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Terps’ hope top-20 recruit class brings improvement on field

February 3, 2021 GMT
FILE - Ohio State head coach Ryan Day watches during the first half of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game against Clemson in Glendale, Ariz., in this Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, file photo. The National signing day period begins Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File)
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FILE - Ohio State head coach Ryan Day watches during the first half of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game against Clemson in Glendale, Ariz., in this Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, file photo. The National signing day period begins Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File)
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FILE - Ohio State head coach Ryan Day watches during the first half of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game against Clemson in Glendale, Ariz., in this Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, file photo. The National signing day period begins Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File)

The Maryland athletic department slogan is “Fear The Turtle.” In seven seasons in the Big Ten, its football team has scared no one.

That might be about to change judging by the recruiting work done by coach Mike Locksley and his staff.

Locksley signed four four-star prospects in December and completed their class with five-star linebacker Terrence Lewis of Opa Locka, Florida, ranked the No. 20 player in the country by 247Sports.

The top eight recruits play defense, an area where Locksley is looking for rapid improvement. Maryland ranked in the bottom three in the Big Ten in scoring defense, rushing defense and total defense.

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“He’s in great position,” Big Ten Network analyst Gerry DiNardo said of Locksley. “This class is just what he needs to boost the defense.”

Lewis, who de-committed from Tennessee, is the second five-star in two years to sign with Maryland and is the top player in a class that’s No. 4 in the Big Ten behind Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin and 18th nationally in the 247Sports composite rankings.

Locksley is 5-12 in two seasons, and the Terps haven’t had a winning record since going 7-6 in 2014.

There’s reason for hope, though. The Terps have been mining the best talent in their area the last two years, and co-defensive coordinator Brian Davis has established a pipeline from Florida. Davis is ranked as the No. 1 recruiter in the Big Ten and No. 5 in the nation, according to 247Sports.

BUCKEYES STAND PAT

Ohio State wrapped up its class in December, with 18 of the 21 players rated as four- or five-star recruits. That’s second most behind Alabama’s 22. Six of the top 50 recruits in the nation signed with the Buckeyes.

“If you want to know where they’re going to be in a couple years, look at their recruiting class ... and that’s the College Football Playoff,” DiNardo said.

Ohio State coach Ryan Day and his staff brought in the nation’s No. 1-rated players at wide receiver, running back, guard and two of the top four cornerbacks.

OVERACHIEVING

Northwestern blows up correlations between where a team ends up in the recruiting rankings and how it fares on the field.

The defending West Division champion’s 11-man class ranked 11th in the conference and fifth in the West. The Wildcats topped it off with the signings of two receivers, four-star Jordan Mosley of Mobile, Alabama, and three-star Calvin Johnson of French Camp, Mississippi.

Pat Fitzgerald has never had a class ranked higher than No. 8 in the Big Ten since he took over in 2006.

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HYPE VS RESULTS

Michigan’ Jim Harbaugh and Nebraska’s Scott Frost have been big winners on signing days. Anxious fans want to start seeing comparable results in the fall.

The Wolverines have yet to win the East Division and are coming off a 2-4 season in Harbaugh’s sixth year. Frost is 12-20 overall and 9-17 in the Big Ten in three years.

Michigan created some buzz Wednesday when it swiped four-star defensive lineman Rayshaun Benny from Michigan State. Benny had pledged to the Spartans last fall but held off on signing in December.

December signee J.J. McCarthy of IMG Academy is the Wolverines’ lone five-star and, at No. 2 nationally, the highest-ranked quarterback Harbaugh has landed.

Nebraska has its third straight top-20 class. Thomas Fidone of Council Bluffs, Iowa, is the No. 2 tight end in the nation and the biggest get. The Huskers on Wednesday added four-star linebacker Wynden Ho’ohuli of Millani, Hawaii, but lost out on cornerback Avante Dickerson from Omaha, Nebraska. Dickerson, who de-committed from Minnesota, signed with Oregon.

DEBUT CLASSES

Illinois’ Bret Bielema added two three-star prospects to the group of 14 players recruited by former coach Lovie Smith and his staff. Running back Josh McCray of Enterprise, Alabama, and linebacker Dwayne Johnson of Snellville, Georgia, made their commitments official Wednesday.

The 2021 class is the first for Mel Tucker at Michigan State. Losing Benny to the rival Wolverines was devastating, but the Spartans took some consolation in signing three-star wide receiver Keon Coleman of Opelousas, Louisiana, who also plans to play basketball.

OTHER NOTABLE SIGNINGS

Four-star defensive lineman Davon Townley Jr. of Minneapolis signed with Penn State; four-star wide receiver Malachi Holt-Bennett of Birmingham, Alabama, signed with Indiana; three-star athlete Deavin Hilson of Des Moines, Iowa, and three-star center Michael Myslinski of Jacksonville, Florida, signed with Iowa.

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