Posted: 8:03 a.m. Thursday, July 18, 2013
By Nicko Duchesne
When Stefon Diggs packed Looney’s Pub and announced his commitment to Maryland back in 2012, it signaled to many a resurgence of Maryland’s recruiting presence in the area. Here was a flashy talent, who had visited powerhouses like Ohio State and Florida, deciding that there was no “better place to do it than in your city.” Joined by teammates Wes Brown, a 4-star rated running back, and Mike Madaras from Good Counsel in Olney, Diggs had huge success in his freshman year, one of the lone bright spots of a disappointing season.
While Diggs was a pleasant surprise, he isn't the first big name local recruit to come to the Terrapins in this era, though he has arguably already been the most successful. Unlike the basketball team, which hasn't snagged a local 5-star since ratings have been tracked, the football squad has secured three of these highly touted recruits in the last 10 years.
The first was Wesley Jefferson, the top rated player in the state of Maryland in 2003. An inside linebacker from Gwynn Park high school, he spent his first two years as a backup before starting his junior year in 2006. He recorded 110 tackles, and was set to be starting his senior year as well. Instead, he graduated early and left the school to pursue a job with the Maryland State Police. He didn’t exactly live up to the 5-star hype, but when evaluating kids coming out of high school that’s often exactly what these rating are: hype.
Regardless, he lived up to it much better then the Terps second 5-star recruit. Melvin Alaeze was a top-5 recruit nationally, and the defensive end was the crown jewel of a recruiting class that also included wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. Alas, Alaeze would never take to the field in Byrd Stadium.
After being academically ineligible and transferring to a military academy for an extra year at prep school, Alaeze upheld his commitment to Maryland. In February of 2006, the school revoked his scholarship based on drug charges that were filed against him. He was welcomed by Illinois for the 2006 season, and played only one game before being suspended from the team. Early in 2007, he plead guilty to first-degree assault and was sentenced to 8 years in prison.
So Diggs is already pretty far ahead of the curve when it comes to our 5-stars. Where the recruits have really shined is the local 4-stars. Big talent has come from the area: Kenny Tate in 2008, the previously mentioned Heyward-Bey in 2005, Vernon Davis in 2003, and Shawn Merriman in 2002. Add in this years commitment of Yannick Ngakoue, and the Terps have shown that they can secure plenty of talent on the home front.
Around a quarter of the 4-star recruits in the area have come to Maryland; 25 in all since 2002. The top rated players that leave often go to big name football schools. Jelani Jenkins left for Florida in 2009, while Cyrus Kouandjio went to Alabama in 2011. In the past, a lot of them have also gone North, to future B1G rival Penn State.
Penn State’s influence has dropped in the area in recent years (and pretty much everywhere post-Sandusky) but back in the mid-2000s they were a recruiting force to be reckoned with in the region. In both 2005 and 2006 the top recruits that went to high school in the area– Derrick Williams and A.J. Wallace, respectively- made their way to State College. In 2006, the top 3 rated recruits, and 7 of the top 10 all went to Penn State.
Still, Maryland has held their own in the area. Though there are certainly more players out there simply because of the structure of the sport, the local recruiting for the football team certainly seems to be more consistently successful than basketball. It remains to be seen whether or not a shift to the B1G will hurt or help their chances. It’s a bigger stage, but one that’s farther away, and the team’s competitiveness in their first years will certainly go a long way in deciding which factor recruits are taking into account.