Mike Locksley Talks Edge Support, WR Haul, Credits Staff After NSD

Maryland’s sprint to singing day helped provide reinforcements in the front seven, a glaring concern for Maryland this offseason.

Four-star athlete Rico Walker kicked things off a week prior to signing day after committing to Maryland over Kentucky, Florida and Nebraska. Four-star outside linebacker Dylan Gooden kept the good vibes rolling into the weekend and announced shortly after wrapping up his official visit to College Park, but the news would only set the stage for four-star defensive end Neeo Avery to announce his flip from Ole Miss to Maryland on Wednesday afternoon.

“Being able to get guys like Dylan [Gooden], like Neeo [Avery] and then Rico [Walker] who has versatility to play on either side of the ball. Just the tremendous athleticism puts pressure on those offensive tackles and in this league, if you want to win you’ve got to be able to get after the quarterback and I think all three of these young players will give us that ability,” head coach Mike Locksley said on Hear the Turtle.

Landing a high upside piece in Gooden gives the outside linebacker room another piece for the future at the position. “In our outside linebacker room we have SAM and we have JACK. SAM are the guys who typically play to the field. They usually are the hybrid position guys and Dylan Gooden is one of those guys. He has great length, the feet, the twitch, the body balance that we look for playing out in space. A guy that had the ability to play in space and he plays opposite Neeo.”

Avery, meanwhile, drew high praise from Locksley as he compared the local four-star to a Maryland great. “Neeo to us is one of those dynamic pass rushers. I think of Yannick Ngakoue, who [has] a tremendous first step quickness, the ability to bend and turn the corner and then finish on the quarterback.”

Another position that Maryland was able to solidify early in the cycle was wide receiver with five signees in the fold. As noted by IBG on signing day, St. Frances wide receiver Ryan Manning has already started practicing with the team leading up to this Friday’s bowl game against NC State as head coach Mike Locksley is pleased with the future of the room.

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“A guy like Zeke Avit, who is an explosive athlete. Maybe not a household name to a lot of people, but we had him here in camp. We are able to see him do the things we want receivers do in our system. Ryan Manning’s a guy whose built for speed, tremendous skillset, big play guy that has the ability to take a top off the defenses. Sean Williams, another one of those guys that again, we’ve evaluated, had a chance to see on film. We’re going to use Braeden Wisloski as a receiver, slot as well. The one thing that I think is a common denominator of all of them is they all have tremendous speed and they all do a great job as playmakers with run after the catch.”

Locksley also noted that New Jersey “has been good to Maryland” as cornerback Henry Baker helped pave the way yet again to maintain the Terps’ presence this cycle. “With DJ [Samuels], again one of those guys that has the ability to rush the quarterback. Was a big time playmaker up north there for Bergen Catholic, did a tremendous job getting after the quarterback, playing great on the edge. With Josh [Richards], he’s one of those long lengthy receivers who kind of put him in Dontay Demus mode who has the ability to make plays in the air with 50-50 balls, really dynamic. A track guy as well.”

Maryland’s quarterback this class, of course, hails from New Jersey as St. Peter’s Prep three-star Champ Long put pen to paper to end a one-year plus commitment. “We evaluated him over the last couple of years and he’s a proven winner. A guy that can spin it, makes all the throws. I think the thing that jumps out to me about Champ is just his competitive nature and his ability to win. This guy is really competitive, he makes all the throws, he shows tremendous leadership which you want to see out of your quarterback.”

Maryland also utilized the last two weekends to navigate transfer portal targets as they’ve landed safety Avantae Williams (Miami), cornerback Ja’Quan Sheppard (Cincinnati), defensive linemen Jordan Phillips (Tennessee) and Donnell Brown (Saint Francis), offensive tackle Marcus Dumervil (LSU) and wide receiver Tyrese Chambers (FIU). After navigating a hectic finish through the early signing period, Locksley credited his recruiting staff for setting the stage.

“It’s never a chips as they fall as they may. I think going into it, and our general manager Gerald Dixon did a tremendous job. He, Patty [Mae Ohanian], Jeremy [Shapiro], the recruiting staff, Marcus [Thomas], all of those guys did a tremendous job, Gary Wortham Jr, [of] putting this together.”

The offensive line remains the focus for the remainder of the offseason as Locksley gave a glimpse into his mindset for roster construction.

“The way this starts for us is we’ve got 85 scholarships and with those 85, we allocate them by position where we say ‘hey, we want to have 16 offensive linemen.’ Well when you graduate four, that means you have twelve left so that means we’ve got to go and get four more to get to the number that we typically want to have on our roster in terms of how we allocate it.”

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