Welcome to our post-Holiday edition of Inside the Shell, our weekly Maryland football recruiting roundup.
Rumblings Abound at FCA
We'd heard the inklings and the rumblings for a couple weeks, but now it looks like there's some real legs to this Aazar Abdul-Rahim to Alabama story. Rahim, the head coach at Friendship Collegiate, has been linked to college coaching jobs for the last couple years, and it's no secret he's been looking to make that leap. There was some initial chatter that Maryland, which has a strong relationship with FCA, might hire Rahim, but apparently it was just that -- talk.
So if Rahim does bolt for Bama, what does that mean for the Terps? Well, first and foremost, it probably signals that four-star cornerback Jalen Tabor could be rolling with the Tide. The initial thought when Tabor started pumping up Alabama, and then Arizona, was he was playing coy and didn't want to divulge his true intentions. He had long been high on Maryland and sounded like he was ready to pull the Terps trigger as late as a couple weeks ago.
But now, with Rahim possibly heading to Tuscaloosa and Nick Saban putting the press on, it looks like Tabor might follow suit. Maryland isn't out of the game and crazy things do happen in recruiting, but we're not quite as confident Tabor will be a Terp.
As for Maryland's relationship with FCA, we'll have to wait and see what coach they bring in if Rahim moves on. If they stay in-house, the Terps should still have a pipeline considering area recruiter Mike Locksley has a rapport with the staff members there. That said, I'm not so sure FCA will continue to churn out top Division I talent -- at least in the next couple years --if Rahim isn't there. There's already been a bunch of chatter among my D.C. and Prince George's County contacts that kids might transfer out of FCA if their coach leaves.
One prospect who will likely stay is top junior lineman Quarvez Boulware. Maryland has already built a strong bond with the burly guard, so I don't expect Rahim's decision to affect his feelings towards the Terps.
A Princely Order
I said this in the last Shell, but it's worth repeating. Bishop McNamara (Forestville, Md.) offensive tackle Damian Prince's decision could be impacted by Tabor's choice. The two are close friends and have talked about going to school together. If Tabor opted for Maryland, Prince could have very well done so as well. But if the Friendship Collegiate corner heads to Bama, well, Prince could be Florida State bound (Florida, Miami and South Carolina are also in play and will receive official visits in January).
Prince has been relatively mum as of late, so we'll see what he has to say at the Under Armour All-American game Jan. 2. Remember, he doesn't announce his decision until Feb. 14, in honor of his late grandmother.
Another Silver Medal
Maryland is certainly doing its diligence on the recruiting trail, but unfortunately the Terps have come up just short on their last three targets. Two weeks ago UMD finished second for Weeki Wachee (Fla.) lineman Marcus Applefield (Rutgers) and DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) tackle Brock Ruble, and on Christmas Eve the Terps missed on Gilman School (Baltimore, Md.) linebacker Melvin Keihn (Virginia Tech).
The three-star Keihn had long favored Virginia Tech, but Maryland made a late rally to pull almost even. Maryland head coach Randy Edsall, along with Locksley, area recruiter Andre Powell and defensive coordinator Brian Stewart, made quite an impression during an in-home visit. Meanwhile, Keihn liked the fact that UMD had programs to help him give back to his native country, Liberia.
Keihn, though, heaped loads of praise on Virginia Tech and head coach Bud Foster. He said his recruiting is over and he's happy with the Hokies. But apparently there's some rumblings that UMD won't give up the ghost on this one. They did enough to make Keihn's decision a coin flip, and there's still more than a month until Signing Day. We'll see what transpires …
Et tu, Brute?
A week ago, if you would have asked me to choose one Maryland recruit who was 100 percent sold on the program, I would have said McDonogh (Owings Mills, Md.) guard Jared Cohen. The 6-foot-4, 290-pounder was UMD's first commit and constantly referred to the Terps as "we."
But now that's he's decommitted and taking an official visit to Penn State, it's looking like he'll be a Nittany Lion. Cohen has said all the right things publically, noting how Maryland is still firmly in play and the Terps are neck and neck with PSU. Fact is, though, kids who decommit rarely re-up with the program they backed out of.
Also, I've spoken to a couple folks close to the situation, and they've basically said Cohen is heading to Penn State. While he'd never openly acknowledged it until now, PSU was an offer he'd been looking for for a good while. And it certainly didn't help Maryland's chances with offensive line coach Tom Brattan leaving, an assistant Cohen had a strong relationship with.
Now, if Bill O'Brien leaves Penn State, well, maybe that might sway things in UMD's favor. But the way it looks O'Brien will be staying in State College, Pa., for at least another year.
So…. What Now?
It's a recruiting dead period, so we're unlikely to hear many new names as far as another offensive line, cornerback or linebacker target. We know the staff was all over the map during the open period, so it's possible they've identified another Plan B or C option.
At corner, the Terps have offered Colonial Forge (Stafford, Va.) athlete Daniel Ezeagwu. Remember, he's taking an official to UVA Jan. 17 and Maryland Jan. 24, and both schools will likely battle it out for his services. But, as I've said before, I wouldn't rule out James Madison considering the Dukes have offered his twin brother, David, and the two are extremely close.
For the O-line, we thought the Terps were done after settling on Patchogue-Medford (Medford, N.Y.) lineman Sean Christie in the wake of the Ruble-Applefield decisions. Of course, Bishop McNamara (Forestville, Md.) tackle Damian Prince is still a prime target, but now with Cohen likely leaving, UMD might try and add yet another big body. The Louisburg College (Louisburg, N.C.) junior college guard Robert McClure might come back into play, though I'm not sure I see that happening at this time.
There are a few interesting local names that might come into play. Bullis (Potomac, Md.) lineman Justin Herron (6-2, 270) is a Rutgers commit, but he was offered by Penn State as well and could be reconsidering his options. The Terps never made a strong push for him, but maybe they'll jump in the game late.
Another name to look at is Gilman guard/tackle Sheldon Johnson, who is 6-3, 270 pounds, and was a load this year. Johnson made plenty of strides after his junior season and I was impressed with his point-of-attack power and athleticism.
And one last prospect to keep in mind is Meade (Fort Meade, Md.) lineman Jake Hawk, who is listed at 6-5, 285 pounds. Hawk is a current Navy commit who was named first team all-state in Maryland. The Terps never really pursued, but, again, he might be worth a look if UMD feels it needs another big body.
Finally, I'm not so sure the Terps will go after another linebacker in this class. I mentioned in the last Shell that Maryland has plenty of young players at that position, so it's not a priority like the linemen.
But, after scanning the all-state list and seeing what a huge year he had, I made a call over to Seneca Valley (Germantown, Md.) about Daniel Appouh. The 6-4, 210 pounder currently holds offers from Illinois and Toledo, but Seneca head coach Fred Kim said UMD hadn't really been in touch. Appouh is likely Illinois bound, but maybe he's someone UMD jumps on late and tries to spin him the hometown angle.
Another potential target who I removed from the hot board a month ago is Archbishop Carroll (Washington, D.C.) end/outside linebacker Cory Jones. Carroll head coach Rich Houchens told me Maryland hadn't shown much interest, but with Keihn announcing for Virginia Tech, it's possible Edsall and Locksley make a charge. Jones (6-4, 210 pounds) had a huge senior season and is currently committed to Toledo. He also held offers from Illinois, Virginia, Old Dominion and Wake Forest.
As for the Quarterbacks
I'm not feeling any of the new names we unearthed as potential Terps targets. Chaminade (West Hills, Calif.) quarterback Brad Kaaya is a long shot, and if he does decommit from Miami he'll more than likely opt for UCLA. Meanwhile, I took Cretin Derham Hall (St. Paul's, Minn.) dual-threat Ricardo Johnson off the hot board for now, as I don't foresee a strong Terps push.
Yes, Maryland would like to add a second class of 2014 signal caller, but we're not so sure they've targeted anyone yet. They'll likely study film during the dead period and then make a move in January.
The Brattan Effect
Tom Brattan didn't land any 2014 recruits this year, but his departure obviously had an effect on Cohen. Maryland's other offensive line recruits, Brendan Moore and Derwin Gray, both seem solid on the Terps, however. Sean Christie isn't going anywhere, either, and Larry Mazyck is already signed, so no worries on that front.
As for the 2015 class, there are three prime Montgomery County recruits with Brattan ties: Damascus (Md.) corner Jalen Christian, Quince Orchard (Gaitehrsburg, Md.) defensive end Adam McLean and Gaithersburg HS linebacker Kamonte Carter. Earlier this week Carter came out and said Brattan's leaving really wouldn't affect him, and he remains high on the Terps. Carter is a monster who we're highly impressed with, and though he's a national recruit, we like UMD's position early.
McLean probably won't be affected one way or another by Brattan's departure. Though he's said UMD is right there for his services, we're not feeling the Terps early in the game (he's starry eyed and likes the sound of SEC and national Big Ten programs). There's still plenty of time to turn things around, however, especially if UMD brings in a strong recruiter to take over the area.
Christian might be the one guy who might react negatively to Brattan leaving. The Damascus athlete has said he and Maryland's former offensive line coach had a strong rapport, and one of the main reasons he had UMD under consideration was said relationship. Again, there's still plenty of time, so we'll see what develops over the next couple months.
Who Takes Brattan's Place?
Keith mentioned earlier this week that Randy Edsall may look to his old stomping grounds for another assistant. So, with UMD in need of a line coach, perhaps Connecticut assistant Mike Foley becomes a target. Foley, a Colgate graduate, has been at UConn for eight-plus years and has a relationship with Edsall. He has experience recruiting in the northeast.
Another potential fit could be the recently fired Damian Wroblewski. The former Rutgers line coach has a solid reputation and was known as a very good recruiter when he was at Delaware.
As for Lee Hull
If current Terps receivers coach Lee Hull gets the Morgan State job, Maryland will need to fill that position as well. There haven't been any names who have surfaced yet, but a Hull departure could have an impact on Carver (Bear, Del.) junior athlete Darnell Savage.
The junior speedster has said on multiple occasions he really likes Hull, so we'll see if the Terps can maintain that rapport with a new staff member. The guess here, though, is whoever Maryland puts in Delaware will quickly be able to reestablish a Savage connection. Maybe Savage will take some more time to make a decision, but as we've said multiple times, we like Maryland's position with him (the Terps are still Savage's only offer).
As for current Maryland receiver commit Juwann Winfree, we'll have to see how he reacts (again, this is if Hull gets the Morgan gig). Keith Dudzinski is Winfree's recruiter, but the New Jersey product has said he also had a bond with Hull, who would be his position coach. Winfree remained a solid commit when I spoke to him a couple weeks ago, but as we saw with Jared Cohen, the recruiting winds can change quickly.
Another Local 2015 to Keep an Eye On
Yes, Maryland struck out at Middletown (Md.) this year, missing on lineman Justin Falcinelli and defensive end Ricky Leonard. But perhaps they'll have better luck in the 2015 class with tackle Will McLain, who is starting to emerge and just made the senior-laden Maryland all-state team. McLain isn't quite as good as Falcinelli, but he's listed at 6-5, 295 pounds and has gotten plenty of early college looks. We'll see if the Terps pursue.
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