By: Eddie Hobbs
In the waning months of December all the way up to January, collegiate programs are gearing up to make a last pitch to its most wanted recruits. This year offered a different kind of feel as the NCAA has changed its rules, and allowed an early signing period that lasts from Dec. 20 to Dec. 23.
The final signing period is still on the first Wednesday of February, but the NCAA said that by December, many players have their minds made up on which program they want to play for. Maryland football head coach DJ Durkin agrees.
“I love it, I think it is great for us. I think that it is great for college football,” Durkin said. “I think doing this right now, you look at all these guys, this time of year 90 percent of the guys know where they want to go already anyways.”
The Maryland football program has taken full advantage of this early signing period, inking 22 players by early Wednesday morning. The Terrapins’ recruiting class has received high praise from around the country and is rated No. 18 by Rivals, and No. 19 by 247Sports. If the ratings hold where they are, this will be the first time in school history that the Terps have signed back-to-back top 25 classes.
Maryland had a few main areas of improvement and the line of scrimmage is where everything starts, especially in the Big Ten. Maryland’s offensive line allowed 35 total sacks last season (T-114 country), while the defense failed to generate pressure on the passer and only had 16 sacks (T-112 country).
“We really addressed along the line of scrimmage, which is always something you guys know I have talked about a bunch,” Durkin said. “You look at the four offensive lineman that we signed, there is not a better four in the country in terms of full class of offensive linemen. There is not.”
Byron Cowart, the third-ranked player in the class of 2015, officially joined Durkin’s program after two years at Auburn, and a semester at junior college. Durkin said that a change of scenery will be good for the former five-star recruit and that he should be comfortable in College Park.
Maryland struggled to stop the run last season, and gave up 190 rushing yards per game. Cowart can not only help in that department, but can be a boost as a pass rusher as well. Durkin also brought in nine players for the Terps’ front seven, including five linebackers.
The kicking department was somewhat weak for Maryland last season and Durkin thinks he has found, “the one” in Joseph Petrino. The three-star recruit is a versatile kicker who can boot the ball with either foot, something that he demonstrated on his twitter page back in September.
— Joseph Petrino (@joseph_petrino) September 5, 2017
The singings are not done just yet, Durkin mentioned how he is still expecting to sign a couple more cornerbacks in the coming weeks, and also whoever is the best available. The energy was felt throughout the press briefing, and Durkin believes that this is a class that the program can build on in the Big Ten.
“I will make it really clear, and the guys that we are bringing in understand this,” Durkin said. “We don’t just play in that conference, we’re here to win that conference, and that is what we are going to do.”