Maryland head football coach DJ Durkin is a wizard.
In Durkin's first full recruiting year, the Terps signed one of the school's greatest freshmen classes ever. That Maryland was 6-7 with a minor bowl loss last season makes the recruiting success even more amazing.
Rivals.com ranked Maryland's signees 16th-best in the nation, while 247Sports called it 17th. That's eons ahead of past lackluster years, where predecessor Randy Edsall was lucky to grab a four-star recruit. The last Maryland class ranked 16th was in 2005, when it gained receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and offensive tackle Jared Gaither, who both reached the NFL. Overall, Maryland has averaged in the mid-30s rankings throughout the past 15 years.
Durkin followed the playbook of coaches Bobby Ross in the 1980s and Ralph Friedgen a decade ago to defend local borders and get the best talent in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., areas. While not acclaimed like Texas, California and Florida preps, there's enough talent within an hour's drive of College Park, Md., to build a winning program. Sure, Penn State, Virginia and Virginia Tech will compete for players, and national programs will cherry pick a five-star player occasionally, but this is Maryland's talent pool.
The Terps didn't get any five-star recruits. It's not time for that yet. But Rivals rated 11 worth four stars. Durkin saved a few scholarships from last season to create a bigger 2017 class that includes eight players already enrolled.
The jewels of the class are running back Cordarrian Richardson of Memphis, Tenn., and receiver Tahj Capeheart of Virginia Beach. Richardson, whose paperwork isn't yet complete, was committed to Clemson as the nation's 160th best player before a surprise change Feb. 1. He was offered scholarships at 25 schools and seemed ready to switch to Ole Miss before choosing Maryland.
The DeMatha pipeline continues with running back Anthony McFarland Jr. and guard Marcus Minor. Indeed, Durkin gained top talent from several area private schools.
Perhaps the biggest loss was not getting four-star cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields of Riverdale Baptist. Instead, Castro-Fields chose Penn State.
Overall, it was a step forward for a program that is still far behind Big Ten leaders Ohio State and Michigan, whose recruiting classes ranked among the nation's best. It's always going to be catch-up for Maryland versus those programs, but last season the Terps showed they can be in the middle of the conference with some strides. And if that brings 8-4 seasons, that's about the most Terps fans can regularly expect.
After all, Durkin may be a wizard, but he's not a miracle worker.