Terrence Lewis, a consensus five-star inside linebacker from Miami who recently signed with Maryland, says he chose the Terps because of the chance to get on the field immediately and the connections he established with head coach Michael Locksley and defensive line coach Brian Williams.
Lewis, rated as the No. 1 inside linebacker in the Class of 2020 by the 247Sports Composite, originally committed to Tennessee in late November. Lewis said Williams, a Miami native, stayed in touch with him throughout his recruiting process, dating back to before he committed to Tennessee in the spring.
Lewis said he began talking regularly with Locksley about a month and a half ago and knew he would go to Maryland around the start of the early signing period (Dec. 16). That led to his Jan. 2 announcement on NBC’s “All-American Bowl: Declaration Day.” Shortly thereafter, Maryland announced that he had signed with the program.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Lewis figures to get the opportunity to compete for a starting spot right away. Rising senior Chance Campbell (42 tackles in 2020), junior Fa’Najae Gotay (22) and sophomore Ruben Hyppolite II (18) are among the top returners at linebacker for Maryland.
Lewis said on Glenn Clark Radio Jan. 6 that the chance to compete immediately “is what affected my decision the most because, shoot, I want to play early. I’m trying to get out of here in these three years. I want to be a Freshman All-American, do a lot. I feel like the opportunity to represent Maryland and play for a coach that looks like me, it’s going to bring a lot of attention toward us and the school.”
Locksley explained on GCR Jan. 6 what his pitch is to recruits regarding playing time.
“Like we tell kids that we recruit here to Maryland, we don’t go out and recruit a guy to be a backup and say, ‘Hey, you’ve got to come in here and wait,'” Locksley said. “You get everything you earn here in our program. I’ve never promised a kid a starting position. I say, ‘Hey, you’ll have the opportunity to play early.'”
Lewis said he didn’t know anything about Locksley — even what he looked like — prior to considering Maryland. Lewis explained that Locksley talked to him “as a man” during the recruiting process rather than in a typical player-to-coach manner.
“When I get on the phone with him, he makes me laugh, you feel me? He tries to make sure I’m comfortable talking to him,” Lewis said. “He ain’t forcing nothing on me. That’s cool. He said between that, you’ve got to have mutual respect. I can respect him and he can respect me.”
Lewis’ commitment was the final piece of a 2021 Terrapin recruiting class that ranks No. 18 in the nation, according to 247Sports. Locksley’s top priority was beefing up the front seven so the defense could hold up against the rugged offensive lines of the Big Ten. In addition to Lewis, Locksley received commitments from four four-stars: defensive end Demeioun Robinson, outside linebacker Branden Jennings and defensive tackles Taizse Johnson and Tommy Akingbesote.
Locksley credited Williams for reeling in Lewis. He explained that recruiting is about establishing relationships with not only the recruit but those who are involved in the recruit’s life, from his mother to his father to a grandparent to a coach. Locksley said Williams does a good job of identifying who’s important to the recruit and making sure those people are informed about the school and program.
According to Locksley, Lewis’ grandmother was a big part of the process.
“We call it friends-and-family recruiting where we try to surround the recruit,” Locksley said. “We’ve got ties to that family or people [who are] champions for that kid, we recruit the crap out of them to make sure they have all the information about what a great product we have to sell at the University of Maryland.”
Locksley explained why Lewis liked what he heard about Maryland.
“A new facility being built, our location, being in the fourth largest media market in the country,” Locksley said. “This is a great area for building a resume with or without the football — two major metropolitan areas, both Baltimore and D.C. located so close to campus — and then the ability to come in and play early and be developed by coaches that can prepare you for the opportunity at the next level.”
Lewis, who recently graduated from Miami Central High, will have a chance to begin his development as a college player earlier than most in his class; he is reporting to College Park, Md., Jan. 22. He compared his game to that of Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David, a nine-year veteran who has accumulated 1,125 tackles and 24 sacks during his career.
Locksley took over at Maryland after the 2018 season, and though the Terps have gone just 5-12 since then, the team showed flashes during the shortened 2020 season of what may be to come sooner rather than later. Maryland beat Minnesota, 45-44, and Penn State, 35-19, behind terrific efforts from sophomore quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa. And now there’s the recruiting class led by Lewis.
“As the years go on, I want to progress with the winning,” Lewis said. “We’ve got to get on a winning schedule — probably first season, win seven or eight games. That’s good for a team that isn’t top-tier yet. Then probably second year we push it up a little more to nine or 10 wins. Then finally my third year, we go for a Big Ten championship. Hopefully we’re good enough to play for that national title. That’s what I always want to win ever since I was a kid. … I feel like the team at Maryland, I think we could do it. They’re building right now. I want to be a part of that.”
For more from Lewis, listen to the full interview here:
For more from Locksley, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Athletics