At a bar named Looney’s, more than a week after just about every other major high school player announced his college choice, in a circus-like atmosphere, the University of Maryland football program landed its biggest recruit in years when Good Counsel’s Stefon Diggs announced his intention to play in College Park.
Diggs, the All-Met Defensive Player of the Year who is expected to play wide receiver for the Terrapins, chose Maryland from a list of finalists that included Florida, Ohio State and Auburn.
“I want to win a championship, I want to win bowl games,” Diggs said to a packed crowd. “Where else is a better place to do it than your city?”
The pub, within walking distance of Byrd Stadium and where Maryland Coach Randy Edsall tapes his weekly coach’s show, was packed early in the evening. Some fans showed up at noon for an announcement that was expected to be made at 9 p.m. By 6 p.m., it was standing room only with most of the packed crowd dressed in Maryland T-shirts and jerseys.
Diggs arrived with his family in tow shortly after 7. About a half-hour later, he told the crowd the news they had come to hear. Afterward, he revealed that his mother had faxed his letter-of-intent to Maryland earlier in the day. Maryland confirmed his commitment Friday night.
“He is an impact player who brings a playmaking ability that will enhance our team,” Edsall said in a statement.
Diggs has gained a reputation at Good Counsel as being the type of player who does things on his own time. On the field, the two-time All-Met is sublimely fast. Off the field, he can be mercurial. Diggs’s announcement came, finally, after days of speculation and rumor, partly fueled by Diggs himself via Twitter, about the only way he has chosen to communicate with those curious about his plans.
Rated nationally as a five-star recruit, Diggs said last month that he did not intend to announce on national signing day (Feb. 1) and held true to his word. He then agreed this week to make his announcement Friday night on Comcast SportsNet, but a station spokesman said Thursday that the player backed out of the agreement.
“He’s a great talent,” Good Counsel Coach Bob Milloy said on national signing day. “All those real, real great ones, they’re a little bit different in their own ways. In all fairness to him, he showed up on Friday night. He got it done on Friday night.”
A threat to score any time he touched the ball, the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder showed his dazzling ability on several long touchdowns this season for the top-ranked Falcons.
On offense, he caught 36 passes for 770 yards and eight touchdowns and rushed 17 times for 277 yards and three touchdowns. He also returned a punt and kickoff for touchdowns. Of his 13 touchdowns, 10 were on plays of at least 37 yards.
Defensively, Diggs had 31.5 tackles, four interceptions, 10 pass break-ups and three forced fumbles.
Traditionally, Maryland has failed to land the area’s top recruits, losing out to local rivals such as Virginia Tech and to national programs.
DeMatha’s Arie and Cyrus Kouandjio, top-rated offensive linemen, chose Alabama in recent seasons, while 2008 All-Met defensive player of the year Jelani Jenkins opted for Florida and All-Met Eddie Goldman, considered a top-two recruit this season, signed with Florida State.
The last player rated higher than Diggs to sign with the Terps was Baltimore defensive end Melvin Alaeze in 2005 and 2006, but he never suited up for Maryland
Following a dismal 2-10 season last year, Maryland has been trying to combat the negative perception that has engulfed Edsall’s young tenure at the program. Even now, rumors surrounding quarterback Danny O’Brien’s intention to transfer threaten the program.
Signing Diggs caps an aggressive and fruitful overhaul this winter.
This offseason, Edsall hired offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, who has deep recruiting ties in the area, and defensive coordinator Brian Stewart. Those moves, especially the addition of Locksley, began to pay dividends as the Terps signed Diggs’s teammate, running back Wes Brown, and Friendship Collegiate All-Met running back Albert Reid in a stellar recruiting class, and added former Good Counsel quarterback Zach Dancel, who transferred from New Mexico, where he played under Locksley.
“You want players who want to make a difference,” Edsall said of his recruiting class on national signing day. “These guys want to make a difference.”