Welcome to the next edition of Inside the Shell, our weekly Maryland football recruiting roundup.
Tabor Saga Reaches Conclusion
Thank God. Hopefully this will be the last time we need to do an update on Friendship Collegiate (Washington, D.C.) cornerback Jalen Tabor, who surprisingly committed to Arizona over Alabama on national television during the Under Armour All-American game. Evidently the chance to play with current teammate Jonathan Haden and the fact that he'll probably see the field immediately was enough of a pull to lure Tabor away from Nick Saban and Bama.
While the four-star had been singing the Terps' praises for upwards of a year, something happened in the last couple weeks that made him do a 180. Others have been covering recruiting for a lot longer than I have, but in the five-plus years of doing this, I haven't seen a local recruit completely sour on a school the way Tabor did.
Tabor had previously harped on helping the hometown program reach a new level, being a trailblazer into the Big Ten and rallying the other tops locals to Maryland. But at the UA practice, he said UMD's inability to win big and "negative vibes" within the program caused him to eliminate the Terps.
While there was speculation that recently dismissed Maryland quarterback Ricardo Young might have been in Tabor's ear, that rumor was quickly squashed. In fact, Friendship coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim (who may not end up with that Alabama coaching gig after all now that Tabor is going to Arizona) came out and said he personally reached out to the UMD staff to let them know there was no ill-will between FCA and Maryland.
The Good News for UMD…
No matter how you spin it, missing on a lockdown corner like Tabor does hurt. Sure, Maryland needs linemen first and foremost, but having that guy who can take away half the field can't be underestimated.
That said, Maryland has at least two potential backup plans that could pay dividends in a couple years. The first is Colonial Forge (Stafford, Va.) cornerback Daniel Ezeagwu, whose story has been told at length on Terrapin Times (late emerging recruit, has a twin brother with Division I-AA offers that he's very close to, officially visiting UVA Jan. 17 and UMD Jan. 24). Ezeagwu isn't Tabor, but at 6-feet-2, 200 pounds, and with solid speed and ball skills, he's not a bad Plan B. And based off his film, he might see the field sooner rather than later depending on how quickly he develops.
Right now this looks to be a fairly even race between Virginia and Maryland, with James Madison a darkhorse candidate. There's also a possibility other suitors like Virginia Tech could emerge after the dead period ends.
The second Plan B really wasn't a Plan B back in the summer. Remember, before the Terps secured a commitment from McDonogh (Owings Mills, Md.) corner Josh Woods, they targeted Gilman (Baltimore, Md.) defensive back Troy Vincent, who eventually chose Penn State over UMD. But with ex-coach Bill O'Brien leaving PSU for the Houston Texans, it looks like Vincent will take a look around. There are those around Gilman who would love to see Vincent -- as well as linebacker Melvin Keihn -- join Randy Edsall's program, so we'll see what happens here.
But after talking to a few folks Jan. 2, I'm not so sure Vincent will back away from the Nittany Lions. He's still very high on the program and the feeling at this time is he'll stay put. But his father, Troy Vincent Sr., did confirm that his son will at least entertain other suitors.
Here's what Vincent Sr. had to say:
"Frankly [the Bill O'Brien move] hasn't changed anything. Personally, we never look at a coach. We look at the institution. Penn State is a school that's still out in front. Could it change over the next 30, 35 days? Yes, but we'll have to see. [Troy is] still strongly engaged with Georgia Tech and there are some visits coming up… a lot can happen. It was a verbal commitment.
"Troy is going to go down to Georgia Tech, probably visit NC State and is looking at maybe going out to Wisconsin. Again we haven't even had an official visit to Penn State, so that will likely happen as well. By this weekend we should have some set dates."
And as for Maryland, Vincent Sr. said:
"[Maryland] hasn't personally reached out to me… Troy has been out of school for two weeks so I don't know if they emailed him, but Troy hasn't mentioned anything ... I haven't asked him about it, but he hasn't said anything about Maryland. I guess it was a gentleman's things -- Coach Edsall respected the commitment and they stopped recruiting him."
Speaking of Keihn
While we closed the book on Tabor, we're not quite ready to shut down the Melvin Keihn talk. The Gilman three-star linebacker has been steadfast on his Virginia Tech verbal since he committed on Christmas Eve, and I'm inclined to believe him. I've covered the Gilman program for half-a-dozen years now, and while there's always inklings about kids flipping their commitments, it's never happened.
That said, we've heard Maryland still has a shot, albeit a slim one, at landing Keihn. Like Vincent, there are folks in his party who would like to see him in College Park, so we'll see if that push is strong enough to change Keihn's mind before Signing Day. Recall, Keihn had Tech and Maryland about even before selecting the Hokies Dec. 24, so it's not like he completely shut the Terps out.
If No Keihn…
Expect Maryland to go after another Penn State commit, Salesianum School (Wilmington, Del.) linebacker Troy Reeder. The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder has been a PSU pledge since last March, and while he told me he's honoring his commitment for now, he hinted that it's possible he'll look around after talking to his family.
It was several months ago, but Reeder spoke glowingly about the Maryland program before pulling the trigger for the Nittany Lions. If Reeder opens his recruitment back up, expect UMD to be a prime contender. He said the Terps have stayed in touch, so we know the staff may make a push here. We'll see if he sets up an official visit in January…
Other contenders figure to be Virginia, Pittsburgh, Boston College and Rutgers -- if he decommits. Reeder seems like a pretty loyal kid, and he could very well opt to stay in State College.
The Latest on Jared Cohen
We rolled out our post-Bill O'Brien Jared Cohen story Jan. 2, and, really, he didn't say anything too earth shattering. Like the McDonogh product has been repeating since he decommitted from Maryland right before Christmas, he's 50-50 on the Terps and Nittany Lions. He said he has to see who PSU hires to fill its head coaching vacancy, as well as the status of offensive line coach Mac McWhorter, before making any definitive calls. He also said he has to meet Maryland's new offensive line coach once that hire is made this month.
But reading between the lines, if I had to handicap it, I'd still say Penn State is in the driver's seat. Even though the O'Brien departure rattled Cohen a bit, he still wants to officially visit PSU Jan. 24. And when kids decommit and take officials to another suitor, more often than not they opt for said suitor. Maryland's new O-line coach, along with Edsall and Cohen's recruiter Keith Dudzinksi, are going to have to do a heck of a hard sell. It ain't easy recruiting against the glitz and glamour of Penn State, regardless of who's running the ship.
That Other O-Lineman Out There
Oh yeah, Damian Prince is high on Maryland. … Moving on….
Wait a second. Good news on the U of MD recruiting trail? Indeed. The Bishop McNamara (Forestville, Md.) offensive tackle had plenty of positive things to say about the Terps while down in Florida for the UA game. He did two separate interviews with Keith, and both times he mentioned Maryland offering him the chance to be near his family, familiarity (he has a long relationship with Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley and several players), and the chance to play early. Most importantly for UMD fans, he said Jalen Tabor -- a good friend Prince had entertained going to college with -- announcing for Arizona wouldn't affect his status with Maryland.
Family more than anything could be the deciding factor here as Prince is particularly close to his relatives. Heck, the sole reason he's announcing his decision Feb. 14 is to honor his late grandmother.
But there's still a ways to go for Prince, and as we saw with Tabor, the tides can turn quickly. He still has those three officials to Miami, South Carolina and Florida looming, not to mention Florida State, a school he's already visited, is a prime contender. The Gamecocks could easily be a player as well, considering Prince knows current USC lineman Na'Ty Rodgers (remember him Terps fans?) and he has a solid relationship with their staff. We'll see if the Terps can stem the tide (though, luckily for UMD, it's not a Crimson Tide).
Butler, Scott and Thomas
Now, about those running backs… Will Maryland take one in this class? I'm beginning to get the feeling the Terps might pass on a back this year what with Brandon Ross, Albert Reid, Wes Brown (more than likely returning) and Jacquille Veii all with two or more years remaining in College Park.
That said, there's still a few high school prospects on the radar, including Linganore's (Frederick, Md.) Phillip Butler, Green Run's (Virginia Beach, Va.) Anthony Scott and St. John's Prep's (Danvers, Mass.) Johnathan Thomas, a current Penn State pledge.
I'm about ready to cross Scott off the list, however. During our latest update on him he seemed hyped about his January official visits to Virginia Tech, West Virginia and East Carolina, while he said he'd "probably" see Maryland as well. Scott also claimed the Terps had offered, but his coach said it hasn't happened yet. When kids claim illegitimate offers, more often than not the actual offer never comes. And we're not so sure UMD will ever pull the trigger on this kid given some academic concerns.
As for Butler, it's looking like the ship might be sailing on him as well. The fact that he's not taking the SATs until late January, plus the fact that he's visiting Division II schools like West Virginia Wesleyan, probably signals there are extracurricular concerns that have FBS programs backing off. No doubt Butler has talent, and if he does get the grade situation straightened out he could be a nice addition for Maryland, but right now I'm not sure the Terps will offer.
The third name to watch is one UMD fans are already familiar with. Yes, Terps aficionados felt slighted after Johnathan Thomas decommitted from Maryland and hopped over to Penn State -- even after UMD said it was honoring Thomas' scholarship in the wake of his torn ACL. But there's no denying Thomas' talent, and the Terps could use another game-changing back.
Thomas has stayed mum following Bill O'Brien's departure, but it wouldn't surprise us if he re-opened his recruitment once again. Here's some food for thought: Will the new Penn State staff even want a running back with a torn ACL? Thomas' fate could very well come down to the intentions of who the Nittany Lions hire.
So, if Thomas goes back on the market, will he immediately jump back on the Maryland bandwagon? It's possible, though Arkansas, which has one running back commit in this class, could get involved again if it so chooses. More than likely, though, programs could be scared away by that ACL injury, leaving the Terps as the most viable option. We'll see what develops.
Ulmer and the QBs
St. John's (Washington, D.C.) athlete and Terps commit William Ulmer reportedly looked good at receiver during the UA All-American practices, and while he'll get a shot to play quarterback in College Park, he might be destined to catch passes rather than throw them.
Which means Maryland could still very well add another quarterback in the 2014 class. We've heard the names bandied about, headlined by Cretin-Derham Hall (St. Paul's, Minn.) gunslinger Ricardo Johnson, but so far there haven't been any prime targets who have surfaced. Johnson told me UMD is taking a hard look at him, but I'm not so sure that's the case.
The Terps' staff probably has a couple candidates in mind, and they'll make a move after the dead period ends.
A Second Safety?
Not likely. Jordan Noil is probably the guy this year unless Maryland makes a run at another safety in the weeks leading up to Signing Day. Dwyer (West Palm Beach, Fla.) safety Shawn Boone has been off the board for a few weeks, and now we know for sure Annapolis Area Christian's Demetrius Johnson isn't a candidate either.
Johnson told our guys at the Army Bowl that he's focused on Marshall and Syracuse, and that he's "no longer waiting" on UMD. But, really, the only way Johnson would have made it to Maryland, a school he favored early during his recruiting, is if he went the JUCO or prep route (which might still happen). Fact is the Terps haven't seriously recruited him since extending an early verbal back during his sophomore year.
Another safety you probably won't see in College Park is Wise (Upper Marlboro, Md.) prospect Marcus Allen, who is committed to Penn State. Word from his camp is Allen is none too happy with Bill O'Brien leaving, and it wouldn't be a surprise if he re-opened his recruiting. That said, my sources tell me even if Allen does back away from PSU, Maryland probably isn't a prime option.
The Rest of the Penn State Recruits on Maryland's Radar
OK, so we've touched on Marcus Allen, Troy Vincent, Troy Reeder and Jared Cohen (who we're counting as a PSU recruit for these purposes). The last PSU commit to pay attention to, as far as UMD is concerned, is Millville (N.J.) defensive tackle Antoine White, who said Maryland, Wake Forest, Rutgers and Georgia Tech have stayed in contact with him.
White was supposed to be an early enrollee at PSU, but he wasn't thrilled with O'Brien bolting. White hasn't decommitted, but there is a chance he'll look around at his other options. The Terps were one of White's favorites before he picked PSU in July, so we'll see if he opts to officially visit College Park.
Besides White, we're not sure UMD will be involved with any of the other remaining PSU commits. Running back Mark Allen (DeMatha/Hyattsville, Md.) was never seriously pursued, defensive end Noah Beh (Scranton Prep/Scranton, Pa.) said he's honoring his PSU verbal, receiver Chris Godwin (Middletown/Middletown, Del.) did not have the Terps in his final group, and linebacker Jason Cabinda (Hunterdon Central/Flemington, N.J.) will likely stick with PSU.
Terps in All-Star Games
Keith has touched extensively on Will Ulmer at the Under Armour game, but there were two other Maryland commits we caught up with at all-star games this week.
In the Offense-Defense bowl in Florida, Scout's Jacquie Franciulli spoke to Dwight Morrow (Englewood, N.J.) wide out Juwann Winfree, who assured he's still a firm Maryland pledge. Winfree said in the event receivers coach Lee Hull leaves for Morgan State it doesn't really affect him, and he's excited to get his Terps career started.
Meanwhile, over in San Antonio, Rachel had a chance to watch Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) defensive end/outside linebacker Jesse Aniebonam. The Falcons edge rusher had some troubles against elite competition early in the week, and he'll likely have to continue adding strength and speed to reach his potential at Maryland. More importantly for Terps fans, though, is Aniebonam continues to be a firm UMD commit and we don't expect him to jump ship.
Some 2015 Notes
Centreville (Va.) junior safety A.J. Turner claimed a Terps offer back in December, and he also said he has offers from South Carolina, Virginia Tech and Old Dominion. Turner is from Florida and may head south for college, but he does want to visit College Park. We'll see what he's thinking after that…
Keith talked to a bunch of Terps 2015 targets at the Under Armour All-American Combine Jan. 2, including Quince Orchard (Gaithersburg, Md.) defensive end Adam McLean, FCA tackle Quarvez Boulware, Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) tackle Richie Petitbon and Rockbride (Lexington, Va.) tackle Austin Clark. Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) defensive end Darius Fullwood and Gonzaga quarterback Nick Johns are also on the radar and attended the combine as well.
We'll have more in-depth interviews later, but here's the gist of things. The Terps have ground to make up on McLean; they're in good position for Boulware; Clark is going to be a tough pull out of Virginia; Petitbon has UMD rated high but Maryland probably isn't the favorite at this time; Fullwood would consider Maryland if it actually offered; and Johns is wide open, though the Terps would be in a solid spot if they verballed.
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