Maryland football has made no secret of its recruiting strategy. The Terrapins are trying to lay road blocks down around Maryland, Virginia and the District and send local talent flowing into College Park.
They’ve launched an aggressive social media campaign, “#TheMovement,” to drum up excitement among local high school players about what it would mean if they united in red, black and gold.
The Terps have even homed in on specific schools in the area to pipe players in directly. On 2017’s National Signing Day, Maryland-bound DeMatha recruits took to calling the Terrapins “DeMatha U,” since the Hyattsville school keeps supplying Coach D.J. Durkin. The Terps, which finished 6-7 last season in Durkin’s first year as coach, just grabbed both of H.D. Woodson’s prized defensive backs.
At the Big Ten Conference’s preseason media day this week, Durkin formally put the rest of the league on notice about what Maryland was up to. He laid it all out in four parts for The Post’s Maryland beat writer Roman Stubbs:
1. The talent
D.C.-area high school football is right up there with top states in the country in terms of quality of play and recruits. And as we’ve reported before, there is real, cold, hard data to prove it. More than 7 percent of D.C.’s players, 6.5 percent of Maryland players and 5.6 percent of Virginia players go on to play Division I football, according to NCAA research.
That’s better than Texas. It’s second-best among bordering states to only Florida and Georgia.
“A lot has been said, and rightfully so, that there’s such great talent and recruits in our area, right in our backyard,” Durkin said. “I think someone probably not talked enough about is the level of high school coaching in our area. They’re such great coaches.”
2. The school
Every college football coach loves to brag about his institution, to list off its recent awards and academic standing, to laud university leadership over its investment in the football program.
But Maryland has been without top flight football practice facilities for a while now. Maryland Stadium is neat, but it’s not quite like playing at Michigan’s Big House or Ohio State’s Horseshoe.
As of next week, Durkin will finally have something to point toward: the transformation of Cole Field House is nearly complete. Maryland football players will be in the facility before the end of the month, he said. And the place looks great:
— Dave Mencarini (@CoachMac_Terps) July 19, 2017
“I think any time you’re recruiting, which in many ways it’s sales, you have to have a good product to sell,” Durkin said. “We have a great product. We have, as I mentioned, the Cole Field House, the new facility going in, a tremendous university, a degree that carries a lot of weight, not only in our area but throughout the country.”
3. The area
One of the main reasons the Big Ten was interested in adding Maryland, sports business analysts say, was to stake a foothold in the Washington, D.C., media market.
And Durkin is using the District to his advantage, as well, in recruiting. Come to Maryland, and get access to a global capital, a place where you can make lasting connections off the field with some really important people.
Think about the pretty normal recruiting scenario: The Terrapins are fighting with Virginia for a three-star athlete, a guy who could be a solid player, but probably won’t go on to play professional football. Where’s a better place to be: College Park, four miles from D.C., or Charlottesville, in the middle of nowhere in Virginian Appalachia?
Durkin argues the former.
“We’re in such a great market for internships and things guys can do to help their education more than just in the classroom,” he said. “And right in our backyard, within a three-hour radius of our campus is some of the best talent, best players in the country, so when you have those guys there, we can get them on campus frequently.”
4. The Terps
Durkin is quick to mention that the Terrapins recruit as a team. Coaches actively work with players to be better hosts for prospective players. A recruit’s visits to campus and the bonds created with potential teammates is a huge part of the recruiting process.
Multiple Maryland recruits have told the Post they chose the Terps specifically because they had better relationships with coaches and players.
Terrapins quarterback Caleb Henderson worked out daily with 2018 Hayfield wide receiver Brian Cobbs while the second-team All-Met pass-catcher considered college options. Coaches invited H.D. Woodson 2018 cornerback Vincent Flythe to do homework for summer honors courses in Maryland’s Gossett Team House the day he committed.
“We have a staff and a team of players that all work hard recruiting together,” Durkin said. “I say that because our players are a big part of it. When guys come and they’re hosting them, and that’s a really big part of that visit, that a recruit feels comfortable with the team and gets along with the guys. And our guys, we talked about that and teach them and really work at it, because that’s a big part of it. So all those things together I think really allows us, puts us in a really good spot to recruit at a very high level.”
And how well are the Terps recruiting? Their 2018 class is ranked 19th in the country by 247Sports and 24th by Scout.com.
But the best piece of news could be changing sentiment among Maryland recruits, who increasingly say they’re not going to College Park because it’s close to home. They’re going because they think they can win football games. The Terps finished 6-7 last season after going 3-9 the previous season.
“Now people are starting to notice DMV football is just as good as the schools down South as far as getting offers,” Cobbs said. “DeMatha does a great job of that, too, getting kids to Maryland. If we can keep those kids around, the Virginia Beach kids, the kids from Maryland, we could really compete in the Big Ten. We could take over the Big Ten.”
» Maret 2018 offensive lineman Devonte Gordon verbally committed to Wake Forest on Sunday. It was only the third Power Five conference scholarship offer for Gordon, a four-star recruit. He also drew interest from Virginia and North Carolina State.
» Gonzaga 2018 offensive lineman Aidan Rafferty verbally committed to Indiana last week. He also drew interest from a slew of Big Ten and ACC schools.
» Flint Hill 2019 running back Jordan Houston picked up an offer from Virginia Tech after attending a skills camp in Blacksburg.
The vaunted ball carrier only has a handful of scholarship offers after breaking his leg in his 2016 season opener, but they’re from a set of Power Five schools. He’s also considering Penn State, Tennessee and Boston College.
“A lot of coaches reached out to me and told me to come to a camp this summer, or they’re waiting for the next two or three games of next season just to see how I look,” Houston told The Post. “I can’t blame them. It’s their job to make sure they offer the best kids.”
Ohio State, North Carolina and Northwestern have kept up with those assurances, he said.
Houston ran for 1,729 yards and 18 touchdowns his sophomore season. He says his leg feels stronger than it did before his injury. He ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash in Columbus, Ohio, earlier this summer.
» Damascus 2020 defensive end Bryan Bresee had a better week than you last week. He picked up offers from Alabama, Florida State and Oklahoma. He can add those to an offer list that already includes Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State.
— Bryan Bresee (@bryan_bresee) July 24, 2017
» St. John’s 2018 four-star quarterback Kevin Doyle said he’ll still consider Ole Miss after coach Hugh Freeze resigned the coaching position in disgrace last week.
“I felt like I had a built a nice relationship with … the other coaches,” Doyle told The Post. “I understand how fragile this football world is, so I am making sure that I choose a school for the school environment not just the football program.”
“I still really like Ole Miss,” he added.
Doyle is weighing offers from West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Kentucky, Nebraska and Michigan State, among more than a dozen others.
» We’re trying to keep a running list of all the players in the area with Power Five conference offers. And we’ve recently added a page for the class of 2020.
Are we missing anyone? Let us know by commenting on this article or tweeting @jacobbogage, and we’ll make updates.