Maryland made headlines on National Signing Day by beating out college football royalty like Ohio State, Florida State and Nebraska on the recruiting trail.
The Terps landed 22 commitments on signing day, including one 5-star recruit in junior college wide receiver Deon Long, for a 2013 class that Rivals ranked No. 31 in the country. The biggest news came from a trio of late commitments in receivers Taivon Jacobs, Jacquille Veii and linebacker Yannick Ngakoue.
“To have Yannick, Taivon and Jacquille tell everybody they were coming to Maryland, that was the icing on the cake,” Edsall said. “We were very, very pleased that they chose to be Terps.”
Jacobs in particular made headlines. The Suitland speedster was previously committed to Ohio State but flipped to Maryland on signing day.
Last year, Ohio State went undefeated, and the Buckeyes are coached by two-time national champion Urban Meyer. In his two years at Maryland, Edsall’s racked up just six wins.
“That was huge. We really tried to recruit Taivon hard for two years now,” Edsall said.
Maryland’s coach explained that the staff continued recruiting Jacobs despite his commitment to the Buckeyes. Once a week the Terps staff would call Jacobs, and the young man remained interested in Maryland. With the birth of a daughter last year, playing at home gained importance, and ultimately lead Jacobs to decide to play at Maryland.
“I went into his home the week before signing day and I told him some things that I thought were important to him,” Edsall said of Jacobs.
Getting some of the best talent from D.C. and Maryland to stay and play locally has long been a goal in College Park, but Edsall’s staff could be attaining a new level of success in that regard. Last season, the Terps brought in a strong recruiting class highlighted by star Good Counsel wide receiver Stefon Diggs.
This year -- with Jacobs, Ngakoue and Veii -- reinforces that the Terps will focus on recruiting the best local talent. Edsall wants the rest of college football to know that as well.
“To be able to get [Jacobs] to flip and come to Maryland over Ohio State, I think it sends a big message to all the recruits in this area and really all over, about what we’re doing at Maryland,” he said. “It sends a message, a big message.”
Though the three late commitments boosted Maryland’s local image and national recruiting rank, the Terps already secured multiple commitments from other area talent.
Offensive lineman Derwin Gray, a 6’4”, 290 lb. 4-star recruit from D.C., remained firm in his commitment to Maryland as did 3-star quarterback Shane Cockerille of Baltimore’s Gilman School.
Edsall said that the last two recruiting classes have sent a powerful signal to high school football players in the D.C. and Baltimore area: “Let’s stay home and use our local guys and make Maryland a powerhouse.”
The last two recruiting classes created depth at the wide receiver position, and Edsall said the team will work more three and four wide receiver sets. And despite a glut of talented young players, Edsall said that all players have the chance to earn playing time.
“If guys deserve to be out there playing and have the ability to make plays, we’ll find a way to get them on the field and play them,” the coach said. “I’m not worried about playing freshmen. If you’re the best guy, we're going to play you.”
Maryland proved that freshmen would play last season, when both Diggs and running back Wes Brown played prominent roles. Expect that trend to continue with this year’s team.
Getting the ball to those receivers should be interesting for the Terps. An unreal string of bad luck forced Maryland to play five different quarterbacks last season, and since the team will add Cockerille and transfer Ricardo Young this year, the Terps go into the 2013 campaign with five scholarship quarterbacks.
Edsall said that come training camp the staff will have to evaluate injuries sustained to quarterbacks Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe, who both played and suffered season ending injuries in 2012. Based on their rehab schedules, one or both could be redshirted.
“We’ll have to see how that all plays out,” Edsall said of the quarterback situation. “We have created some depth and competition at quarterback.”
The coach added that the freshman Cockerille will have the chance to compete for the starting job. All young players in Edsall’s system have that opportunity.
“It’s my responsibility to make sure I put the best 11 on the field. I tell our freshman when they come in, they’re going to determine if they redshirt or not. If they’re deserving and they’ve earned playing time, we’re going to go ahead and play them.”
Beginning his third season at the helm of the Terps program, Edsall believes the entire team is on the same page; whatever distractions occurred in his first year should no longer be a concern.
“Everybody understands the level of expectations in every phase of the program,” he said. “The transition part isn’t there any more.”
Though he was placed into a tough situation -- replacing former coach Ralph Friedgen who was controversially bought out of his contract -- Edsall said he would not change his approach to building his Terps program.
“When you take over something, you have to put a plan in for long-term success. You put it in and you stick to it."
For Edsall, impressive recruiting classes in 2012 and 2013 show that his plan is beginning to take shape.
“All the players get it, they like it, they like the direction that we’re going,” he said. “We wouldn’t be able to do the things we’ve done recruiting the last two years if people didn’t believe and see, and our players selling the recruits when they come in.”
Edsall’s goal remains firm: Maryland should win the ACC’s Atlantic Division and have a chance to play for the conference title. The coach recognizes that on the field the team has not performed in line with those expectations, but he expects that success to come.
“You got to lay the foundation,” Edsall said. “As we move forward we’ll be a better team in 2013 than we were in 2012. You can’t take shortcuts.”