Class of 2014 running back targets have popped up and dropped off Maryland's radar throughout the last year, from Taiwan Deal (DeMatha/Hyattsville, Md.) to Ray Lawry (Kingsway Regional/Woolwich, N.J.) to Mikale Wilbon (De La Salle/Chicago) to Johnathan Thomas (St. John's Prep/Danvers, Mass.) to Anthony Scott (Green Run/Virginia Beach, Va.) to Phillip Butler (Linganore/Frederick, Md.) – to name a few.
And while the Terps flirted with some and even received a commitment from one (Thomas), they still remain running back-less in this year's recruiting class. It's possible with Wes Brown's return, Brandon Ross and Albert Reid having two more years in College Park, and Jacquille Veii having three more years, UMD will save the scholarship for a 2015 target.
But indications are the Terps are still at least kicking the tires on one local late-riser who caught Maryland's eye late during the high school season. Butler, a 6-foot, 190-pound power/speed combo who transferred into Linganore from North Hagerstown earlier during the fall, is someone a few schools may take a late flier on -- even if programs have to wait until after Signing Day to land him.
"Just about everybody who has seen his tape loves him. He's a real talent," Linganore coach Rick Conner said. "He just has to get a few things academically straightened out. He'll take the SAT later this month, in late January, and then we'll go from there. …
"Some schools are saying they're going to wait for his scores and then try to get him out for an [official] visit and all that. I'll know more after those scores come back, but [schools] are saying they're going to wait and see on him."
As far as GPA and classroom work are concerned, Conner said Butler is doing just fine. He said the main issue is sorting out two different transcripts from Lingaore and North Hagerstown, but once the school board "crosses the T's and dots the I's" Butler should be academically qualified on that front.
"His grades are outstanding and he's done very well in the classroom here at Linganore," Conner said. "He's a great student."
On the field, Butler has already proven he can be a top-level talent. In exactly 18 quarters at Linganore, he rushed for 1,050 yards and 10 touchdowns, showing solid speed, good vision and plenty of burst. He was one of the main reasons the Lancers reached the class 3A state championship game before falling to Franklin HS (Reisterstown, Md.).
"He's a one-cut, one-play touchdown guy," Conner said. "He gets after it, he gets downhill real quick, he has great vision, and at 6-0, 190, he's a load to bring down – he can knock kids back. He's kind of like [current Terp and former Linganore runner Joe] Riddle but with a little more shake and burst."
That kind of running has attracted attention from Maryland, West Virginia, East Carolina and Wake Forest. None have offered yet what with the SAT situation -- he does have Division II options from schools such as West Virginia Wesleyan -- but at least WVU and UMD have indicated they're willing to see what develops after Butler does take his test.
Of course, the Terps' recruiter in Frederick County, Greg Gattuso, is now at Albany, but evidently Maryland's intrigue hasn't waned.
"Maryland has still been in contact," Conner said. "I talk to a few guys over there like Coach Andre [Powell]. They still like him a lot."
The feeling is evidently mutual. Butler has indicated during past interviews that he likes being in College Park, enjoys the team and coaches, and, most importantly, would be given a chance to be near his family. Butler has a baby daughter, and he insisted he wanted to be close enough to home to take care of her.
"Phil likes Maryland a lot," Conner said. "He was down there for a visit and he liked the team and the staff. He likes that his family would be right there and they could come see him."
But right now, Butler's recruiting remains in limbo. Will Maryland or West Virginia really sit tight until after Signing Day when the scores come back? Will Butler do well enough to meet the NCAA standards? Will the Terps identify another late running back target well before Feb. 5?
"His tape is good, his grades are good and he's a good kid," Conner said. "[Schools] just need to see that SAT."
Terps Still Tracking Butler
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