COLLEGE PARK – The University of Maryland football team continues its local push in recruiting while landing impactful national talents, starting with 21 signees as part of Early Signing Day Wednesday.
The 2021 class is currently ranked No. 18 in the country by ESPN and No. 19 by 247 Sports, focusing on defense. Maryland head coach Mike Locksley said when taking the job in 2019, positions, such as quarterback, filled with an abundance of players on scholarship while areas of need were lacking.
“I asked Santa for some defensive help, and I guess I was a good boy for most of COVID, and he delivered early,” Locksley said.
The surprise of the day came when five-star linebacker Brandon Jennings of Florida flipped to Maryland after previously committing to Michigan. He became the latest top recruit to flip to Maryland on deadline day, thanks in part to a previous relationship between defensive line coach Brian Williams and Jennings’ father.
Despite picking up multiple players, from Nick Cross (DeMatha Catholic High School) and Lance LeGendre, at the last minute, the head coach warned fans not to expect it every year.
“I’d like to get to the point where it’s not a big deal,” Locksley said. “Because we’ve created and gotten through that growth phase of our program to where it’s expected and where they’re not necessarily flips anymore.”
While six states were apart of this year’s early signing class, local metropolitan talents stood out. Quince Orchard High School linebacker and four-star recruit Demeioun Robinson led the way. Rated by 247 Sports as the state’s best high school player, Robinson’s 6-foot-3-inch, 240-pound frame helped him break the Cougars’ sack record in two years.
He joined two other four-star pickups in Tommy Akingbesote (Charles H. Flowers High School) and Taizse Johnson (St. John’s College High School). The duo adds size and strength to Maryland’s defensive line.
On offense, former Archbishop Carroll High School tight end Leron Husbands elected to stay local after being named to the WCAC All-Metro First Team in 2019. Washington, D.C.’s top-ranked running backs, St. John’s Antwain Littleton Jr. and Colby McDonald, also elected to stay locally in College Park.
Locksley said he plans to continue building a wall around area recruits, with support from his current players. Some have built-in relationships, talk to recruits on group chats and push players to stay local. Positive player feedback, like a recent Rakim Jarrett tweet, goes a long way in keeping a top local star while Locksley’s staff focuses on other needs elsewhere.
“It validates that what we say we’re going to do when you get here,” Locksley said. “The fact we got two freshmen in All-Big Ten Honorable Mention shows we play young players. They come in, they’re being developed [and] they have success.”
As the first class under Locksley’s full two-year recruiting cycle, the pressure will be on to start producing results. Maryland has made gains with recent pickups but only a 2-3 record to show this season. Locksley said this crop of talent could help bridge Maryland’s gap with the Big Ten Conference’s elite teams.
“The thing I like about this group is they’re all really confident in their abilities to come here and add to what we have to help us get this thing to the next step, to the next level.” Locksley said. “We’re excited obviously that they’re coming in. We’re doing a lot of the heavy lifting now. Hopefully, this group will be the catalyst to get us through the growth phase and into the success phase.”
Photo Courtesy: Maryland Athletics