National Signing Day: Keep friends close, prime recruits closer

WASHINGTON — College football’s National Signing Day is a necessary evil on the sports calendar, and the overhyped analysis and ceremonial hoopla is an unnecessary layer of pomp at least six months before there’s any circumstance to speak of (sometimes longer if the recruit red shirts).

That said, Maryland made another move toward becoming a Big Ten East Division contender with a recruiting class that ranks in the top 20 by most experts that matter (ESPN,, CBS, my aunt Shirley**).

What’s more important to coach D.J. Durkin is that during his second winter at the helm, he was able to keep a lot of the talent that resides in the D.C. area inside the Beltway. Eight of the signees are from Maryland, while two more call D.C. home and there are six recruits who will cross the Potomac from Virginia to play for the Terrapins.

“We’ve made no secret about it. That is our formula,” Durkin said. “We’re going to take care of our backyard, and win here in the DMV and build our team with that being our foundation.”

Nine of the top 20 players from Maryland and three of the top nine players from D.C. (rated by Rivals) signed with the Terps. “We signed a couple of players from DeMatha again,” Durkin said. “You look at the WCAC. Gonzaga, Good Counsel, St. John’s — we have representation from all of those programs.”

Eleven of the recruits are consensus four-star prospects, headlined by quarterback Kasim Hill of St. John’s College High School in D.C. For a program that has had a quarterback start every game of the year just once since 2006, stability at QB is always a concern.

Durkin said, “Obviously anyone that follows football can put on a tape and see that he’s a tremendous talent. He can make all of the throws. He can beat you running the ball. He’s 230 pounds. The guy is a freak of nature.”

Hill’s early verbal commit to the school helped convince five quality wide receivers to sign with the Terps, including four-star recruit Sean Nelson from Georgia.

Nelson was one of four players — all wide receivers — from the Peach State to sign with Maryland, even though that region is far from Big Ten country.

The coach credits early identification and consistent recruiting with bringing in the quartet. “The rush of offers came after ours,” Durkin said. “Guys aren’t going to forget the first power five team to offer them [a scholarship]. That resonates with guys and their families.”

While the Terps know they’ve added quite a bit of sizzle, the coaching staff knew after finishing last in the Big Ten in sacks allowed and 11th in the conference at stopping the run, they’d need to add quite a bit of steak to the roster. Four offensive linemen and five defensive linemen will help build the foundation.

“I’ve made the statement several times, and it’s pretty basic: Let’s recruit big guys that are big. We need big-bodied guys with big frames that can grow and be huge,” Durkin said.

Seven players in Durkin’s recruiting class are already on campus as early enrollees. It’s something the coach welcomes but doesn’t push, understanding that not every 17-year-old wants to miss the spring of his senior year. (More than just prom — who wants to skip the Senior Class Talent Show?)

“They’re all right now doing winter workouts with us,” Durkin said. “They’re enrolled in 15 hours of class and gonna be in spring ball for 15 practices. When summertime comes and the rest of the freshmen come in, they’re almost in a class of their own.”

Six of those seven recruits are on the defensive side of the ball. Good news for a defense that allowed 28 points or more seven times last fall.

So, save the date: The 2017 season begins Saturday, Sept. 2 at Texas.


**For the record, my aunt Shirley does not rate high school football prospects but does know her Pinot Noir, as she currently lives in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Ponzi is her five-star prospect.

Dave Preston

Dave has been in the D.C. area for 10 years and in addition to working at WTOP since 2002 has also been on the air at Westwood One/CBS Radio as well as Red Zebra Broadcasting (Redskins Network).

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