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DJ Durkin, Terps Sign Highly Rated Freshmen Class

February 2, 2017
When Maryland football head coach DJ Durkin walked up to the podium for his National Signing Day news conference in College Park, Md., Feb. 1, his first remark was that it was "hard to wipe the smile off my face right now." 

The Terps had just put the finishing touches on a 28-man freshman class -- the first recruiting class that was completely the work of Durkin and his staff. Maryland's class is rated 17th in the nation by Seventeen of Durkin's recruits are from Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

"Our formula is, we're going to take care of our backyard," Durkin said. "We're going to win here in the DMV and build our team with that being our foundation. And so to land 17 guys in one class from here is big time. There's eight guys in the class, I believe, that have been [Washington Catholic Athletic Conference] all-conference players. There are a lot of Maryland public schools that are represented.

"With that being said, there's also representation from 10 different states in this recruiting class."

Throughout signing day, Maryland used social media to let fans know when recruits sent in their Letter of Intent and officially became Terps. Johnny Jordan, a three-star offensive lineman out of Gonzaga College High in D.C., was the  first announcement of the day, and 20 others followed.  Seven already enrolled in the school and will be eligible for spring ball. 

Signing day did provide some drama for Terps fans. Tahj Capehart, a four-star wide receiver out of Virginia Beach, flipped to Maryland after being committed to Virginia Tech. Cordarrian Richardson, a four-star running back out of Memphis, Tenn.,  announced he was committing to Maryland via Bleacher Report, despite the Terps having never been previously rumored with Richardson; Ole Miss and Rutgers were two of the top potential destinations. But on Feb. 2, Richardson announced he was going to the University of Central Florida.

Three-star defensive end Kofi Wardlow flipped to Notre Dame after previously being committed to the Terps, and Maryland lost out on its top signing day target, four-star defensive back Tariq Castro-Fields, to Penn State. Still, Maryland put together one of its top classes in the Rivals era, and reached heights not seen since 2005, when a class with receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey ranked 16th in the nation.

"We expect to recruit at this level every year and continue to get better and better," Durkin said. "There's not a reason not to. We're going to attack it and be aggressive with it. We are all sitting right now in the middle of one of the most fertile grounds for recruiting in the entire country."

The biggest name among all the signees is probably Kasim Hill, a four-star pro-style quarterback out of St. John's College High in D.C. Hill will enter into a quarterback competition this summer that will also include Tyrrell Pigrome and Max Bortenschlager, along with Caleb Henderson.. Durkin lauded Hill's play on the field -- "He's going to be a household name for all Terps fans" -- but it was something else about Hill that had Durkin buzzing.

"What makes him different than other guys is his leadership ability -- [that's] what he's all about, what he stands for, what his family's all about, they're as good as they come," Durkin said. "Kasim was one of our early commits and, absolutely, he was a huge part of putting this class together because he has that leadership quality about him."

Another big-time local signee was Anthony McFarland, a four-star running back out of DeMatha. McFarland missed his senior season with the Stags after breaking his fibula last August, but he was still considered one of the best backs in the country. 

McFarland and fellow running back signees Tayon Fleet-Davis and Javon Leake -- both three-stars -- join a loaded backfield that includes presumed starter Ty Johnson, Lorenzo Harrison and Jake Funk. Durkin said McFarland is "dynamic with the ball in his hands" and "has a chance every time he has it to go the distance." Maryland fended off Miami for McFarland, one of two DeMatha kids in the class.

"Ant is great because he already feels like family. He's around here all the time," Durkin said. "He knows me; he knows our staff; he knows our players; he knows everything about us. It's not just [like he's] been here for recruiting presentations, he's here all the time. That's the great part about it. He knows what he's doing. We know what we're getting with him."

Elsewhere on offense, the Terps are losing six wide receivers to graduation, so they needed to replenish the position with this recruiting class. They did just that, pulling in six new receivers, including four from Georgia: Jalen Browder, Carlos Carriere, Jayden Comma and Sean Nelson -- all three-stars.

It's an open question as to who will start alongside D.J. Moore. It's possible Durkin finds a graduate transfer to help out -- much like he found Teldrick Morgan last summer -- but a lot of playing time at that position will be up for grabs regardless. Durkin was pleased with his staff's work, particularly wide receivers coach Chris Beatty's, in reeling in the quartet from Georgia.

"I just think it was a tremendous job by our staff of identifying them early and just staying consistent, because the rush of offers came after ours, and there's something to be said for that," Durkin said. "That resonates with guys, resonates with the family. We jumped in early on some of those guys. We felt really strongly about them as people, as players."

Other areas that needed improvement for Maryland were the offensive and defensive lines. The Terps were overwhelmed during their first three years in the Big Ten by the size, strength and athleticism exhibited in the trenches by the conference's high-end teams. 

Maryland signed four offensive linemen and five defensive linemen in this class. The Terps brought in big players for the offensive line, like Jordan McNair (6-foot-5, 330 pounds), Marcus Minor (6-foot-4, 296), Tyran Hunt (6-foot-7, 282) and Jordan (6-foot-1, 301). Along the defensive line, the Terps brought in the likes of Brandon Gaddy (6-foot-4, 320), Breyon Gaddy (6-foot-4, 315) and Cam Spence (6-foot-3, 311).

"How hard is it to get those guys? Extremely hard, because there's only so many of those," Durkin said of landing big-bodied linemen for the trenches. "Everyone can pick those guys out. There's only so many of those human beings on Earth. When you're recruiting and walking into a high school, you can see a 6-[foot]-5, 6-[foot]-6 guy that can move his feet and is coordinated and all that. He's getting recruited. So yeah, you have to work really hard to get those guys."

Maryland's full 28-man freshman class is below. The class includes seven four-star recruits, 20 three-stars and one two-star, per Seven have already enrolled at the university. It's Rivals' 17th-rated class in the nation.

Quarterbacks (1)
Kasim Hill -- St. John's College High

Running backs (3)
Anthony McFarland -- DeMatha Catholic
Tayon Fleet-Davis -- Potomac High
Javon Leake -- Greensboro, N.C.

Wide receivers (6)
Jalen Browder -- Dallas, Ga.
Carlos Carriere -- Alpharetta, Ga.
Jayden Comma -- Roswell, Ga.
Sean Nelson -- Fairburn, Ga.
M.J. Jarrell -- Orlando, Fla.
Tahj Capehart -- Virginia Beach, Va.

Tight ends (1)
Andrew Park -- Fairfax Station, Va.

Offensive linemen (4)
Jordan McNair -- McDonogh School
Marcus Minor -- DeMatha Catholic 
Johnny Jordan -- Gonzaga College High
Tyran Hunt -- Boykins, Va.

Defensive linemen (5)
B'Ahmad Miller -- St. Frances Academy
Lawtez Rogers -- Eleanor Roosevelt
Cam Spence -- St. John's College High
Breyon Gaddy -- Virginia Beach, Va.
Brandon Gaddy -- Virginia Beach, Va.

Linebackers (3)
Ayinde Eley -- Good Counsel
Bryce Brand -- Detroit, Mich. 
Nick Underwood -- Riverside City College (California)

Defensive backs (5)
Deon Jones -- Potomac High
Fofie Bazzie -- Quince Orchard High
Markquese Bell -- Bridgeton, N.J.
Kenny Bennett -- Philadelphia, Pa.
Alex Woods -- Durham, N.C.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated since its original publication.