At Maryland football coach Mike Locksley’s introductory press conference Thursday, the recruiting guru — taking over a program with just eight players in its 2019 class at the time — stressed the importance of keeping in-state talent at the flagship school.
“If we keep the gates around the DMV, and we get the top players in this area to buy into staying here at home and building this thing from the ground up together,” the Washington, D.C., native said, “there’s nowhere in the country we can’t go compete with the best.”
Wednesday, Locksley made his first splash in the 2019 class, securing four-star wide receiver Isaiah Hazel’s commitment. The Dr. Henry Wise High School product flipped his commitment from West Virginia to College Park after committing to the Mountaineers on July 28.
take me home where i belong. ????????
— Isaiah Hazel (@Thats__zay) December 12, 2018
In late May, Hazel announced his top seven schools, which included Alabama, Maryland, Michigan, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.
Locksley led the recruiting effort for Hazel while he was Alabama’s offensive coordinator. Now with the Terps, Locksley secured the No. 4 prospect in Maryland and No. 35 wideout in the country, per 247Sports.
As a senior at Wise in Upper Marlboro, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound pass catcher tallied eight touchdowns — five of them receiving — while averaging 15.9 yards per reception, according to MaxPreps.
On tape, Hazel is a pure athlete who played both sides of the ball in his final season. He will join a Maryland team losing wide receivers Taivon Jacobs and Jahrvis Davenport. But freshmen Dontay Demus, Jeshaun Jones and Brian Cobbs showed promise in 2018 and figure to be large parts of Locksley’s offense.
Following offensive lineman Jordan McNair’s death June 13, Maryland’s recruiting efforts took a toll. In the two weeks after coach DJ Durkin’s firing Oct. 31, three players decommitted from the class of 2019.
Before Hazel’s commitment, the 2019 class consisted of eight three-star prospects. The Terps ranked at No. 91 in the country, per 247sports, before Hazel’s switch to Maryland. Now Maryland is ranked No. 80 — one spot behind Arkansas State, and still a ways to go to improve before the early signing period opens Dec. 19.
“It’s easier to convince somebody to stay home when you’re from here and you’re here,” said DaLawn Parrish, Wise football coach, last week to The Diamondback. “[Locksley’s] real. It’s not an act. He’s authentic.”
Locksley said at his introductory press conference that he plans to take his time searching for the right assistants to fill out his staff, but plenty of rumblings have emerged in that department.
Elijah Brooks, head coach at DeMatha, is joining Locksley’s team as running backs coach. Brooks’ DeMatha has served as a pipeline for Maryland in past years, including Lorenzo Harrison, Tino Ellis and Anthony McFarland.
“It was truly an honor to lead DeMatha for the past eight years,” Brooks said in a statement. “I shared so many great experiences with phenomenal coaches, players, colleagues and parents. I’m excited to begin the next chapter at the University of Maryland.”
247sports reported John Papuchis, former North Carolina defensive coordinator, will join as special teams coordinator and linebackers coach, while Rutgers defensive backs coach Cory Robinson will take over the same position at Maryland.
Both Papuchis and Robinson are local. Papuchis is from Gaithersburg and Robinson, a Baltimore native, served as the Terps’ director of player personnel in 2015.
Butch Jones, who was Tennessee’s head coach for four-plus seasons, is also reportedly joining Maryland as a tight ends coach and associate head coach, per 247sports. Jones served as an offensive analyst at Alabama for one season.