Maryland Football’s Early Signing Class Superlatives

The early signing period has come and gone as the Terps’ 24-man class so far has been finalized and announced. Maryland will welcome eight early enrollees next month while receiver Ryan Manning is already taking in bowl preparation, but we break down the rest of the class by dishing out superlatives.

Biggest addition: Neeo Avery

Maryland went into the early hours of Signing Day to get the four-star over the line, flipping his commitment from Ole Miss to give the Terps a signature addition in the 2023 class. Led by OLB coach James Thomas, Maryland was able to get him on campus for a summer official visit then again in the fall for the Michigan State game where he got a chance to reconnect with the staff before taking in win number five on the season. It didn’t always look likely as Avery’s recruitment went through its ups-and-downs over the last two months, but the Terps remained in consistent contact down the stretch to reel in the four-star product. Avery missed roughly half of his senior season due to a torn ACL suffered in the spring, but bounced back to become a key piece on a Falcons defenses loaded with P5 talent. At the next level, Avery gives Maryland a stud along the line and bodes confidence for the future of the pass rush.

Immediate impact: Rico Walker

The 6-foot-3, 233-pound athlete had an interest in playing tight end at the next level while his family acknowledged the NFL upside on the defensive side of the ball, but Walker was one that head coach Mike Locksley cited as starting on the offensive side of the ball. Committing as an athlete, Walker enrolling early will give him a chance to fill a void at tight end where the Terps have suffered attrition so far this offseason. “Start there in the tight end room first, but we do know that when we evaluated him and had our tight end room stay consistent with what it was he probably would have started as an edge. So kudos to the kid for being athletic enough to be able to be recruited at a very high level, because I know some schools were recruiting as a tight end and some were recruiting as a rush, that he has that flexibility for us and that helps our program,” Locksley said of Walker.

Future team captain: Champ Long

The junior-to-senior season progression cemented Long as a core piece of Maryland’s 2023 class after becoming the first to jump into the fold. Long finished with 4,541 yards and 51 passing touchdowns over his two seasons as the starting quarterback at St. Peter’s Prep (NJ) and was named USA Today First Team All-New Jersey. Aside from the stats, one trait that always stuck out about Long was his consistency and attention to his craft as he and local quarterback coach Lamar McKnight would frequently take the field together. Off the field, Long remained consistent in his pledge throughout the process and helped recruit others like DJ Samuels and Josh Richards into the class.

Biggest loss: Cam Seldon

Maryland was able to still address the wide receiver position, but the staff was in the mix for the four-star prospect all year. Seldon and his family made their way to campus back in January then again in June for an official visit, but finished second to Tennessee back in July. Maryland wasn’t deterred, though, and were able to host his cousin Denzel Palmer for an official visit the weekend of the Ohio State game with Seldon as a guest. That helped to keep the Terps in the mix down the stretch, but in the days leading up to NSD, the four-star remained content with his pledge to give the Terps a second runner-up finish. Seldon would’ve given the room a signature addition this cycle and a playmaker who can make the big play whether with his intermediate routes or over the top of the defense. Nonetheless, activity from both the high school and transfer ranks has stabilized the position.

Highest upside: Dylan Gooden

Ever since his late July visit, Maryland was the team to beat in his recruitment as the staff reeled in the four-star product after his Dec. 16 official visit. After transferring to Wilde Lake to finish the remainder of his senior season, Gooden’s upside was always a topic of debate throughout his recruitment. The long-armed outside linebacker made strides as a pass rusher from his junior to senior season while areas of improvement remain in coverage, but his length and raw athleticism was always intriguing for a program that’s struggled to generate consistent pressure in the Big Ten. Gooden has the frame to add another 20-25 pounds while maintaining his athleticism and under Ryan Davis in the strength and conditioning program, the Good Counsel product gives the room a long-term piece to lean on.

Biggest sleeper: DJ Samuels

Samuels was among the early priorities out of New Jersey this cycle and led by Henry Baker, the Terps reeled him in roughly a week after his late June visit. He gives the Terps a proven piece after Samuels broke Brian Cushing’s all-time sack record—as a junior—before becoming a three-time first team All-State selection. Samuels finished with 28 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, six sacks and five pass breakups while adding six rushing touchdowns on 29 carries. At 6-foot, Samuels could fill in as a JACK linebacker or defensive end where he becomes another piece to the Terps’ answer on the edge in 2023 and beyond. It only helps his chances to play early as he’s one of eight early enrollees in 2023.

Position best addressed: Safety

WR could’ve been the pick here, but the flip of Tamarcus Cooley gives the room a future starter to replace Beau Brade while Tayvon Nelson’s range somewhat mirrors how Dante Trader fared as a senior. Alex Moore gives the room a long term piece, but the portal addition of former Miami safety Avantae Williams gives the unit an experienced piece with two years of eligibility to fill the void left by Isaiah Hazel. The safety room was already in good hands with both Brade and Trader becoming second-year starters in 2023, but Williams and Cooley solidify the future of the room.

Position of focus for remainder of 2023 cycle: Offensive Line

Maryland inked a guard (Deandre Duffus) and a center (Tamarus Walker) this cycle, but the search for a tackle remains. Dundalk four-star offensive tackle Chimdy Onoh is a target that the staff jumped into the mix for just days before signing day, but the need for a developmental tackle isn’t as dire with former LSU offensive tackle Marcus Dumervil in the fold. Maryland has its eyes on one available tackle, while they could stay patient with an interior lineman this cycle.

Best senior season: Braeden Wisloski

Announced as a running back, Wisloski will play both in the backfield and as a slot receiver as the incoming swiss army knife gives the room something it currently doesn’t have. The elusive athlete was always viewed as an under-the-radar signee who can outperform his ranking and he showed exactly that after posting nearly 2,000 rushing yards, 265 receiving yards and 30 total touchdowns in 2022. Wislsoki will also enroll early where he’ll help replenish the room and it’s a safe bet that the Pennsylvania native will see the field often as a true freshman.

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