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Q&A with Terps recruiting coordinator James Franklin
James Franklin is in his second season as recruiting coordinator at Maryland. Franklin joined Coach Ralph Friedgen's staff in April 2000 as a wide receivers coach, a responsibility he still holds in the Terps' program. Franklin is responsible for recruiting Pennsylvania, Florida, Maryland and Washington, D.C.
Dan, Cibolo, Texas: What were the Terps' biggest needs this recruiting season? How did we do in filling them?
James Franklin: Probably the major priorities were to increase team speed and get more players at the wide receiver postition. We definitely filled both requirements. A guy like Anthony Wiseman has great track times. Darrius Heyward-Bey has run the second fastest 55 (meter) time in the country right now. He's an unbelieveable track prospect and is going to run here at Maryland as well. Anthony [Wiseman] is the national prep record holder in the indoor 200 meters. We have two guys who can flat-out run. For receivers we signed five wide receivers, so we filled that requirement nicely.
Scott, Burke, Va.: Did the injury to Josh Allen make recruiting a running back a higher priority?
James Franklin: We have one running back in the class, Morgan Green, who was highly recruited and would have broken the state rushing record had he been healthy all season. At the end we looked at taking another one because of the injury to Josh, but we're very confident in Lance Ball, J.P. Humber, Keon Lattimore and Mario Merrils. We feel it's a pretty strong group.
David, Frederick: It seems like a lot of defensive ends were recruited this year, with Melvin Alaeze being the biggest signing. Are the Terps that thin on the defensive line or was this a case of signing the best athletes available and converting them to other positions?
James Franklin: Good question. Really, it's a little of both. Melvin Alaeze obviously is the No. 1 defensive end in the country. You're never going to turn him down, and he was a priority for us. The defensive line was not a major area for us because we had a lot of guys coming back. Dwight and Tommy Gault, our strength coach's sons, are both defensive end- and tight end-type of guys, but they are also long snappers, so they are going to help in that area. Jared Harrell is listed as a defensive end but he could play tight end or outside linebacker. Barrod Heggs can be a defensive end or outside linebacker. All of these guys have the size and some could grow into defensive tackles as well. You take as many big athletes that can run as you possibly can and you've got to find a place to get them on the field.
John, Potomac: The quarterback position was a major reason for the team's losing record in 2004. Did you find it difficult to recruit quality players for this position in the 2005 class?
James Franklin: We had some challenges we had to overcome. We definitely wanted to bring in a playmaker at the quarterback position. We kept scouring the country from coast to coast to find a guy that could come in and make an impact for us and compete. We ended up going out to California to recruit Chris Turner, who committed to us. We were fortunate. He came out, he wanted to study political science. He really liked it. It worked out well. We think he's the guy that is going to come in and make our fans proud.
Randy, Olney: What is the current status of the quarterback situation and do you expect all quarterbacks from last year to return?
James Franklin: Right now, we don't have a starting quarterback. Out of spring ball, we should have a better idea, obviously. You never know. You could have a quarterback leave or guys leave at other positions for whatever reason. As of right now, all of the guys in our program, we are excited about them being here.
Paul, Silver Spring: Coach Franklin, it appears there are two growing trends in college football recruiting - more kids making early commitments and more kids changing their minds and switching their commitments to other schools. What's driving these trends? Is the first driving the second? Should there be an early signing period?
James Franklin: I think an early signing period would [help]. We've been trying to get an early signing period on the books for a while. For example, Washington State, where I used to coach, doesn't want an early signing period because they don't have a lot of recruits in their state and they don't get a whole lot at camp. Schools in the remote areas are going to fight this as much as they can.
For us at Maryland, we could probably get 15 legitimate commitments in the summer. If we could sign them up, it would relieve some stress and pressure from the coaching staff as well as the kids and allow us to focus on the last 10 recruits. I don't know if [an early signing period] will ever go through.
Gavin, Westminster: Much is made of how high a recruit is ranked, or how many stars he has. When assesing film of a recruit, what makes you go after him?
James Franklin: We definitely have our own system. The computer helps. We use it as a resource. We buy some recruiting services and call coaches to get tapes. The computer rankings and the stars are about perception more than anything. And we all realize perception is a powerful thing. So, if a ninth- or 10th-grader sees that Maryland has a Top-20 class and there's a lot of excitement about that, that's a positive thing. We signed Melvin Alaeze, who in our opinion is the No. 1 defensive lineman in the country, and most of the recruiting services agree with us. Jared Gaither, who we think is one of the top offensive lineman in the country, most of the services agree with that, and that is great. But we are not going to make decisions based on what computer ranking services tell us.
Walt, Columbia: How long does it usually take for a new recruit to develop enough at Maryland so he can get game time? Is there a grading system so that each player can objectively measure his progress?
James Franklin: There's not really a grading system. We're on the field practicing with them and we watch them. We ask them question and go over plays. We watch them on film for hours. We know what we are looking for in making an evaluation of how quickly a kid can help. The determining factor for most kids is how big and strong they are - size and strength are major issues. It comes down to what they are bringing to the table when they are coming in. Guys like Gaither and Alaeze have a lot of physical tools, so they might be able to make an impact. Usually it's the skill positions - the receivers and the defensive backs - that get on the field quickest because their position deals with speed and agility more than anything else.
Brent, Scaggsville: What were your main goals for this class? It seems like you've been loading up on linebackers these past couple years. Where is your focus for next year and who are the stars of this past class?
James Franklin: Next year's class we are really going to focus on defensive backs. We have three coming in this year, possibly four, but we lost a kid we were trying to get so we came up a little short. Offensive line and defensive backs will be the two major priorities of next year's recruiting class. Obviously you are still trying to find great players at other positions to create competition.
Guys excited about this year - Kevin Barnes, I think he'll play this year. Chase Bullock is really filling out, Scott Burley from Woodlawn is very good. Trey Covington will play this year. Matt Deese is probably a year away. Carlos Feliciano will play at defensive line, Mack Frost will play at defensive end. Jason Goode (a two-star recruit) he was one of our better recruits. Jack Griffin played as a true freshman. Erin Henderson (a two-star recruit) is going to play a lot - we're excited about him. Keon Lattimore has a chance to start at running back. Eric Lenz, if he stays healthy, will play. Jordan Steffy will have a shot at the quarterback starting job. Jaimie Thomas has a very good chance to be starting guard. Christian Varner played this year. Edwin Williams, another two-star recruit, could be our starting center this year. There's a couple guys I didn't mention, but for the most part, that whole recruiting class has a chance to make an impact this year.
T. Jay, Clinton: Those of us following recruiting on the internet have heard a lot about negative recruiting tactics used against Maryland as a way of combating our recent recruiting success. Can you give us some examples of the negative recruiting? Also, can you tell us how do combat this?
James Franklin: Since Coach Friedgen came to this program and I've been the recruiting coordinator, our focus has been to be a first-class program and do everything with class. If you have a strong program and you do the things you are supposed to do, you don't have to knock anybody else down to build your program up. We try to educate people on the strengths of Maryland and what we can offer in terms of academics, location and athletics.
We try to stay positive and sell Maryland. If something specific comes up that is negative and a recruit asks, we'll explain it and say, "Yes, that's a weakness at Maryland, but we're working on that," or we'll say, "No, that's not true at all," and explain why. We try and keep an open line of communication and hope we get enough positive people surrounding the young man to make a decision.