Players like five-star wide receiver Stefon Diggs aren't supposed to choose Maryland. They're supposed to go off to the Ohio States and the Floridas of the world, leaving Terps fans wondering how local talent always seems to slip away. That makes Diggs' commitment to Maryland so fundamentally earth-shattering.
Anyone can tell you this much, though that doesn't make it any less true. When Diggs announced his decision at one of the most Terps-friendly watering holes in College Park on Friday night, the potential for a sea change for Maryland football was easy to see. The Terps have had top recruits before -- nobody wants to remember Melvin Alaeze around the area -- but none have come to College Park a year after the Terps went 2-10 and potentially have double-digit players transferring out of the program. Many scoffed at the Terps' recruiting mantra of winning back the local kids, but thanks to new offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, the Terps accomplished their goals right away.
There are two main questions that you all are probably asking now: how did Maryland do it, and what happens now?
The answer to the first one seems fairly simple. In hindsight, alarm bells should have been going off in everyone's heads the minute Wes Brown announced his commitment to Maryland at the Under Armour All-America Game. A week before the game, Brown wasn't even considering Maryland. Then, Locksley got high school teammate Zach Danciel to transfer from his New Mexico commitment, and Brown changed his mind.
At the time, it looked like Danciel was the domino to land Brown, and that'd be the end of it. In reality, everyone completely forgot just how close Brown and Diggs are as friends.
Consider this dual interview the two conducted with Rivals 11 months ago. As recently as then, Brown and Diggs were discussing how they were a package deal.
OK, let's play that angle. Are you guys a package deal heading to college? Do you want to play with each other?
Diggs: Yes, that's the idea.
Keep in mind: kids say the darndest things. But this part of the interview seems especially significant in Maryland's case:
Brown: Yes, but just because a coach recruits one of us doesn't mean he's automatically getting the other one. He's got to want the other one, too. He can't just be like, 'Oh, we'll take Wes because we really want Stefon.' He has to have a role for both of us.
Diggs: Right. You can't just offer one of us and then I don't hear from you for a few months.
In other words, for Brown and Diggs to be a package deal, a school has to have playing time available for both. A 2-10 team? Yeah, they have playing time available for both. The Terps' wide receivers were among the worst in college football last year, and at running back, starter Davin Meggett is graduating and promising goal-line back D.J. Adams transferred. The team likes Justus Pickett, but if that's the only guy really standing in the way of both Brown and Diggs being starters next year, Locksley can easily sell playing time.
That should answer the question of how Diggs ended up in College Park. The more interesting question is what happens next.
The biggest thing the Terps must understand is that their job is not over. Just because they land Diggs doesn't mean their reputation as being second-tier to top local recruits has been fixed. The next step is making sure Diggs has a good college experience, and that falls on Edsall and the rest of the coaches.
It's an tough balance that Edsall must walk. Several of his players felt he was too much of a disciplinarian and sapped team spirit last year, and he was hammered by local media. That kind of approach can work at Connecticut, where very few of the players chose the school over any of the top programs in the country. Will it work with Diggs? Can Edsall keep Diggs happy and productive while not alienating the rest of his team? Edsall has been paid a big salary to solve issues like these, but they're very difficult issues to solve, and that's even before we get to the very real possibility that Diggs isn't as good as his high ranking suggests.
The ramifications of Edsall's work are humongous. By bringing in Brown and Diggs, Locksley and Edsall have established a pipeline to Good Counsel, one of the nation's strongest high school programs. Good Counsel has a defensive back named Kendall Fuller that is a top-five recruit in the Class of 2013 and has already received a scholarship offer from Maryland. If Diggs has a good experience next year, you can bet Fuller will think much longer and harder about accepting that offer. If Diggs has a bad experience, that pipeline could easily be broken.
These are the important questions that come when program-changing decisions are made on the recruiting trail. The Terps have been given great power in the form of Diggs' commitment. But as the old adage goes, with great power comes great responsibility. The Terps must now carry out that responsibility to make the most of Diggs' decision.