Maryland coach Michael Locksley believes it’s hard to call two teams rivals before they play each other.

His team and South Carolina are testing the limits of that philosophy. The Terps flipped Jaishawn Barham from the Gamecocks in 2022, a move that landed Maryland a key four-star but irked South Carolina coach Shane Beamer.

Two years later, Maryland snatched another Gamecocks recruit away on early signing day in cornerback Braydon Lee. The No. 2 player in the Terps’ 2024 class and a four-star per 247Sports’ composite ranking, is one of 21 players who officially joined Maryland on Wednesday, the start of the early signing period.

“Obviously, with the SEC ties and the Big Ten and us constantly competing, I mean, it was a good win for us,” Locksley said. “But I wouldn’t say that there’s a rival just yet until somebody schedules a game and, you know, I’d be all for that.”

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Locksley praised Lee’s length, short-area quickness and long speed, traits the coach feels allow him to play on an island.

Lee joins safety Brandon Jacobs as the Terps’ two four-stars per 247Sports’ Composite Rating. Maryland’s class ranks 39th in the nation by that metric.

The Terps clearly emphasized the trenches, adding eight offensive linemen, all of them three-stars. This is the most offensive linemen Locksley has had in a class since he took over as head coach in 2019.

Maryland could lose up to four linemen who played significant time this season, a fact the coach acknowledged was a factor.

He said Maryland will continue looking for transfer linemen to start, allowing the incoming freshmen time to develop physically. Just three of the eight high school seniors weigh over 300 pounds, according to the team website.

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The highest-rated lineman, tackle Ryan “Mountain” Howerton, weighs 315 pounds and will enroll early, per a team release. Locksley pointed to him and fellow tackle Terez Davis, listed at 289 pounds, as players who have the physical tools to play from day one.

The Terps are also in the running for the No. 1 offensive tackle in the country. Jordan Seaton, currently committed to Colorado, has yet to sign. The five-star recruit and No. 11 player in the nation took a visit to Maryland over the weekend, per 247Sports, and has made social media posts suggesting a flip. The site currently has a “Crystal Ball” projection for Maryland.

Maryland’s secondary will also see attrition. It’ll need to replace both starting cornerbacks, Tarheeb Still and Ja’Quan Sheppard. Rotational cornerbacks Corey Coley Jr. and Gavin Gibson entered the transfer portal. The Terps added Jalen Huskey from Bowling Green, but a lack of proven options could let Lee, another early enrollee, start as a freshman, as Still did four years ago.

“There’s gonna be competition there at the cornerback position,” Locksley said.

The Terps could also lose starting safety Beau Brade to the draft. Brade missed Maryland’s game against Virginia. His backfield mate, Dante Trader Jr., did not play against Illinois. In both games, Glen Miller filled in, vacating his usual spot at nickel back.

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If Miller becomes a full-time safety, that could open opportunities for Lee, Jacobs or others to slot in as Maryland’s fifth defensive back.

It’s unclear which of the Terps’ incoming freshman skill players could have large roles next season. Locksley noted that players at positions away from the ball typically get on the field faster because of the reduced physicality. That would hint at increased opportunities for skill players such as St. Frances Academy’s DeJuan Williams, the second-ranked back in Maryland, per 247Sports Composite Rating.

But he’s blocked by the trio of Roman Hemby, Antwain Littleton II and Colby McDonald.

Similarly, three-star receivers Mekhai White and Jahmari Powell-Wonson are likely blocked by returners Kaden Prather, Tai Felton, Octavian Smith Jr., Shaleak Knotts and more.

But much of this class’ impact will be measured in later years. Maryland under Locksley, even in the new age of college football, prioritizes recruiting and developing high schoolers. This year’s class reaffirms that commitment.

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