Maryland capitalizing on local talent
OLNEY, Md. -- The Maryland Terrapins were the talk of the town at the Baltimore Under Armour 7-on-7 passing tournament.
However, that's hardly a surprise considering the school picked up nine commitments in June, eight of which are from Maryland or Washington D.C., including Yannick Ngakoue (Washington D.C./Friendship). But just how committed is the three-star linebacker, who helped his team win the passing tournament on Saturday?
"I tell them I'm solidly committed, but I'm going to still take visits, but I'm committed to Maryland," said Ngakoue, who plans to take official visits this fall to South Carolina, Tennessee, Miami and West Virginia.
Still, Maryland is in prime position and it clearly offered Ngakoue what he wanted.
"They just need help," he said of the Terps. "That's the reason why [I committed]. I didn't want to go to a winning program because you could find tons of Yannicks. I want to go to a program, make a difference and make history."
Much of the credit of Maryland's recruiting has gone to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Locksley, who was hired by the Terps in January. Locksley, who grew up in inner-city D.C., and was an assistant coach for the Terps, has long recruited the area and has incredible ties to it.
"Locksley is extremely connected in the area," Friendship head coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim said. "He's going to have an opportunity to recruit every kid."
"He's a good man," said Ngakoue of Locksley. "He just tells me why he's going to produce me [into a top player]. His track record speaks for itself. I know he's going to take care of me when I go down there because from the past, [it seems] everybody he's recruited has gone to the NFL. I know not everybody is going to the NFL, but I think I have a good chance with him pushing me."
Friendship teammate and fellow Maryland commitment Cavon Walker agreed. The inside linebacker also committed to the Terps in June.
"Locksley is doing his thing over there," Walker said. "Me and my teammates are leading the way right now. More wins would [lead to more players committing], but it really doesn't matter to me."
Friendship four-star offensive lineman Derwin Gray also committed to Maryland in June.
Abdul-Rahim said there's more than just Locksley's recruiting prowess.
"I think they've put together a real good staff beyond just recruiting," Abdul-Rahim said. "I think a lot of people give Locksley credit for recruiting, but their staff is a good staff."
Changing the culture with new uniforms and a new field has also been key. Moreover, Abdul-Rahim said hanging onto the nearby talent is a worthwhile endeavor for the Terps.
"It's a hotbed of talent, and you don't have to go anywhere [else to play college football]," he said.
The impact of Olney (Md.) Good Counsel receiver Stefon Diggs' signing in February is also still being felt. Diggs could have signed with almost any school in the country, but decided to stay close to home.
"After Stefon committed," Ngakoue said, "everybody wanted to join the Maryland train."
When Ngakoue and Gray committed to Maryland in June, they did so after inspecting other college rosters that were full of nearby talent.
"They said 'Why can't we do that here?'" Abdul-Rahim said. "Which I can understand. There's nothing better than playing where your mother doesn't have to go six hours to see you. She can come to every game. She can come to practice if she wants to."
Some prospects, such as Friendship 2014 defensive back prospect Jalen Tabor, have expressed concern with the Terps' 2-10 season, but Abdul-Rahim said that perception can change quickly.
"We're in a fast-paced world," he said. "Recruiting is faster. Changing the culture of a program can happen a little quicker. When you are on a team that's not as good, that tells you, you can play early. Sometimes you go to [a school like] Alabama and you might sit for two years."
Regardless, the Terps are off to a great start in 2013, the Class of 2014 could produce just as many local talents and it seems Locksley knows them all.