Maryland football’s whirlwind of an early signing day for the 2020 recruiting class is in the books, as the Terps officially announced 23 new additions Dec. 18, though more could be on the way shortly.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled with the type of kids that we’ve recruited, with a premium on being smart, tough and reliable,” head coach Michael Locksley said at a press conference.
Here’s what happened on signing day, and how it capped off the year leading up to it.
Maryland pulled off a five-star stunner.
The bombshell came from Rakim Jarrett’s social media accounts. Jarrett, the No. 20 overall prospect and No. 2 receiver in the entire 2020 class, had been committed to LSU since April. But on signing day, he flipped the script, announcing his commitment and intention to sign with Maryland. The decision took everyone by surprise — Maryland included.
“We had no idea he was signing today. We had no idea he was even coming to us. And then all of a sudden, he puts out a tweet that says ‘Committed,’ and we’re like, ‘What is this?'” Locksley said. “So really unique, but nothing happens by accident.”
Jarrett has the chance to be a transformational player for the Terps. The active college receivers closest to Jarrett’s 247Sports Composite rating (0.9910) are Clemson junior Tee Higgins and Ohio State freshman Garrett Wilson. Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy (the No. 21 overall 2017 prospect) is just behind. That’s the level of talent Locksley and Maryland signed out of nowhere.
The last time Maryland landed a player of this caliber, let alone at this position, was Stefon Diggs in 2012. Jarrett grew up watching Diggs as a Terp, and actually quoted Diggs in his Instagram post. There’s a history of five-star locals staying home (most recently Damian Prince in 2014), but Locksley is hopeful Jarrett can be the start of a trend.
“It opens up some eyes that we hope to maybe benefit from,” Locksley said. “If a guy like him thinks our program is good enough, people that respect who he is as a player, maybe it opens up some of their eyes as well.”
This class still isn’t as full of local prospects as it was supposed to be.
Maryland fans who follow recruiting had long circled 2020 as the Terps’ best shot at a monster class. The state of Maryland has 15 blue-chip (at least four-star) recruits this cycle, per 247Sports Composite ratings; Virginia has six and Washington, D.C., has five. Entering signing day, none of those 26 players were committed to Maryland. Jarrett changes the outlook quite a bit, but this is still one of the big trends for the cycle.
Recruiting players of this caliber usually takes years. And while DJ Durkin’s staff made several splash additions from the DMV from 2016-2018, momentum had slowed dramatically even before offensive lineman Jordan McNair’s death and the subsequent fallout.
This meant that by the time Locksley took over, the 2020 blue-chippers predominantly had other schools as their first choice. Fourteen of the top 15 players in Maryland were committed elsewhere by the end of June, a more accelerated timeline than usual.
Locksley had to be resourceful. And he was.
The Terps’ 2020 class has eight players from Florida compared to only five from Maryland. Locksley’s staff tapped into Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Running back Peny Boone is from Detroit. Cornerback Devyn King is from California. It’s not as easy as staying home and stocking up on local talent, but Maryland found a way.
“You look at our staff, we have guys who have recruited all of these areas,” Locksley said. “We have really strong, meaningful relationships in these areas, and we’ve been able to nurture them, keep them and it’s really helped us to really expand our net. If we can get to where we control the DMV, we probably won’t have to go out as far, but we’re a national brand, and if these local guys don’t think our program is good enough, we’ll find them somewhere else.”
Maryland moved quickly following a dismal season.
After a flurry of commitments in late June, Maryland had 15 commitments and the nation’s No. 30 signing class. But the ensuing five months were horrific, with just two new commitments offset by three decommits. At the end of November, the Terps’ class was stuck at 14 members and had fallen to No. 53 in the country.
Since Dec. 7, Maryland has nearly doubled its intake for the 2020 class. The group currently has 27 members, 23 of whom are officially signed.
This wave of additions started with a quartet of players — guard Johari Branch, defensive linemen Mosaiah Nasili-Kite and Ami Finau and linebacker TJ Kutai — from Independence Community College in Kansas, best known for appearing on Netflix’s “Last Chance U.” Running back Kyjuan Herndon and safety Glen Miller visited and committed the same weekend, giving the Terps six additions in a three-day span.
Locksley wasn’t done adding big men, though. First came offensive tackles Delmar Glaze (Dec. 11) and Zach Perkins (Dec. 12). Guard Khristopher Love flipped from USF to Maryland Dec. 15. Another Florida native, defensive end Riyad Wilmot, committed that same day. Of the Terps’ 11 December commits thus far, seven are offensive or defensive linemen.
“We’ve got some highly talented skill-position guys, but if you look at this class as a whole, a premium for us was getting better in the trenches on the O-line and D-line,” Locksley said. “We feel really good about the kids that we’ve been able to bring in. That was a huge, huge need for us, especially with depth.”
After all the chaos, Maryland’s class is in decent shape.
In the last two weeks, the Terps have turned the nation’s No. 53 class into the No. 27 group (Jarrett provided a nine-spot jump by himself). If that holds, it’ll be Maryland’s second-best class of the last decade, behind only Durkin’s first full haul in 2017. The average composite rating of the 27 commits is 0.8557, which would rank fourth-best among the last 10 Maryland classes.
The work isn’t done. Running back Ebony Jackson, receiver Corey Dyches and offensive tackle Santana Saunders plan to sign in February, and it’ll take some work to keep them locked in. As of this writing, safety Osita Smith has yet to officially join the class. The Terps still have open spots and positions where help is needed. And hardly any of this matters if Maryland can’t develop these recruits into productive football players.
FULL LIST OF SIGNEES
Maryland doesn’t have any signees “yet” at this position. The Terps were in the running for former Florida State commit Jeff Sims, but he opted for Georgia Tech. Right now, Maryland has five quarterbacks on its roster, but it’s easy to see someone leaving in the spring. Locksley hopes to add a signal caller, either via recruiting or transfer, in the coming weeks.
Peny Boone (3 stars, 0.8883) — Detroit, Mich.
Isaiah Jacobs (3 stars, 0.8795) — Owasso, Okla.
Committed but unsigned: Ebony Jackson (3 stars, 0.8817) — Canton, Ga.
Flipped to Colorado State: Kyjuan Herndon (3 stars, 0.8386) — Deltona, Fla.
With Anthony McFarland Jr. and Javon Leake heading to the NFL, Maryland likely needs one or two of these signees to make an instant impact in 2020. It’s helpful, then, that Boone and Jackson entered signing day as the Terps’ two highest-rated offensive commits, and that Jacobs joined the class at the last minute. (This essentially forced out Herndon, who committed earlier this month.) The incoming freshmen join a backfield filled with question marks, as Tayon Fleet-Davis was charged with a DUI last month and Jake Funk and Lorenzo Harrison III have combined for four major knee injuries in the last two seasons.
Rakim Jarrett (5 stars, 0.9910) — Washington, D.C.
Deajaun McDougle (3 stars, 0.8689) — Deerfield Beach, Fla.
Nick DeGennaro (3 stars, 0.8389) — Princeton, N.J.
Committed but unsigned: Corey Dyches (3 stars, 0.8713) — Oxon Hill, Md.
Jarrett, as discussed at length above, is a potential game-changer. McDougle was a four-star prospect when he committed in July, and Locksley called DeGennaro one of his favorite signees in the whole class. Dyches wasn’t able to get on campus for an official visit last weekend as planned, so he plans to visit in January and sign in February.
Maryland is still looking to add a tight end either in the late signing period or via transfer, as it loses Tyler Mabry this offseason. At the moment, though, it looks like the Terps will enter spring camp with just Chigoziem Okonkwo, Noah Barnes and Malik Jackson at the position.
G Khristopher Love (3 stars, 0.8452) — Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
T Delmar Glaze (3 stars, 0.8438) — Charlotte, N.C.
T Ja’Khi Green (3 stars, 0.8351) — Baltimore, Md.
T Zach Perkins (3 stars, 0.8268) — Tampa, Fla.
G Johari Branch (3 stars, 0.8236) — Independence, Kan. (CC)
Committed but unsigned: T Santana Saunders (3 stars, 0.8469) — Upper Marlboro, Md.
Maryland simply struggled to find depth up front all season, and the Terps lose two of their top six offensive linemen to graduation. Each member of this group will have the chance to compete for immediate playing time as Locksley looks for big men he can trust.
Riyad Wilmot (3 stars, 0.8534) — Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Mosiah Nasili-Kite (3 stars, 0.8485) — Independence, Kan. (CC)
Flipped to Illinois: Jerzhan Newton (3 stars, 0.8519) — Clearwater, Fla.
Wilmot and Nasili-Kite were December commits, and with Newton leaving, expect the Terps to seek another late addition or two here. Maryland’s pass rush has been largely abysmal the last three seasons.
Ami Finau (3 stars, 0.8495) — Independence, Kan. (CC)
Tre Smith (3 stars, 0.8268) — Frostburg, Md.
You can’t teach size, and that’s what Finau brings to Maryland’s defensive front. He’s 6-foot-2 and 320 pounds; incumbent nose tackle Oluwaseun Oluwatimi is 5-foot-11 and 297 pounds, for reference. Smith (6-foot-2, 285) should fill a slightly different role in the Terps’ defensive scheme.
Ruben Hyppolite II (4 stars, 0.9065) — Hollywood, Fla.
TJ Kautai (3 stars, 0.8241) — Independence, Kan. (CC)
Frankie Burgess (3 stars, 0.8111) — Pahokee, Fla.
Hyppolite was the most coveted recruit in this group. He committed to the Terps in April and remained solid despite receiving serious interest from Alabama, Miami and others. Kautai was in the wave of Independence C.C. commits, while Burgess was a signing day addition.
Tarheeb Still (3 stars, 0.8646) — Sicklerville, N.J.
Devyn King (3 stars, 0.8431) — Gardena, Calif.
Jakorian Bennett (3 stars, 0.8417) — Hutchinson, Kan. (CC)
Shane Mosley (3 stars, 0.8376) — Havertown, Pa.
This is another pivotal position for the Terps, who lose seniors Tino Ellis and Marcus Lewis, and the quartet comes from all over the country. King is the first high school recruit out of California to sign with Maryland since 2005. He pledged in April, while Still and Mosley have been committed since June. Mosley is the younger, smaller (5-foot-11, 185 pounds) brother of current Maryland safety Jordan Mosley. Bennett committed Dec. 17 and is one of five JuCo additions in the class.
Beau Brade (3 stars, 0.8594) — Clarksville, Md.
Glen Miller (3 stars, 0.8369) — Orange Park, Fla.
Committed but unsigned: Osita Smith (3 stars, 0.8875) — Milford, Conn.
Smith, who joined the class Dec. 16, might be the sneakiest addition of the whole group. He was a four-star prospect in the 2019 class, but was forced to spend a year at prep school after failing to qualify at West Virginia. He’s expected to enroll early at Maryland, and while he probably won’t have the immediate impact Nick Cross did, he’s got high upside as a Terp.
Photo Credit: Larry French