Michael Locksley earned the biggest recruiting victory of his young tenure as Maryland’s football coach, but even he didn’t see it coming.
Rakim Jarrett, a standout wide receiver at St. John’s College High in the District, on Wednesday signed to play for Maryland, becoming the Terps’ first five-star recruit since Bishop McNamara offensive tackle Damian Prince in 2014. The decision capped a recruiting process that Locksley said Jarrett handled in a “unique” way.
Jarrett, who had committed to LSU months ago, announced early in the week that he planned to wait until February to sign his national letter-of-intent, rather than taking advantage of the early period that began Wednesday. Then he made his decision anyway.
“His process was all over the place from our standpoint because you didn’t have information,” Locksley said. “Even the way he signed and committed today, we had no idea he was signing today. We had no idea that he was even coming to us, and then all of a sudden, he puts out a tweet that says, ‘Committed.’ We’re like, ‘What is this?’”
The pleasant surprise arrived late Wednesday morning, a couple of hours after more than a dozen players already had signed. Jarrett, The Washington Post’s All-Met Offensive Player of the Year, is the No. 20 overall prospect in the country and the second-best receiver, according to 247Sports. While Locksley attracted a couple highly rated players in last year’s class, along with a few marquee transfers, getting a blue-chip prospect in Jarrettt epitomizes the way many hoped he would transform the program.
Jarrett figures to boost the team immediately, with both his on-field performance and also in how his decision could help change perceptions. Locksley noted multiple times how peer pressure still influences recruiting, yet Jarrett chose Maryland over a program that will compete for a national title in the coming weeks.
“If a guy like Rakim Jarrett thinks Maryland is good enough to help him develop on and off the field,” Locksley said, “the challenge is for other guys to believe the same.”
Once Locksley became Maryland’s coach last year, building a recruiting class became one of his first objectives. But Locksley had only a few pieces of his staff in place, and he spent limited time in College Park because he remained Alabama’s offensive coordinator through the College Football Playoff.
Now, after Locksley’s first full season at Maryland, he has assembled his first true recruiting class. The result of a full year’s worth of work came Wednesday with signatures from Jarrett, one four-star recruit (linebacker Ruben Hyppolite II) and 21 three-star players. Jarrett’s decision helped the Terps’ 2020 class surge to No. 6 in the Big Ten and No. 27 in the nation, according to 247Sports’ rankings. Four players who are committed to Maryland did not sign Wednesday.
The Terrapins’ staff began an overhaul of the roster immediately following the team’s disappointing 3-9 season. Locksley and his staff received a number of commitments in recent weeks, bolstering positions of need, such as the offensive and defensive lines.
The Terps signed five offensive linemen and four defensive linemen, with a handful of them set to join the Terps after playing for junior colleges. Locksley targeted players who are further along in their development because they can offer more immediate help.
“If you look at this class as a whole,” Locksley said, “the premium for us was getting better in the trenches.”
Nine players plan to enroll early: Hyppolite; offensive linemen Johari Branch and Ja’Khi Green; linebacker TJ Kautai; wide receiver DeaJaun McDougle; and defensive backs Shane Mosley, Jakorian Bennett, Beau Brade and Devyn King.
That also will help expedite development as Maryland hopes for a 2020 campaign better than the previous season.
Maryland’s depth at running back thinned once Anthony McFarland Jr. and Javon Leake announced their decisions to forgo their remaining eligibility to enter the NFL draft. The Terps signed two running backs Wednesday, Peny Boone and Isaiah Jacobs. Jacobs’s brother, Josh, plays for the Oakland Raiders and was coached by Locksley at Alabama.
Running back Kyjuan Herndon committed to Maryland this month, but he announced Wednesday that he would attend Colorado State instead. Three-star running back Ebony Jackson said on Twitter that he remained committed to Maryland but won’t sign during the early period.
Maryland’s class does not include a quarterback, but when that was when mentioned at Locksley’s Wednesday news conference, he interjected, “Yet!” Locksley said the staff will pursue help at that position and others during the February signing period, as well as through transfers. Jeff Sims, a four-star quarterback from Jacksonville, chose Georgia Tech over the Terps. The former Florida State commit reopened his recruitment after the Seminoles’ coaching change.
While many praise Locksley for his deep recruiting ties to the Washington area — and the top-rated player from this class attends high school in the District — the group mostly features players from all over the country. Maryland reeled in seven players from Florida, compared with just four from the D.C. and Baltimore area. The Terps’ footprint stretched to California, Michigan and Texas. Some local high school stars spent their mornings signing with schools such as Clemson, Georgia and Alabama. So Locksley and his staff looked elsewhere for the players who they hope will elevate the program.
“If we can get to where we control the DMV, we probably don’t have to go out as far, but we’re a national brand,” Locksley said. “And if these local guys don’t think our program’s good enough, we’ll go find them somewhere else.”
Maryland’s signees for 2020:
Rakim Jarrett, five-star wide receiver from St. John’s College High (Temple Hills, Md.)
Ruben Hyppolite II, four-star linebacker from McArthur High (Hollywood, Fla.)
Jakorian Bennett, three-star defensive back from Hutchinson Community College (Mobile, Ala.)
Peny Boone, three-star running back from Martin Luther King High (Detroit)
Beau Brade, three-star defensive back from River Hill High (Clarksville, Md.)
Johari Branch, three-star offensive lineman from Independence Community College (Chicago)
Frankie Burgess, three-star linebacker from Pahokee High (Pahokee, Fla.)
Nick DeGennaro, three-star wide receiver from Hun School (Princeton, N.J.)
Viliami Finau, three-star defensive lineman from Independence Community College (Euless, Tex.)
Delmar Glaze, three-star offensive lineman from West Mecklenburg High (Charlotte)
Ja’Khi Green, three-star offensive lineman from St. Frances Academy (Baltimore)
Isaiah Jacobs, three-star running back from Owasso High (Owasso, Okla.)
TJ Kautai, three-star linebacker from Independence Community College (Euless, Tex.)
Devyn King, three-star defensive back from Junipero Serra High (Gardena, Calif.)
Khristopher Love, three-star offensive lineman from American Heritage School (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
DeaJaun McDougle, three-star wide receiver from Deerfield Beach High (Deerfield Beach, Fla.)
Glendon Miller, three-star defensive back from Ridgeview High (Orange Park, Fla.)
Shane Mosley, three-star defensive back from Haverford High (Havertown, Pa.)
Mosiah Nasili-Kite, three-star defensive lineman from Independence Community College (Puyallup, Wash.)
Zachary Perkins, three-star offensive lineman from Berkeley Prep High (Wesley Chapel, Fla.)
Tre Smith, three-star defensive lineman from Mountain Ridge High (Frostburg, Md.)
Tarheeb Still, three-star defensive back from Timber Creek High (Sicklerville, N.J.)
Riyad Wilmot, three-star defensive lineman from St. Thomas Aquinas (Lauderhill, Fla.)