The temperatures are dropping here in Maryland, but the recruiting hot stove has been humming during the current open period. Check out all the latest news in our next installment of Inside the Shell.
Unfortunately for Maryland, finishing second in recruiting isn't like finishing second at the Masters: There is no major payout.
On Dec. 13, two of the Terps' top three remaining linemen targets opted for other programs. DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) tackle Brock Ruble announced his intentions to attend Florida State, while Weeki Wachee (Fla.) tackle Marcus Applefield chose Rutgers.
Maryland made an effort when Randy Edsall and Mike Locksley went in-home with the 6-foot-8, 320-pound Ruble, and they left enough of an impression to finish in Ruble's top two. Florida State, though, sent coaches to Ruble's home as well, and that pair was able to seal the deal. The chance to play for a national title contender, not to mention FSU's reputation for churning out linemen, attracted Ruble to Tallahassee.
N.C. State looked to be the leader throughout much of the process, but though the Wolfpack made a big push, they dropped out late.
As for the 6-6 Applefield, we thought the Rutgers coaching shakeup might have convinced him College Park was his best option. But as we mentioned in our last couple Shells, those official visits tend to sway the kid, and fact is RU had last dibs. Even though his recruiter and line coach Damian Wroblewski left shortly after Applefield visited Piscataway, his affinity for head coach Kyle Flood pushed him over the edge. Rutgers had been recruiting Applefield the longest and hardest, and in the end it paid off.
Maryland made up serious ground in recent weeks, with Edsall and Locksley both going in-home with him and making a favorable impression on Applefield's parents. Not to mention the Florida lineman had a great official visit and spoke glowingly about Maryland's direction. Purdue was also involved, but, ultimately, his heart was at Rutgers.
Which Means …
Maryland will either try to secure Bishop McNamara (Forestville, Md.) tackle Damian Prince as their final O-line recruit in this class, or they'll go after a Plan C.
Who's on the radar? Well, if the Terps do pursue another lineman, the likelihood is he hasn't been identified quite yet. The staff has been all over the map recruiting during the open period, so they might have seen an intriguing body or two they'd like to bring in late. Beyond Prince, though, there aren't too many intriguing local options left on the board, so the recruit will likely come out of state.
Remember, the Western Michigan commit Chukwuma Okorafor is sticking with WMU, so he's probably not an option. Maybe the Terps will hop back on JUCO Robert McClure, who is at Louisburg College (Louisburg, N.C.) and said he wants to visit College Park.
As for Prince…
Maryland remains in a good position for the 6-5, 292-pound McNamara tackle. The Terps have gone in-home with him with Edsall and Mike Locksley, and they are continuing to build that bond with Prince and his family. Florida State, another hot pursuer, has been in as well, and the Forestville native has already officially visited the Noles.
We'll know even more about where Prince stands after he takes his final three officials to Florida (Jan. 24), South Carolina (Jan. 17) and Miami (Jan. 31). He still plans to announce his decision on Feb. 14, a week after Signing Day.
The Tabor Saga Continues…
Friendship Collegiate (Washington, D.C.) four-star corner Jalen Tabor has one more official visit to Alabama this weekend. Tide head coach Nick Saban has already been in to see the 6-foot-1, 180 pounder, and that -- as it would with any high school prospect who knows something about college football -- did resonate with Tabor. The Tide, which Tabor's parents like, are right in the thick of things and could take more strides in narrowing the gap this weekend.
Last weekend Tabor took his official visit to Florida, and he broke that down with Rachel in her video interview following the D.C. championship game. Florida is a legitimate contender now because the Gators' top two cornerbacks are NFL-bound, meaning Tabor would have a shot to play early.
But Maryland is still right there for the local corner, and probably still leads for his services. Head coach Randy Edsall and Tabor's recruiter Mike Locksley have both been in-home with him and have continued to make their brand-building, home-state-representing, big-fish-in-small-pond pitch. Tabor still likes the idea of being a local leader who can draw other regional stars to College Park, plus he'll undoubtedly have a shot to play corner early at Maryland.
One thing that could be playing in Maryland's favor here is that a Bama or Florida may eventually move him to safety because Tabor doesn't have elite makeup speed. Tabor's a smart guy; he knows that's a possibility.
Expect the rumors to swirl up until Tabor announces his decision at the Under Armour All-American game Jan. 2.
Another recruit whose recruiting will wind up at the UA game is Gilman (Baltimore, Md.) outside linebacker Melvin Keihn. The three-star prospect has taken all his officials (his Miami trip fell through and he's not likely to take it) to Maryland, Virginia Tech, Virginia and Penn State and continues to have a top three of Hokies, Terps and Wahoos. Coaches from UVA, Tech and Maryland visited him this week, while Penn State will be in-home Dec. 13.
Naturally, Keihn had nothing but praise when Mike London, Bud Foster and Randy Edsall stopped by. In fact, UMD sent not only Edsall but defensive coordinator Brian Stewart, recruiter Andre Powell and Mike Locksley. We'll see if the Terps' full-court press pays off by the time Keihn announces his choice at the UA game.
The feeling, though, is that right now Virginia Tech's engineering program and Foster's defense will hit home with the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder, and he'll eventually choose the Hokies.
Kaaya and the QBs
When Maryland offered 2014 Chaminade (West Hills, Calif.) quarterback Brad Kaaya, a current Miami commit, earlier this week, it was major news. And not because we think the Terps are in the lead position to swing the California signal caller (USC or UCLA are likely destinations).
Rather, the offer signals that Maryland is indeed trying to add another quarterback in this class other than St. John's athlete William Ulmer. In fact, Ulmer told me that he spoke to Edsall about the situation and he confirmed that UMD was looking to add another QB. Why? Well, according to Ulmer, "two or three" current Terps signal callers are likely transferring out of the program. My hunch? Perry Hills and Ricardo Young are gone.
Ulmer went on to say he was OK with the Terps adding another player at his position. He was originally told he would be the only quarterback in this class, but Ulmer said he understood the situation and "[Edsall] told me I'm still his No. 1 guy."
Either way, it probably behooves UMD to add another quarterback anyway, because there are still some concerns whether or not Ulmer will stay under center once he arrives in College Park. He is an electric athlete and a playmaker, but he's still a bit raw throwing the football. He'll be given a shot to play quarterback, but if that doesn't work look for him to line up in the slot.
So, who are some of the quarterback Maryland might be looking at? The Terps might get Kaaya to at least take an official visit, but we don't see him playing his college ball cross-country (at least as things stand now).
I do know the staff was in Florida, the Midwest and on the West Coast recruiting, and there have been rumblings about the Terps checking out high schools that feature prominent quarterbacks. As far as we know no offers have been extended beyond Kaaya, but the staff did apparently check out Cretin Durham Hall (Saint Paul, Minn.) gunslinger Ricardo Johnson, according to our guys in the Midwest.
Johnson is a 6-1, 185-pound pocket passer who is a different player than Ulmer. Johnson told me this today: "I sent my film out to Maryland at the suggestion of my QB trainer Donovan Dolley out of Detroit, who has a relationship with the staff. Maryland has indicated they really liked what they saw. They liked that I am rated nationally both as a dual threat and a pocket passer. My ability to stand in the pocket, quickly identify the receiver and accurately deliver the with consistency, as well as making plays with my feet."
The coaches will probably use the dead period to break down film and discuss all the options before making a move.
If Maryland Wants Another Safety…
Annapolis Area Christian's Demetrius Johnson is still on the table. Syracuse has been the decided favorite for months now, and the Orange did go in-home for a visit with him, but word is he's not necessarily an SU lock. My guys down there say he still would like to be at Maryland, but academic concerns may preclude that from happening … at least initially. There is a shot Johnson will prep or go the JUCO route, and he could possibly enroll after that. That is, if the Terps still want him.
The other safety on Maryland's radar, Shawn Boone from Dwyer (West Palm Beach, Fla.), is probably Penn State bound. He's taken officials to Arkansas, Maryland, N.C. State and PSU and still has one official in January to Ole Miss he'd like to take.
One guy who isn't Maryland bound is FCA's Daejuan Funderburk. The Knights' star has warmed up to the Terps, but the fact of the matter is he doesn't hold a firm offer and UMD never really pushed for him. He's likely bound for West Virginia or Miami.
A Word on the Gattuso Recruits
Just to recap, I contacted all the current Maryland commits who former Terps coach Greg Gattuso (Albany) recruited. Brett Kulka, Andrew Gray and E.J. Donahue all said they'll miss UMD's former defensive line coach, but all three are still on board with the Terps.
In fact, Donahue, a junior from local power Linganore (Frederick, Md.), sent me this text after Gattuso took the Albany job:
"Coach Gattuso is like my best friend and mentor, and he means a lot to me and my family. I'm really sad he's leaving, but I'm happy for him with the head-coaching job. But there's no place I want to be but Maryland."
Who Takes Gattuso's Place?
There are several names being bandied about, but current Rutgers defensive line coach Jim Panagos could be someone to look at should he decide to leave. Panagos is a Maryland graduate, and with RU already firing three coaches, it's conceivable he could eventually bolt as well if the Terps offered him a spot. Panagos only arrived in Piscataway in 2012, though, so he might not be eager to jump ship so soon.
Panagos has experience recruiting in New York, Florida and of course New Jersey. With Maryland and Keith Dudzinksi hitting the Garden State fairly hard, it could only help the Terps to have another coach with deep ties to the area.
The Rest of the UMD Commits
Remember, Juwann Winfree, Jordan Noil, Larry Mazyck and Derwin Gray have already taken their officials to College Park, but many of the others are due in this weekend. Jared Cohen, Josh Woods, David Shaw, Brett Kulka, Brendan Moore, Jesse Aniebonam, Tyler Burke and William Ulmer are all set for official visits starting Friday. Andrew Gray said his official is in January.
A Few 2015 Notes
The staff continued to scour America during the open period's second week and was spotted in New York, New Jersey, Arizona, California, Florida, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, several Midwest states, D.C. and Maryland. We didn't hear about too many new offers, but the coaches did extend several junior day invites and undoubtedly have a number of prospects on the radar.
I'm not going to list all the kids they checked in on this week, but here's a couple notes to hold you over.
-- As I said above, Rachel and I stopped by D.C. last Friday and spoke to several recruits following the championship game at Catholic University. The two 2015 guys the Terps have offers out to are lineman Quarvez Boulware and (supposedly) cornerback Ashton White. Boulware continues to sing UMD's praises and has Maryland and Florida State running as leaders. He said N.C. State is involved as well, but I'm not exactly feeling that one. With Maryland's success at FCA, the Terps should be able to close the deal on this one next fall.
As for White, he just committed to Va Tech Dec. 12. But, as we saw with Marcus Lewis, the kid is still a junior and there's a long way to go. Will he stay committed to the Hokies? Well, we'll see how it plays out. All I know is he was high on UMD prior to his sudden Va Tech verbal. In fact, he was supposed to be in College Park for a personal visit last week, but he never made it over. He'll likely be on campus at some point though, and if Maryland really wants him Locksley and Co. could probably swing him...
-- Two guys who did make it to campus were Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) juniors Nick Johns and Marcus Lewis. I reported on each, and both the quarterback Johns and cornerback Lewis thoroughly enjoyed themselves during their latest College Park visits. Johns doesn't have an offer yet, but don't be surprised if the Terps eventually go after him. He currently holds a UVA verbal, but Maryland could be in position to land him if it pushes.
Lewis, the Virginia Tech decommit, is a prime Terps target who has had a UMD offer since the summer. He'll be a national recruit before it's all said and done and won't be an easy get. Right now, we get the feeling he has his sights set elsewhere, but the Terps are in the thick of things.
-- One of Maryland's most recent offers came at a school the Terps are well acquainted with. McDonogh junior linebacker Wyatt Cook, a 6-3, 220-pound true MIKE, is the latest Eagle Keith Dudzinksi and Co. are pursuing. The Terps have already landed Jared Cohen and Josh Woods in this year's class, and a couple years ago signed Roman Braglio.
Cook, for his part, loved the fact that Maryland was his first offer and is already familiar with the program. He's been on campus several times, has a rapport with Dudzinski and said Cohen/Woods left an impression. Cook, though, isn't a done deal to the Terps as he is looking for other offers and has Penn State high on his list.
-- One visitor who is due in Sunday is top 2015 defensive end target Ryan Buchholz, whose brother, Carl, is a Maryland walk-on. The Great Valley (Malvern, Pa.) prospect holds offers from the Terps, Boston College, Duke, Rutgers, Virginia and Vanderbilt but has always spoken highly of UMD. The 6-6, 230-pounder could be someone the Terps are able to pull in at some point this offseason.
-- Another new offer we learned about this week was to elite junior defensive end Josh Sweat. The kid is from Oscar Smith in Chesapeake, Va., though and figures to be a real tough get.
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