TTDave's Inside the Shell

This week's edition of Inside the Shell includes plenty of notes on Terps targets Damian Prince, Daniel Ezeagwu, running back recruits, linebacker recruits and some down-the-road 2015 prospects. Not to mention a commentary on James Franklin and Penn State.

Welcome to the next edition of Inside the Shell, our weekly football recruiting update.

We Didn't Want to Bring Up His Name Again, But…

Oh baby, Jalen Tabor (Friendship Collegiate Academy/Washington, D.C.) is making the same headlines Deion Sanders did before he enrolled at FSU. We thought Tabor's recruiting was over when he pulled the rabbit out of the hat and popped to Arizona during the Under Armour All-American Game.

Shame on us. Anyone who knows Tabor is well aware he has a flair for the dramatic, so it really isn't that much of a shock he flipped to Florida Jan. 9 -- one day before he was set to enroll early at ‘Zona at that. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound cornerback said he's following in the footsteps of his idol, Joe Haden, who starred for the Gators and now the Cleveland Browns.

At this point, considering Tabor is set to early enroll, we don't expect any more movement, although until that name is signed on the dotted line, you never know. If Tabor had dragged his decision out until National Signing Day, I'd almost expect another flip, perhaps to the school he had favored for a good bit of the recruiting process, the University of Maryland. But unless there's a last-second snag, he'll probably end up in Gainesville, leaving three schools (Arizona, Alabama, Maryland) wondering how the heck they got played by an 18-year-old kid.

So What Does This Mean for UMD?

The ramifications suggest that Tabor and elite offensive lineman Damian Prince (Bishop McNamara/Forestville, Md.) have colluded on a reunion at Florida, a school the four-star tackle has under heavy consideration. But while that might look like the case on the surface, we've learned not to buy into obvious logic with these two top locals.

While Prince may ultimately wind up a Gator, we're not sure Tabor's flip will have much of an impact on him, even though the two are good friends. Right now, despite reports to the contrary, we're still feeling pretty good about UMD's chances with Prince.

Of course, logic suggests the reason Prince moved up his college decision day from Feb. 14 to Feb. 6 was to ensure a Florida or a South Carolina still had scholarships available for him (both schools figure to fill up their remaining spots on Signing Day). But based on what we're hearing, the Terps still have the upper hand here, with Florida running a close second and USC third.

Regardless of what Tabor said or will say, Prince genuinely likes being near home and is extremely close with his family. That, ultimately, may keep him in College Park, even if Florida makes a hard push.

Of course, Prince does still have official visits coming up to UF and South Carolina, so that line of thinking could change by mid-January … especially after that Gators' trip.

Stay tuned.

If Prince Doesn't End Up in College Park

What do the Terps do if no Princely gift? Maybe Maryland decides to save the scholarships for next year, or, more than likely, the staff once again identifies a late-emerging senior along the lines of Sean Christie (Patchogue Medford/Medford, N.Y.) or a junior-college guy like Silvano Altimarano. We haven't heard any definitive names yet, but one or two may surface after this dead period ends in mid-January.

That is, of course, assuming Jared Cohen (McDonogh/Owings Mills, Md.) heads to Penn State, where he is officially visiting in January. The former Terps commit texted me yesterday that he "loved" the James Franklin hire at PSU and he seems eager to meet him during his trip to State College. Cohen also received a North Carolina offer earlier this week and wants to officially visit Chapel Hill, N.C., as well, though we're not so sure he'll end up a Tar Heel.

Although Cohen said he's still considering Maryland and wants to see who the new offensive line coach is, the vibe suggests he'll be a Nittany Lion unless the Terps can make a serious impression with their hire.

Two linemen we really don't see ending up at Maryland are former targets Danny Burns (Fairfield/Fairfield, Ohio) and Brendan Brosnan (Maine South/Park Ridge, Ill.), the former a Louisville commit and the latter a Vanderbilt pledge. Both the Cardinals and Commodores have experienced coaching turnover, so we checked in with both Burns and Brosnan to see where they stood. Both confirmed that, despite the staff shakeups, they're sticking with their respective choices -- and we're inclined to believe them.

Still Searching for a Back

With the expected news this week that Wes Brown has reenrolled at Maryland, maybe the Terps choose not to sign a high school running back this year. Currently all the potential targets we've identified are surrounded by question marks, and we're not sure UMD will seriously pursue any of them.

First, there's Green Run (Virginia Beach, Va.) dynamo Anthony Scott, a whirling dervish with 4.3 40-yard dash speed who apparently does not have a legitimate Terps offer, even though he said so on camera.

I spoke to Green Run head coach Jeff McGowan about his running back, and he confirmed there was no firm scholarship. In fact, since Tom Brattan, Scott's original recruiter, left College Park, McGowan has yet to hear from Maryland. He said despite what's been put out there publically, UMD isn't really that involved.

Here's what he told me:

"Somehow it got out [the Terps] offered and they never did… I mean, after the Virginia Tech offer, Maryland called that night, but they didn't offer. I know Coach Brattan liked Anthony, but their running back coach apparently didn't think he was the guy they were looking for.

"Since then no one else [from Maryland] has contacted me. But, I mean, Anthony is definitely a kid that can play at Maryland, and they'd be wise to recruit him. He's a legit 4.3 kid and he's an explosive player.

"But right now he's got Virginia Tech, ECU and ODU as far as the bigger DI schools that have offered, and most recently Clemson and USC came in and are looking at him. But I haven't heard from Maryland in awhile, and with the transition from Coach Brattan, I'm not sure it's going to happen [a UMD pursuit]."

There were some questions about Scott's academic issues, and McGowan cleared that up as well:

"About his credits, this is only Anthony's third year in high school, and he can't [reclassify] to 2015 because he's three months too old to play next year. But he's going to graduate on time [in 2014]. He's loaded up right now; he's going to graduate and good to go on the academic front."

The second running back who emerged on the radar is Linganore's (Frederick, Md.) Phillip Butler, a hot candidate in December who faded as the New Year approached. Butler has plenty of talent, and the Terps like him, but academic concerns may cause the program to look elsewhere. Butler has a couple visits set up to Division II schools like West Virginia Wesleyan, and that typically suggests there are NCAA Division I qualifying issues.

The next guy who we mentioned last week, former Terps and current Penn State commit Johnathan Thomas (St. John's Prep/Danvers, Mass.), will more than likely stick with the Nittany Lions even with the coaching change. Thomas' party has been completely unresponsive, but we're getting the vibe Maryland isn't an option for him. The only way that could change is if James Franklin decides he doesn't want to bring in a back with an ACL tear.

Fourth on the list is De La Salle (Chicago, Ill.) running back Mikale Wilbon, who has been a Vanderbilt commit since last April. Wilbon is someone the Terps pursued months ago, and the interest appeared mutual with the Chicago back saying he wanted to visit College Park.

But Wilbon never made it out East and instead opted for nearby Vandy. Wilbon, however, did say earlier this week if ex-Commodores coach Franklin bolted for Penn State he might reconsider his choice. Do I expect him to end up at Maryland? Not really. But it's a situation worth monitoring.

Last but not least, we heard from our Fox Sports friends that Beacon (N.Y.) running back Taurus Phillips could have some Terps interest. This 5-9, 175-pound speedster would seem to fit the bill, but when we checked in with Phillips he said there hasn't been any real Maryland contact. He holds a pair of Division I-AA offers right now, and is set to visit Nebraska -- a school that has shown legitimate interest -- in January, but we're not so sure UMD will get involved.

The Cornerback Situation

Alright, now we get to the most realistic candidate to become the next Terps commit. Colonial Forge (Stafford, Va.) corner Daniel Ezeagwu told us earlier this week he's "pretty much" going to be deciding between his two primary BCS (am I allowed to use that term anymore?) suitors, Virginia and Maryland. He visits Charlottesville Jan. 17, College Park Jan. 24, and said he'll finish up at Old Dominion Jan. 31, with a trip to James Madison also in the works (remember, his twin, David, has a JMU offer and the two are very close).

Ezeagwu said both UMD and UVA are even in his eyes, but after talking to a few folks I'd say Maryland has the edge right now. Defensive coordinator Brian Stewart, who took over Ezeagwu's recruiting with Tom Brattan gone, has laid out an attractive plan for the Virginia corner, and the late-riser seems to be buying in. We'll know more after his officials, but it wouldn't surprise us to see him pop to the Terps, even before Signing Day.

Currently there aren't any other prime cornerback targets on the radar (unless you count Tabor) besides Ezeagwu. We scratched Gilman (Baltimore, Md.) three-star Troy Vincent off the list after we learned he would either a) stick with his Penn State commitment or b) take visits to Georgia Tech, N.C. State and possibly Wisconsin -- with no mention of Maryland.

Another Linebacker?

Keith said there is still a slight, slight glimmer of UMD hope for Gilman outside linebacker Melvin Keihn, but more than likely he's going to stick with his Virginia Tech verbal. But regardless of whether or not he decides to flip to Maryland, which finished a close second to the Hokies, that will probably be the only linebacker UMD pursues.

Right now there haven't been any other strong candidates who have emerged, and the few guys we checked in on said Maryland's interest was lukewarm. I spoke extensively to Carroll (Washington, D.C.) coach Rick Houchens about his top defensive end/outside linebacker Cory Jones, who the Terps kicked the tires on awhile back, but the vibe I got was the Terps weren't intrigued enough to offer. Houchens said while schools such as Clemson, Virginia and South Carolina have called about Jones, none are set to make firm offers at this point. More than likely Jones will stick with his original commitment to Toledo and be done with it.

I also checked in with Seneca Valley (Germantown, Md.) linebacker Daniel Appouh who I mentioned a couple weeks ago after he had a huge year a picked up a couple big offers. But he told me he's had zero Maryland contact. Appouh also said he'll probably commit to Purdue over Illinois next week.

Could there be another name that pops up in January? Sure, that could happen, and you can typically find solid linebackers even late in the game. We'll see what transpires.

As For Quarterbacks...

We still haven't unearthed a legitimate 2014 target to go along with William Ulmer (St. John's/Washington, D.C.) in this class. There have been plenty of names thrown around, but each one we've checked in on either doesn't have much interest (like Brad Kaaya from California) or really isn't a candidate at this time (Ricardo Johnson from Minnesota).

A couple Shells ago we did throw out the name K.J. Carta-Samuels (Bellarmine Prep/San Joes, Calif.), a Vanderbilt commit, as someone who could potentially have UMD interest should Franklin leave the Commodores. Well, Franklin is gone, but our guys in California tell us Carta-Samuels is staying put. Evidently his brother is at Vanderbilt, and that's probably enough to keep K.J. committed there.

The Other Penn State Commits With UMD Interest

Along with Troy Vincent and Johnathan Thomas (probably), cross linebacker Troy Reeder and defensive Antoine White off the list. Both pretty much admitted a Franklin hire would mean they were sticking with Penn State. Wise (Upper Marlboro, Md.) safety Marcus Allen was never really an option, regardless of the coaching situation in State College, Pa.

So, About James Franklin

As most have surmised, Franklin's move from Vanderbilt to Penn State doesn't bode well for Maryland. The former Terps' coach-in-waiting is considered a knock-up recruiter, and even if defensive line coach Larry Johnson, who was already a thorn in Maryland's side, leaves the program, Franklin could have his picking of the DMV's top talent assuming he makes the right hires.

The Terps, of course, don't have to sit idly by while Franklin cherry picks their backyard, however. They currently have three assistant coach openings, and instead of opting for the "safe" options, Maryland could and should go after outgoing personalities with go-getter mentalities who relate well to kids.

No, UMD probably isn't going to attract top-flight assistants from renowned programs right now, but good recruiters can be unearthed. Maybe UMD needs to sacrifice a tad in the coaching department and opt for a guy who can haul in elite local talents. There are several options among former UVA coaches, possibly Rutgers assistants and PSU staffers, among others.

As for recruiting strategy, it might behoove Maryland to make a concerted effort in Virginia. Right now UVA and Mike London seem to be losing some of their grip on the region what with wholesale staff changes, and Virginia Tech has been down as of late. So the time is ripe for UMD to (finally) make inroads into Northern Virginia.

There's plenty of talent in the 757, and if Franklin and Co. are going to snag some big-time talents in Maryland and D.C., the Terps need to compensate by intruding on UVA's and Virginia Tech's territories.

The Word on Kareem Ali

Remember him? The junior cornerback out of Timber Creek (Sicklerville, N.J.) said back in December he was "deciding on a school real soon," with Maryland, Temple, Pittsburgh, Clemson, Virginia and Rutgers figuring to be the primary contenders. A couple months ago Ali was all set to commit to Penn State, but he was rebuffed when he attempted to verbal early, causing him to reconsider.

Ali was supposed to have his mind made up right around the holidays, but that time has passed with no commitment. Evidently, with Penn State getting a new staff, he wants to see what the Nittany Lions think of him now. If James Franklin decides to honor Ali's early verbal, expect a Penn State pop. If not, well, who knows -- he'll probably drag this out for a while longer.

For Terps fans, I wouldn't sweat this one too much. Ali isn't a bad prospect, but he's not a game-changing corner like a Jalen Tabor.

Other Jersey Recruits

I continue to hear encouraging words out of New Jersey's 2015 class in regards to Maryland. The Terps pulled in Juwann Winfree (Dwight Morrow/Englewood, N.J.)from the Garden State this year, and it wouldn't surprise me to see another recruit or two from the area wind up in College Park next year.

Other than Ali, it looks like the Terps are right in the thick of things for Sayreville War Memorial (Parlin, N.J.) athlete Myles Hartsfield, who suggested earlier this week UMD could offer shortly. He's a four-star who figures to have plenty of options -- plus he's high on his hometown school, Rutgers, which has already offered -- but, like Winfree, he loves Stefon Diggs and is eager to check out Maryland.

Several other high-profile Jersey guys like quarterback Brandon Wimbush and cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick -- both of St. Peter's Prep (Jersey City) -- and lineman Steven Gonzalez (Union City/Union City, N.J.), figure to wind up elsewhere, though UMD could be in position to snag a second-tier guy or two.

If he doesn't get a PSU offer, linebacker Jamie Gordinier (Red Bank Catholic/Red Bank, N.J.) could be a target, along with running back Dontae Strickland (Monmouth Junction/South Brunswick, N.J.); running back Chapelle Cook (Lakewood/Lakewood, N.J.); linebacker Joe Giles-Harris (St. Joseph's/Montvale, N.J.); center Tommy Hatton (St. Joseph's/Montvale, N.J.); quarterback Cinjun Erskine (Barnegat/Barnegat, N.J.); quarterback Ryan Adzima (Wallington/Wallington, N.J.), receiver Nolan Borgersen (Westwood/Washington, N.J.); athlete Elijah Robinson (Montclair/Montclair, N.J.) and possibly others.

So You May Have Noticed the Jersey QBs Mentioned Above…

Yes, the list of 2015 quarterbacks Maryland is monitoring continues to grow. So far we've heard Maryland involved with Wimbush, Erskine, Adzima, Gonzaga's (Washington, D.C.) Nick Johns, Brothers Rice's (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) Alex Malzone and Gilman's Kai Locksley, as well as a couple others in the Virginia and Pennsylvania areas. So far only Locksley, the son of Terps offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, holds a firms offer, but Johns could very well be next.

We spoke to both Johns and Malzone earlier this week, and the former could become a prime target. Johns, who has an early Virginia offer, has been to UMD several times and had good things to say about the program. Meanwhile, Malzone, a Michigan fan, seemed intrigued by the Terps, but he sounded like he wanted to play his college ball in the Midwest.

Of course, Locksley remains the No. 1 priority, but we're not so sure that will hold true as the offseason develops. The Gilman gunslinger is looking around at the Ohio States of the world, and he might not want the burden of playing under his dad at UMD.

A Word on 2016 OL Jauan Williams

As I mentioned above, I spoke to Rick Houchens at Carroll earlier this week. He said his sophomore left tackle Jauan Williams continues to be the one Carroll guy that Maryland really wants. And based on Houchens' relationship with the Terps, and the fact Williams has been hyping the program since UMD offered months ago, we're inclined to label Maryland the leader at this point. However, it's still very early in the process and much can change in two years. Williams, after all, will be a national recruit with dozens of options.

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