COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The recruiting saga for Olney (Md.) Good Counsel wide receiver Stefon Diggs is finally over as he announced his decision on Friday evening in front of media and a raucous crowd at a local pub in College Park on the campus of the University of Maryland.
With the location of the announcement, it came as little surprise that Diggs chose the Terrapins over Florida, Ohio State and Auburn. But make no mistake about it; this is a huge upset in the recruiting world.
Diggs, a 6-foot, 185-pounder who finished his senior season with 1,443 all-purpose yards and 13 touchdowns, was long considered a Florida lean until many expected him to choose Ohio State when Urban Meyer came calling. Auburn, led by super recruiters Trooper Taylor and Tommy Thigpen, also became an attractive option. However, in the end it came down to new Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley and the chance to play at home.
"I want to play for my city," Diggs said in front of a crazed crowd full of Maryland fans. "I want to win championships, I want to win bowl games and what better place than your home city."
Diggs, ranked as the No. 2 wide receiver in the country by Rivals.com for the class of 2012 and No. 8 overall, took his last official visit after National Signing Day to Maryland and everything changed. What was once thought to be a trip out of respect for his home state school and a chance to have one last fun final visit turned into the key factor in his recruitment.
"The visit opened my eyes to what they can do at Maryland," he said. "I think we can win here and I'm excited about starting my career. Heading into the visit I wasn't sure it was going to be Maryland, but afterwards it was clear to me."
Early in the process it was the Florida Gators that were thought to be his destination. Former teammate and good friend Jelani Jenkins was in Gainesville, Diggs loved his visit down there during the summer for Friday Night Lights and he and his mom hit it off well with then offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. However, when Weis took the head coaching job at Kansas, Diggs and his mom felt a bit betrayed after being told he would be there for Diggs' entire career. New offensive coordinator Brent Peace did a good job of damage control when hired, but it wasn't enough to overcome Maryland's late push with Locksley.
Heading into the visit I wasn't sure it was going to be Maryland, but afterwards it was clear to me.
- Stefon Diggs
Auburn, led by Taylor and Thigpen, made a strong push as well and Diggs loved his official visit to see the Tigers. He also hit it off with 2012 signee Jaquay Williams, but again Auburn fell short. The same can be said for Ohio State despite a good visit to Columbus late in the process and a good feeling with quarterback Braxton Miller. Despite Meyer's best efforts, he couldn't lure Diggs away from his home state.
For Maryland, this is a huge commitment and will certainly help recruiting in 2013 and beyond. Once considered out of the race for months, the hiring of Locksley was key. Many people nationally and even locally were stunned when rumors began to swirl Wednesday and Thursday that the Terps would win this battle. They wondered why a top 10 player nationally would choose a 2-10 football program on the rocks over SEC powers Florida and Auburn and Big Ten power Ohio State led by Meyer. Diggs has simple answers.
"I want to build something and I want others in Maryland to see this as a viable option," he said. "I want people to think that they can do special things at Maryland and hopefully I'm just the start."
With the nation's No. 1 receiver and No. 1 overall player as ranked by Rivals.com, Dorial Green-Beckham, choosing home state Missouri over Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Arkansas and others and now Diggs deciding to stay home as well, both programs may look at these two commitments as game changers in recruiting down the line. Time will tell.