Maryland football Coach Bobby Ross said yesterday that 75 percent of the top high school seniors in his recruiting area now are visiting College Park, a dramatic improvement from three years ago.
Ross estimated that only 10 percent of the top prospects were making official visits to Maryland in 1982, and perhaps 40 percent last year. "Nobody has made any commitments yet, but I feel very good about our recruiting right now," he said at a pre-Sun Bowl press conference.
Ross, who said he has been to at least seven states and talked to approximately 25 prospects since the end of November, said a constant topic of conversation generated by recruits and their parents is Maryland's victory over Miami last month, in which the Terrapins came back from a 31-point halftime deficit.
"The biggest impact on our program (in terms of recruiting) has been the games with Miami and Clemson," Ross said. "People keep saying, 'Boy, you people must have a heck of a program there,' or, 'Things must be going pretty good at Maryland right now.' "
The 12th-ranked Terrapins, who won the Atlantic Coast Conference championship Nov. 24 at Virginia, returned to practice for the first time yesterday, two days after Tennessee -- their opponent in the Dec. 22 Sun Bowl -- resumed practice.
Ross said his coaching staff "felt like we just had to get into our recruiting and stay into that."
But, he said, recruiting would not distract from preparation for Tennessee, which beat Maryland in the Citrus Bowl last December.
"This is an extremely important football game to us," said Ross, whose first two teams at Maryland lost bowl games. "I don't sense myself being complacent, or satisfied with being in a bowl game. Through the course of this week, things will be more intense on the practice field than the last two years. We went down (to Orlando, Fla.) last year not fully prepared with the game plan. If we have to work 24 hours a day this time, the game plan will be complete."
If Maryland beats Tennessee, Ross said, "I see us being ranked as high as sixth in the country."