COLLEGE PARK – When hired by the University of Maryland football team last December, Head Coach Mike Locksley said he would prioritize local recruiting to help get the program back on track.
But even he was surprised at the start of the Early Signing Period in Dec. 18, when local five-star wide receiver Rakim Jarrett decided to stay home. The St. John’s Catholic High School product had previously verbally committed to LSU but tweeted on Dec. 16 that he would be signing in February during the later signing period.
Jarrett changed his mind two days later, tweeting that he had signed his letter of intent to play for the Terps.
“We had no idea he was signing today,” Locksley said. “We had no idea that he was even coming us, and then all of a sudden, he puts out a tweet that said ‘committed.’ And we were like, “what is this?”
Jarrett is the crowned jewel of Maryland’s 2020 class, and along with a flurry of commits since the season ended, helped the Terps surge in recruiting rankings. After signing 23 players with an additional four verbal commits projected to sign in February, Maryland now has the No. 27 overall recruiting class and No. 6 recruiting class in the Big Ten according to the 247 Sports Composite.
“We can’t stress the importance enough of getting the right people in here to help us put this foundation together for us to have the success we want to have,” Locksley said. “I couldn’t be more thrilled with the type of kids we’ve recruited.”
While Jarrett’s signing took most of the headlines, Maryland’s signees were more national than local. Of the top players in the 247 Sports Composite, Jarrett was the only one the Terps signed from the District. In Maryland, Potomac High School’s Corey Dyches is the only Terp commit who is one of the top 20 players in the state who will sign in February.
To make up for the local recruiting struggles, Maryland signed players from other football hotbeds. The Terps signed seven players from Florida, as well as two from New Jersey and Pennsylvania. They also got a solid running back from Big Ten country in Detroit native Peny Boone.
Maryland also signed five junior college players, four of whom went to Independence Community College in Kansas, which featured on Netflix’s “Last Chance U” show. Of the junior college signees, three are linemen with Big Ten size that will compete for playing time.
“The fact that they’re a few years older than a high school player, usually that maturity helps you, especially up front,” Locksley said.
Elsewhere in Prince George’s County, Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School defensive back Dorian Strong made it official, signing his letter of intent to play for Virginia Tech next fall. Strong signed at the school’s pep rally, where he and his Puma teammates were recognized for winning the school’s fifth football state championship this decade.
The Hokies were one of the first teams interested in Strong, and he stayed loyal to them throughout the recruiting process. Initially, he was not confident he was good enough to play Division I football, but a conversation with Wise Head Coach DaLawn Parrish changed his mind.
“At times I was like ‘Dang, do I want to play football?’ because I was a track and field guy,” Strong said. “But then when I sat down with Coach P and he explained everything and that I was a Division I corner, I bought into the process.”
It capped off a whirlwind two weeks for Strong, who helped lead a Wise defense that dominated opponents throughout the Pumas perfect season. Wise recorded seven shutouts and allowed just 5.1 points per game, and no team scored more than 16 points against the Pumas.
“Winning states, that was amazing,” Strong said. “Just to win states with my boys as a senior, it’s amazing.”