How do the Maryland Terrapins turn around a long mediocre program? A quick look around its own backyard tells the story of the “how” for D.J. Durkin and the Terps program.
If Durkin’s first full recruiting cycle is any indication, the Big Ten may want to look out. Durkin’s class was the No. 18 ranked team in the country and the No 4 class in the conference according to 247Sports. Eight four-star players were amongst a class that had 28 players in it.
The simple numbers tell us that this class is going to have a big impact on the future of the Maryland football program. Whether that impact is positive or negligible will likely tell us all we need to know about the Durkin era in College Park.
If this class is successful, Durkin’s era is going to go for a while. But, which players are likely to have the most immediate impact on the squad in 2017? Let’s take a look at few names you should know right away.
Deon Jones, CB
Not only is Jones one of just seven players in this class to come on board for the spring semester, he is the only four-star player that was in early in this class. It doesn’t hurt that Jones also fills a major need for depth and productivity in the secondary.
We’ve seen impactful performances from true freshman at the cornerback position before across the Big Ten. Jones’ film was certainly impressive, but there were a lot of impressive moments from him this spring.
His spring has given some the indication that Jones is a likely opening day starting cornerback for this team. The combination of his skill set and the lack of production from the group returning to the fold make those indications easier to believe. Even if he doesn’t end up a starter, don’t be surprised to see him on the field a ton in 2017.
Jones has the talent level to make people forget about Will Likely, and could be the next two-way player as well. It certainly doesn’t hurt that he played both cornerback and wide receiver at the high school level and there are a lot of questions at both positions. Perhaps that dream scenario doesn’t happen in 2017, but the athletic ability is certainly there to perhaps get there in the coming years.
Kasim Hill, QB
Of course this list wouldn’t be complete without the one player everyone in the country is talking about. Hill may just walk in and take over as the starting quarterback for Walt Bell’s offense.
You don’t have to believe me, just look at what Bell was saying about his quarterbacks after spring ball was complete. But, it appears the battle will likely come down to Henderson and Hill.
Hill possesses a great arm, is super intelligent with the football and has more speed than some are giving him credit for. In other words, he’s the exact type of quarterback Bell has in mind for his offense. About the only question here is when, not if Hill will be the Terps starting quarterback.
My guess is that we’ll see Caleb Henderson start early on, sputter a bit and Hill will eventually have the redshirt pulled. But, I also won’t be surprised to see Hill go out and win the job as the most talented player in the room.
Depth in the secondary is a major concern for the Terps in 2017. One answer to that problem seems to be the No. 7 ranked athlete in the 2017 class, who also happened to follow in the footsteps of cornerback Deon Jones and enrolled early.
Coming out of spring ball, Bell appears to be a great fit at safety and is likely in the mix for a spot on the two-deep at strong safety. His range and ball-hawking skills are exactly what Maryland needs to turn things completely loose in Durkin’s defense.
Oh, and did we forget to mention that he may also be exactly what the special teams needs in replacing the dynamic Will Likely as a return man? One look at his film and you see a player very comfortable as a punt returner at the very least. He could get in the mix there during fall camp and may be a way to get him on the field more in 2017.
Breyon Gaddy, DE
Much like Hill earlier in this piece, Gaddy comes to the Maryland campus in the summer and has a lot of hype behind him as a potential game-changer for the defensive line. The four-star prospect comes to the Terps from one of Virginia’s best programs — Bishop Sullivan Catholic in Virginia Beach.
Players are often quicker to adjust to the college game thanks to the pipeline of college-ready athletes they compete with and against on a daily basis. It doesn’t hurt that he comes to college as a 6-5, 335-pound monster of a defensive tackle.
With three starters gone from the line last year and 38 sacks from that group in 2016, there is a big chance (no pun intended) that Gaddy’s play at the second big man spot on the 3-4 defensive line is going to be needed. Look for him to get plenty of playing time and if it all goes well I’d expect him to be a starter or at least playing those kind of snaps by the end of the season.
In fact, I dare say he might be the one that has the biggest impact on the 2017 season from this class.