Entering National Signing Day, Maryland Coach Randy Edsall and his staff had already assembled a solid recruiting class, stocked with a five-star junior college transfer, an Under Armour all-American offensive lineman and an Elite 11 quarterback.
But three players still had not revealed their destinations before Wednesday. Linebacker Yannick Ngakoue (Friendship Collegiate), wide receiver Taivon Jacobs (Suitland) and athlete Jacquille Veii (Avalon School) all announced their commitments between 10 a.m. and noon. Each possessed plenty of options beyond Maryland and sat before tables at their respective schools under different circumstances.
Yet when each announced his decision, they all chose Maryland. On Signing Day, the Terps batted a perfect 3 for 3.
Ngakoue and Veii had each decommitted from Maryland. Ngakoue, a Parade and Under Armour all-American, wanted to explore his options, and entered Wednesday considering Florida State and South Carolina. Maryland pulled Veii’s offer amid some academic issues but, once those were rectified, placed the scholarship back on the table. Jacobs, meanwhile, had considered College Park but committed early to Urban Meyer and Ohio State, only recently reevaluating the decision to weigh the well-being of his 1-year-old daughter, Bailey.
“To go 3 for 3 on Signing Day makes a big statement about what we’re doing here and the direction we’re heading,” a clearly pleased Edsall said Wednesday afternoon.
Ngakoue was the biggest mystery. Tuesday night, the Terps received word that the Friendship Collegiate standout was deciding between Maryland and Florida State. His Twitter and Instagram feeds had been flooded for weeks with fans offering both best wishes and pleas for a commitment. Especially with the graduation of senior Darin Drakeford, who stood out this season along the front seven for defensive coordinator Brian Stewart’s 3-4 scheme, the opportunity for immediate playing time presented itself.
But when Edsall called Ngakoue on Tuesday night, he asked about the situation. “You’ll find out tomorrow,” Ngakoue replied. Still, Edsall sensed something in the linebacker’s voice.
“I’ve been doing this long enough,” he said.
Veii, meanwhile, received late offers from Iowa and Nebraska after reopening his recruitment. Before decommitting, Veii had planned to room with running back DeAndre Lane, cornerback Jarrett Ross and defensive end Malik Jones. His high school drew out the suspense on a live stream, retiring his jersey before Veii took the lectern. He talked about winning championships and succeeding. Then the speedy athlete, who projects to play at running back for the Terps but will also contribute on special teams, put on a Maryland hat.
“In the long run he came back and said Maryland was the place he wanted to be and needed to be to be successful,” Edsall said. “We found out from him a little bit earlier this morning, just before he went on his press conference.”
Jacobs was the wild card. The brother of current Maryland wide receiver Levern Jacobs, Taivon long considered Ohio State his dream school. But the desire to become a better father for Bailey kept Jacobs closer to home.
“That was very important to him,” Edsall said. “Being a father, being away for four or five years, in those years where there’s a lot of developing with a child I think he wanted to make sure that he fulfills his obligation as a father to be around. I think the opportunity to play with his brother was important, the opportunity to have mom and dad, but ultimately he had his priorities right, in terms of being a great dad.”
Jacobs now rounds out one of the ACC’s most dangerous receiving corps, which will feature incumbent starters Stefon Diggs and Marcus Leak, junior college record-setter Deon Long, as well as rising stars Levern Jacobs and Nigel King.
Edsall’s final 48 hours weren’t as nerve-wracking as most. Even without these three, the Terrapins had a 19-man class full of local talent, the final bridge into the Big Ten. Scoring one of the three would have been nice. Getting three was a treat.
“To be able to have three quality young men like those three and to get them on signing day, that was special,” Edsall said. “That was really special. All the hard work…you just keep going until the very end, and that’s what the staff did. We kept grinding until the very end, and kept recruiting until last moment we could, and it paid off.”