<
>

Recruits noticing Randy Edsall, Terps

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- It's going to be hard, but forget about the jerseys.

Forget the debate about whether Maryland's new unis are beautiful or hideous. Forget about how they might help recruiting and the nationwide chatter they created. But don't forget that Maryland actually played a game Sept. 5 -- and that the Terps beat ACC rival Miami in Randy Edsall's first game as the Terrapins' coach.

Jersey attention aside -- it's good to be Edsall.

A conference victory is already in the bag. The nation is talking about the win and the garb. Even the schedule favors the Terps.

While all of his counterparts were coaching games on Saturday, Maryland had a bye on the same week as the Patriot Classic, a two-day showcase of some of the best high school football teams in the surrounding area. So there was Edsall standing on the sideline in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium making his presence felt as countless college football prospects took the field in the six-game event.

The public address announcer told the crowd Edsall was in attendance, which prompted a round of cheers. All Edsall would do was smile. He was on top of the world in Maryland's most important recruiting territory.

"Most definitely," Edsall said. "You want to able to get the majority [of top prospects in the area]. You're not going to be able to get all the kids from your home area, but you want to get the majority of them. We don't have to travel as far to get those kids. This is a big priority, a No. 1 priority for us."

Edsall knows the Baltimore area well. He recruited it when he was the coach at Connecticut before being hired by Maryland after the 2010 season. He's seen it when it was good. Now he thinks it's even better.

"I think what's happened here is they've developed some really good youth leagues," Edsall said. "These youth leagues are being like feeder systems. Now the kids are getting better. As they get to the high school level, they're a little more advanced than what they were before. Of all the years recruiting down here, I do see it getting better."

Edsall doesn't hide the fact that it can help having College Park, Md., be less than an hour's drive to Baltimore.

"I can get out and go to one game and see six or seven kids in one game," Edsall said. "Having things so close here to us, it's a definite advantage."

Not only is Edsall able to make (very) public appearances like he did on Friday and Saturday, but he's also able to evaluate prospects earlier than his competition.

Damien Prince from Forestville (Md.) Bishop McNamara is a prime example. Just a sophomore, the offensive lineman already has a scholarship offer from Maryland. It's the only offer Prince has received. Subsequently, he's grown quite fond of the Terrapins.

"Maryland is a great, great program," Prince said. "I feel really good about Maryland. It's kind of early. I'm just a sophomore, but I feel really good about Maryland. I expect them to win the ACC this year."

At the Patriot Classic, Edsall was able to watch and be watched by two of the nation's top prospects in one game: Cyrus Jones from Baltimore (Md.) Gilman and Stefon Diggs from Olney (Md.) Good Counsel.

"I saw him before the game," said Diggs, who is No. 9 in the ESPNU 150 and the No. 1 athlete. "Somebody before the game said we can't talk, so I just gave him a little head nod. I saw the Maryland coaches. They looked nice. They were cheering for us.

"I think they were here for me and Cyrus. It means a lot for them to come to a game. It shows a lot of interest. They could have gone to any game around the country. It was good."

Proximity also works the other way. Several prospects, including Jones and Diggs, were able to be at the Maryland-Miami game and sense the excitement firsthand.

"The proof is in the pudding," said Diggs, who plays receiver on offense. "He's put in a full-time effort with the coaching staff and it showed. They were well-conditioned. I like the offense. They throw the ball a lot."

Jones, who is No. 34 in the ESPNU 150 and the No. 4 athlete, agreed.

"I really liked it," he said. "The atmosphere was great. The fans were really enthusiastic about the game. You can see Coach Edsall is bringing a new kind of attitude to the whole organization."

It would be shortsighted to think that Edsall could build a program off one win, proximity or even a snazzy new jersey. He'll also have to sell long-term substance for top prospects to sign on. So far, mission accomplished.

"Coach Edsall is a real genuine guy, straightforward," Jones said. "He's not going to beat around the bush. I think he's just brought a new sense of accountability to Maryland football and everybody's buying in."

The chatter among local high school prospects has been at a fever pitch. Once a school to mildly consider, Maryland has become one that area prospects feel they must consider.

"Maryland is definitely getting a new respect from hometown kids," Jones said. "They beat a big-time team in Miami. That was a big win and they're moving in the right direction. Me, my teammates and everybody else in Maryland, all the big players, we just want to see what they do this year.

"We know what Randy Edsall can do from what he's done at UConn. If you talk to him, you can definitely sense a sense of urgency, and that he's doing the best he can do to get the job done and that he'll do whatever it takes. We're just anxious to see what he can do this year."

It won't take a championship for Maryland to stay at the forefront of the recruiting world in the mid-Atlantic region, but wins matter. Edsall understands that.

"The more that we win and the more that we can have things happen like happened on Monday night [the victory over Miami], the better off we can be," he said.

The Terps host West Virginia this weekend in a game that's sure to draw national attention for the matchup and, yes, the jerseys. More publicity? Absolutely. More chances for recruits to see and hear about the Terps? Definitely.

Edsall wouldn't have it any other way.

Dave Hooker covers Southeast and Atlantic Coast recruiting. He has covered recruiting and college football for more than a decade. Email him at davehookerespn@gmail.com.