College Park, Md., was hopping with official visitors last weekend as half of Maryland's 2014 commits and one potential recruit made the trip for a 48-hour campus stay. Locally, McDonogh (Owings Mills, Md.) sent offensive lineman Jared Cohen and cornerback Josh Woods over; Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) defensive end Jesse Aniebonam came in; and St. John's (Washington, D.C.) quarterback William Ulmer stopped by. In addition, defensive tackle Brett Kulka from General McLane HS (Edinboro, Pa.) and linebacker Tyler Burke from Coatesville (Pa.) came down from the Keystone State, while Westwood tackle Brendan Moore made the long flight in from Texas.
But perhaps the most intriguing recruit on campus was the one who traveled cross-country just to check out College Park. Greenway (Phoenix, Ariz.) High long snapper Nate Adams' five-plus hour flight was well worth it as he emerged with a scholarship offer before heading home Dec. 14.
"Nate loved it out there; he had a blast," said Adams' father, Phil, about the 6-foot-2, 220-pounder. "Our plan was for him to come home and talk about the trip before making any kind of decision, but he loves Maryland and he loved being out there. I'm glad he went out when it was cold, because one of our biggest concerns was not only the distance from home but how he would adjust to the weather. But he was fine with it, and he really loved it out there. I think he should be coming to a decision here shortly."
Adams didn't pull the trigger just yet, but several of the current Terps commits he hung out with felt it was only a matter of time.
"He seemed to really, really enjoy himself," Cohen said. "I would say it's a pretty good chance [he commits]."
Cohen, of course, has been committed to Maryland for almost a year. The McDonogh lineman was the Terps' first 2014 recruit, and though he's been on campus more times than he can remember, he was eager to take his official. He said this trip gave him a more personal look at the program, while allowing him to connect with some of the other recruits in his class.
"It was everything I expected. I bonded with the other commits, the [current] players and kept building relationships with the coaches," said Cohen, a first-team all-state performer who anchored McDonogh's line and helped the Eagles to an 11-0 record and a conference title. "My host was [former McDonogh star] Roman [Braglio], and he was awesome. It was definitely cool to feel like I was actually part of the team at some points, just chilling with Roman and his roommates. That was really cool, and they were preaching that if we bring everybody in we're hoping to, and we put the work in, next year is going to be pretty special for us."
Cohen didn't chat with the coaches too much, though he did have conversations with his recruiter, Keith Dudzinksi, and head coach Randy Edsall. But he said the most fun he had was playing the NCAA 2014 video game with tight ends coach John Dunn.
The highlight, though, besides hanging with his future teammates, was dinner at Ruth's Chris on Friday night.
"It was the straight up best steak I've ever had in my life," Cohen said. "But I'll tell you, Brendan [Moore], man, the whole time all he talked about was how good the steak was in Texas. He wouldn't stop talking about it; he couldn't say enough about Texas steak (laughs)."
Moore didn't deny Cohen's accusation. The Texas lineman justified his claim by asking what a Marylander would think of a crab cake in Texas.
"I mean, my rib-eye was fine, but you just can't compare it; I take my steak seriously," Moore said, laughing. "It's like crab cakes in Maryland; it's completely different if you try to get one of those in Texas."
The dinner didn't exactly dampen Moore's visit, however. He called the trip "amazing" and said he enjoyed learning the ins and outs of the program from a players' standpoint. His host, redshirt freshman Jalen Brooks, apparently showed him a good time and let him know the tricks of the trade.
"He showed me how the bus system works, the dorms and just how college life is like there. Jalen is an extremely nice guy," Moore said. "It was all very interesting.
"Then I hung out with some of the other commits like Jared, and Nate [Adams] too, and some of the other freshmen. We had a lot of conversations, and I got a good idea of what life is going to be like there."
The Texas recruit, who was actually in College Park a few weeks back when Maryland took on Boston College, said he also spoke to Edsall and line coach Tom Brattan, who both "reaffirmed why I committed there." He said he loves the entire staff and mentioned how the group is fun to be around.
But Moore was particularly intrigued by the school's academics. A 4.0 student, he wants to major in business, and one of the main reasons he committed to UMD was the school's proximity to Washington, D.C.
"I spoke to the academic advisors and they described how the classes will be, and how my admission to the business school will go," said Moore, who played both offensive and defensive line this fall for the first time in his career. "That went very well. I really enjoyed that. I should know by January what my status is for the one program I want to get into. I'm eager to hear about that, and then get to Maryland in June."
Another recruit who committed primarily for academics was late-emerging cornerback Josh Woods, Cohen's teammate. Woods just pledged to Maryland back in mid-November after shining at defensive back during the season's latter stages (he had four interceptions in three starts). When the Terps extended an offer, he decided to commit to them over Virginia because of UMD's strong journalism program.
"The [academic advisors] were real good. They talked to me about my courses and [the classes] were really interesting and sounded like fun," Woods said. "And I learned that Kevin Blackistone is a professor in the school, which is awesome. I'm excited."
Like most of the recruits, Woods mentioned Ruth's Chris as the highlight, though he particularly enjoyed chilling with his host, freshman corner Will Likely.
"A big shout out to Will," Woods said. "He showed me a real good time and introduced me to all the guys, and I got along really well with everyone. I met a lot of the other DBs on the team, and they made me feel like I was already part of the team."
The Washington Catholic Athletic Conference foes, Aniebonam and Ulmer, both seemed to milk the official for all it was worth, the latter tweeting out pictures right and left of the two dressed in different Terps garb. Aniebonam, who missed the majority of his senior season with a concussion, said he had "a whole lot of fun" with Ulmer and the rest of the commits, while the St. John's quarterback said he had a great time and was ready to be a Terp.
"Oh yeah I loved it, loved it, loved it," Ulmer said. "Just being around my future teammates, and then we went out to nice restaurants, went a couple other places -- it was just a good time.
"And Jesse and me, we had a great bond together, and we both had a lot of fun. We're going to be roommates, so that's' a good thing. It all went really well, and I'm ready to move on to the next stage of my life."
Maryland has made it known it's going after a second quarterback recruit in 2014, but that doesn't seem to have affected Ulmer's position with UMD.
"I had real good talks with Coach Edsall and Coach [Mike] Locksley, and they said the best man will play, but I believe I'll have the opportunity to showcase my talents early. And Coach Locksley believes in me; he thinks I have the skill set to be his quarterback, and he's repeated multiple times that I'm his guy," said Ulmer, who led his team to the WCAC finals. "I'm going to put in the work like I do now, and hopefully one day I'll be up for the Heisman. I believe in myself."
Aniebonam has been to Maryland plenty during the last couple years, but he said his most recent trip was an altogether different atmosphere. He said there was more time to watch practice, more time to talk to the players and more time to chat with the coaches, giving the visit "a different feel."
"It was such a wild and fun experience, and Will and I had an awesome time down there," Aniebonam said. "I got a slightly different look at Maryland, learned a little more than I thought I already knew. From all of that I cannot wait to step foot on campus as a student and to play for the team."
Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania duo, Burke and Kulka, both spent time together and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Kulka, whose host was running back Joe Riddle, said it was quite an experience getting a taste of the college life.
"It's just crazy thinking it's going to be us in a few months. It's a big change from high school, but it looks like a lot of fun," Kulka said. "Overall, though, the [visit] was a blast. Everything the players and coaches showed us [the commits] confirmed why I wanted to be at Maryland and wanted to play football and get my education there."
Kulka said he enjoyed watching the team practice as it prepared for the Military Bowl Dec. 27, and he found the academic staff informative as well. Like any lineman, though, it was the food that hit home.
"The dinners were amazing. Ruth's Chris Friday in D.C. was awesome; my rib-eye was terrific," said Kulka, who is coming off a 60-tackle, four-sack, one-interception campaign. "Then we ate at a Adele's in the Student Union, and that was very good too."
The linebacker Burke said it was a "great experience seeing what my future life is going to be like." He was paired with fellow Pennsylvanian, tight end P.J. Gallo, who he's met a couple times before.
"Back when I committed I actually went out to lunch with P.J., so I kind of knew him already. He was a lot of fun," said Burke, a June verbal who racked up close to 100 tackles this year. "I was hanging out with P.J.'s roommates, too, Joe Riddle and Roman, and they were really cool. And then I got to meet the rest of the players too, and it was just really fun."
The Coatesville backer also liked the Friday night dinner, his one-on-one with Edsall on Sunday, and the practice at the Washington Redskins' bubble on Dec. 14. The latter was a unique, though unexpected, experience.
"It was bad weather on Saturday so we went over to the Redskins' bubble," Burke said. "And as we were pulling in we saw the Redskins players, and that was really cool to see them all."
Mostly, though, Burke enjoyed playing pool with the other commits, and he spent a good deal of time chatting up Ulmer.
"[The commits] were all just talking, and we all believe we can come in and make an impact," Burke said. "We all want the same thing – and that's to build a winner at Maryland."
NOTE: Terps commits David Shaw, Andrew Gray and Sean Christie will take their official visits in January. Shaw was supposed to visit this weekend but was unable to secure a ride down to College Park. The other four 2014 recruits, Jordan Noil, Juwann Winfree, Derwin Gray and Larry Mazyck, have already taken their officials.
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