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February 10, 2012
Maryland high school football star receiver Stefon Diggs has the speed, skills and shiftiness to score whenever he gets his hands on the ball.
It's the reason all the top college programs wanted him.
But when Diggs, the No. 8 overall recruit in the Rivals100 for the Class of 2012, finally ended his recruiting process Friday night, he surprised some by picking nearby University of Maryland over national powers Auburn, Ohio State and Florida.
That's 2-10 University of Maryland, a once-proud program seemingly in disarray and revolt under first-year coach Randy Edsall.
Diggs, who starred at nearby Olney (Md.) Good Counsel, wasn't deterred.
In fact, he passed up the chance to play for schools that can compete for national titles to play for a program that would be thrilled to win a conference title because he feels he can do it all at his local school.
Apparently it's the type of feeling that's spreading.
Diggs became the third high-profile five-star recruit in the past two weeks to spurn the top of programs - the ones that are used to getting all the top players - for a close-to-home destination.
Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell wasn't ready to call the decision a new trend, but he does think it's noteworthy that so many huge recruits passed up chances to go to the biggest programs.
"I think this year is a bit of a rarity in that respect," he said. "You have Diggs choosing a 2-10 Maryland team reeling from a rough first year under Randy Edsall, DGB choosing a Missouri team that has been a bit if an underachiever in the Big 12 and has it's work cut out in the SEC and Hamilton choosing a Rutgers team coming off a nine-win season but losing it's head coach admittedly because of the instability of the Big East."
Farrell, who has covered recruiting for more than a decade, said such decisions are not uncommon - but to have so many, from so many top kids, is.
"This has been a very interesting recruiting year with three of the top 11 players in the country choosing to stay home with programs not known as major BCS powers," he said.
Diggs, a player with a personality so engaging he's known almost as much for his charisma as his catches, said his decision came down to feel. Simply put, he felt Maryland just fit all his needs.
"I feel great here, I feel comfortable here and I feel like I can do it all here," he said. "All my goals - on the field and off - I can get them done at Maryland."
Green-Beckham and Hamilton said the same type of things. The three all talked about the family atmosphere at the schools more than the football.
"It was a different kind of feeling - a great feeling and a welcoming feeling," he said. "There's great support here. [My host] Danny O'Brien was a real humble guy, and I really liked him. And the basketball game between UNC and Maryland where everyone was chanting my name - I felt so much love from that. I felt wanted. At the end, it felt like it's exactly where I needed to be."
Don't be confused. Diggs isn't going to Maryland to lose. He feels he can help the program return to a form that made it compete for national rankings and bowl bids on a regular basis.
"This is a great city, a place that shows you a lot of love," he said. "I want to make people stay home. I want to make people want to be [at Maryland]. Who wouldn't want to be at Maryland? You can accomplish anything you need here."
His commitment is likely to give Maryland a Top-50 class in the final Rivals team rankings.
For Diggs, that's just the first step.
"I want to win bowl games. I want to win championships. And what better place to do that the my home city?" he said. "It's been a long process - a hectic process. But in the end, I ended up where I was supposed to be. Let's go Maryland!"