turned down offers from Ohio State and Florida, among others, and wound up as one of Maryland’s lone offensive bright spots in an otherwise tumultuous 2012 season.
While the Terps will certainly keep the focus local, the Midwest becomes a new territory of interest. Maryland currently has five players from Georgia on its roster, five from Florida and seven from North Carolina, poaching recruits away from nearby other ACC schools interested in playing against their hometown teams.
“We may be recruiting a little bit differently than what we’ve done before,” Edsall said. “But the bottom line is, the area we have to control is what’s here at home. That’s not going to change. We’re going to work to control the area here. But you take the five-hour radius, you’ll go outside the area to attract other student-athletes to help you get the program where you want to.”
Since 2005, Maryland has brought on just four scholarship players from non-Pennsylvania Big Ten markets, three of whom hailed from Ohio: offensive lineman Andrew Crummey (Van Wert, Ohio), wide receiver Adrian Cannon (Pontiac, Mich.), punter Travis Baltz (Whitehouse, Ohio) and offensive lineman Zach Marshall (Mason, Ohio). Reaching south may become more difficult for Edsall and his staff, but the Midwest becomes new, desired landscape.
“When I heard this was probably going to happen, already started thinking about stuff, where we’re going to go,” Edsall said. “The best thing is, you look at some of the comments that were made by our verbal commitments, I think that tells you more of a picture about how that can help us in recruiting. What you do, is you take a look to see where you want to go, how we’d end up playing out in the Midwest. We’d be foolish not to go and recruit in those areas to have people come here to such a great university.”
Entering college, defensive lineman Darius Kilgo was recruited by Michigan State as well as Maryland, choosing College Park over East Lansing because of the relationships developed with the Terps staff, who recruited him throughout the process. He enjoyed the Spartans’ indoor facilities and bigger stadium, but Maryland felt more like home. Kevin Dorsey, a senior wide receiver from Forestville, looked less at Maryland’s conference ties than team chemistry and relationships with coaches.
“I’m not sure [future recruits] will see too much of a difference,” Dorsey said. “You think Michigan, for instance, it’s a historic program. You go into a stadium with 80,000 or 100,000 fans. You look up into a sea of blue and yellow. Those are things you’d still want to go see. It kind of reminds you of a West Virginia game. Different title, same colors for another team. You still have the college football atmosphere, which drives recruits because you want to play in big-time games.”
With a three-week contact period in both December and January, the Terps will hit the ground running beginning Monday. And regional unfamiliarity doesn’t concern Edsall one bit.
“Everybody might have a prime area, but then we’ve also got secondary areas,” Edsall said. “I’ve recruited myself in Detroit, Chicago, Indiana as an assistant coach. You get around. Recruiting is about relationships. It’s about cultivating relationships and building relationships. We have guys who have recruited in those areas we’ll be going. Might have been 10 years, but they’ve been in those areas. I’m not too concerned about that. I‘ve got a great staff and a group of guys.”