For many Maryland commits such as Blount, the chaos and uncertainty that has enveloped the Terrapins football program since late spring has thrown early signing day plans for a loop. While the hiring of Washington native Michael Locksley less than two weeks ago gave Maryland a more stable blueprint for its future, local recruits’ plans are still in flux. Commits who might have thought they would sign early when they verbally committed are now reconsidering their options — or are left wondering if they are still in the program’s plans.
“It has definitely been crazy,” Blount said.
While the college coaching carousel — which often leaves head coaches and top recruiting assistants shifting to new programs — happens every winter, Maryland’s turbulent 2018 season has made it hard to build out its recruiting class. Adding to the difficulties for Terps recruits: Locksley is staying on as Alabama’s offensive coordinator through the end of the Crimson Tide’s season, and the full Maryland coaching staff has yet to be officially announced.
“It has been hard because you don’t know the type of men you are going to surround yourself with over the next couple years, so I am just feeling like still keeping an ear out and still figuring out the guys that they are bringing in,” said Maryland commit Lavonte Gater, who plays at Ballou in the District.
Gater has gone back and forth over the past week about signing early, mostly because he hasn’t been able to take an official visit to Maryland nor talk to Locksley. He, as well as Blount and Flint Hill’s Jordan Houston, had hoped to take their official visits to College Park this past weekend, but Locksley rejoined Alabama as it prepares for its College Football Playoff semifinal against Oklahoma on Dec. 29.
Instead, Gater met last week with former Rutgers cornerbacks coach Cory Robinson, who has been on the recruiting trail for Maryland. Robinson told him all official visits would be moved to January and that his offer was still intact under Locksley’s staff. Despite the uncertainty, Gater said Maryland does “feel like home,” which could convince him to sign Wednesday. But Gater said he would also be okay with waiting.
“It gives me more time to think and stay tuned to what is happening with the more coaches that they are adding on,” Gater said. “But I am still cool with it.”
Blount said he is not planning to sign early. He, too, was hoping for an official visit, but instead was visited by former North Carolina defensive coordinator John Papuchis, who has also been out recruiting for Maryland. Papuchis told Blount his Maryland offer was still valid, but because Blount has not talked to or met with Locksley in person, Blount said Papuchis advised him to not sign early. Blount also has scheduled official visits to Indiana and Old Dominion in January.
Some recruits still plan to sign Wednesday, including four-star wide receiver Isaiah Hazel (Wise) and three-star offensive lineman Mason Lunsford (Good Counsel). Hazel, a former West Virginia recruit, flipped to Maryland last week. Lunsford received the Maryland offer on Dec. 11 and committed to Locksley via FaceTime three days later.
“Definitely happy to have [the early signing period],” said Lunsford, who will wait to take an official visit to Maryland in January. “I can just go ahead and commit and I don’t have to wait and have that pressure and stuff.”
However, for the commits who are not signing early, there is a risk that their current offers — which came from Maryland’s previous coaching staff — could be pulled. But the extra time they can take in waiting for February’s signing day also allows them to catch the attention of other colleges looking to fill out their recruiting classes.
“Yeah it is something I worry about, but at the same time it is not,” Blount said. “I knew [Maryland was] going to get a new coach and they were going to evaluate other players and stuff, and it makes sense with the new coaching staff and they start evaluating. . . . I’ll just wait.”
Emily Giambalvo contributed to this report.