COLLEGE PARK — The state of Maryland has been a hotbed for college football recruiting as top programs like Alabama and Ohio State have feasted on local prospects. However, the team that has been left out to dry has been the University of Maryland.
Capital News Service data analysis over the last five years showed that Maryland as a state only retains on average 20 percent of its four- and five-star prospects. Alabama, home to premiere programs like the University of Alabama and Auburn University, on the other hand, keeps 76 percent of homegrown talent.
Mississippi (83 percent) and Michigan (74 percent) also rank near the top in retaining local prospects, despite splitting their respective states between two Division 1 Football Subdivision schools.
The University of Maryland is the only Division 1 FBS school in the state but struggles to keep its own blue-chip prospects.
“When schools like Ohio State and Florida State, with the success they have had on the field and with as much effort as they put on recruiting in the DMV, it’s tough for Maryland to beat those schools out for kids,” said Steve Wiltfong, the National Recruiting Director at 247sports, a CBS Sports subsidiary recruiting site.
The Terrapins were 22-33 under Randy Edsall, who was fired in October after four and a half seasons.
Ohio State and Florida State have both won national championships over the past few seasons and have produced a combined five first-round draft picks in the last two years. In the same time frame, Maryland had a total of three players drafted.
As Maryland has struggled to win on the field, it isn’t sending players to the NFL either, which makes selling the program to high schoolers difficult.
Dwayne Haskins Jr., a quarterback for the Bullis School in Potomac, is ranked third among high school quarterbacks in Maryland, according to ESPN. And his story is just one example of Maryland’s inability to recruit its own.
Haskins originally committed to Maryland last May and started a movement to get other local talent to join him in College Park. However, after head coach Edsall was fired, Haskins spurned the Terps and committed to Ohio State.
“If they were winning 12 games a year, it would certainly be easier to keep guys home,” Wiltfong said.
New head coach D.J. Durkin will have his hands full trying to bring in talent to a team that won one game in the Big Ten and three overall last season.
“There were some tough decisions made and those are things we had to work through. It’s part of the process and everyone is better off because of it,” Durkin said during the signing day press conference on Feb 3. “There were some that went other ways and I think that’s great. The guys here know what they are getting into and they want to be a part of this thing.”
Durkin knows the first order of business is trying to keep Maryland talent in Maryland.
“We are going to build this program with guys in their own backyard,” Durkin said.
Football powerhouse DeMatha Catholic High School, located in Hyattsville, is a short drive away from Maryland’s campus and has a rich tradition of producing can’t-miss prospects.
DeMatha four-star wide receiver Tino Ellis, along with three of his teammates, decided to stay at home and play for the Terrapins next year.
“What a thrill to get all those DeMatha guys to be a part of this class,” Durkin said. “Elijah Brooks and his program there, it doesn’t get better than that. I can tell you one thing, we are going back to DeMatha next year, too.”
Durkin feels the new crop of talent as a whole provides a solid foundation for the future.
“The recruiting staff and coaching staff really put together a class that is just tremendous,” Durkin said. “The guys we brought in are about great things, about what we’re building here, and they are definitely going to help us achieve great things.”
All in all, Maryland’s 2016 class is comprised of 19 recruits, eight of which are from Maryland.
“They got some guys that can be difference-makers at the skill positions, which they needed,” Wiltfong said. “(Maryland) certainly does win some…It’s not like they’ve seen every great player from the DMV leave.”
Maryland also added a few other Washington Catholic Athletic Conference prospects for its 2017 class: St. John’s College High School quarterback (Washington, D.C.) Kasim Hill and Our Lady of Good Counsel High School (Olney) linebacker Ayinde Eley.
Hill, who rejected Big Ten powerhouses Michigan and Michigan State, is ranked as the 13th-best pro-style quarterback in the country. Eley is ranked as the 10th-best player in the state and turned down offers from Ohio State and Penn State.
Cam Spence, a class of 2017 four-star defensive tackle from the Gilman School in Baltimore, is spearheading the DMV-to-UMD movement.
Spence passed up offers from Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Ole Miss and a host of other college football titans.
“(UMD) always felt like home to me,” Spence said in a phone interview.
Spence is the nephew of Larry Stewart, a former All-American Terrapins lineman, who played in the late 1970s.
The new recruiting class is building a family atmosphere in College Park in hopes of attracting more local recruits.
“We have a group of guys who believe in Coach Durkin and his staff,” Spence said. “We’re trying to make something big…We’re close with each other, we talk to each other on a daily basis, we’re buying into it. It’s going to be special.”
Capital News Service data reporter Ryan Connors contributed to this story.