Welcome to our next edition of Inside the Shell, the weekly Maryland football recruiting roundup.
The Word on the Prince
As the Damian Prince (Bishop McNamara/Forestville, Md.) wheel turns… The latest news on the four-star tackle is that Penn State is making a significant push for his services, and will get an official visit at some point next week (likely Tuesday). New Nittany Lions coach James Franklin has made his overture, and McNamara coach Keith Goganious has no doubt pushed the PSU program as well, so it wouldn't surprise us to see Prince at least consider Penn State.
That said, we're not sure PSU will actually land a commitment from the Under Armour All-American. Prince has said time and again his top three schools are Maryland, Florida and South Carolina, with the former two holding a significant edge over the latter. USC seems to be fading from the picture, so unless a PSU can make a splash (entirely possible) and work its way into the mix, Prince will likely decide between UF and UMD on Signing Day.
Remember, Prince has taken officials to Maryland, South Carolina and Florida State, and now has the Nittany Lions visit coming and the Gators trip scheduled for Jan. 31. Right now, though, Maryland still seems to be in a solid position. Although the Terps still don't have an offensive line coach -- Prince was supposed to meet O-line coach Dave DeGuglielmo before he took the New England Patriots gig Jan. 22 -- which would seem to hurt their chances, but UMD has other factors working for it.
Namely, head coach Randy Edsall and assistant coach Mike Locksley have both made very good impressions during in-home visits, letting Prince know he can a) play early at UMD and b) be near his family. That latter factor figures to play a primary role in Prince's final decision, considering he is extremely close to his relatives.
Franklin will undoubtedly sell this family angle as well, so I'd keep my eyes out for a PSU charge. Meanwhile, Florida has the Jalen Tabor and SEC factors working for it, and those can't be discounted.
The best way to fend off the other pursuers? Get that offensive line coach into College Park pronto and follow up with a long sit-down with the McNamara lineman early next week.
Tar Heels and Terps Battling for Cohen
As you read this, offensive guard Jared Cohen (McDonogh/Owings Mills, Md.) is on his official visit in Chapel Hill, N.C. Cohen, a one-time Terps commit who decommitted around Christmas following an offer from Penn State, sounded eager to see the Tar Heels. He was also highly impressed when a contingent of UNC coaches visited him and made their pitch. Now, Cohen said he wouldn't commit while on his visit, but at this point nothing would surprise me. If Cohen is blown away and then sits down in head coach Larry Fedora's office Sunday morning, heck, he might just pull the trigger.
But if Cohen does keep his word and returns to Owings Mills undecided, then at least the Terps still have a shot here. Cohen said he does want to meet the next UMD offensive line coach before making any kind of college announcement. But it certainly didn't help Maryland's odds that ex-line coach Tom Brattan, whom Cohen built a rapport with, is gone, and new line coach Dave DeGuglielmo bolted for the Patriots. We'll see if UMD can make a quick but solid hire and get him out to McDonogh in short order.
The feeling, regardless, is that UNC is the leader and Maryland probably has to hit a home run with its final visit in order to sway the one-time Terps commit. Cohen did have an in-home with his UMD recruiter, Keith Dudzinksi, Jan. 22, and that did go well as the Terps' assistant let the lineman know UMD still coveted his services. But I'm not sure it was enough by itself to convince Cohen to spend his next four years in College Park.
Cohen said he's deciding at some point next week, so this truly looks like a Terps-Tar Heels battle. He said Penn State, his one-time presumed destination, is basically out as the new Nittany Lions coaches haven't actively pursued him (Cohen received his PSU offer from ex-coach Bill O'Brien).
The Third O-Line "Target"
Besides Prince and Cohen, the Terps had been monitoring Flowery Branch (Ga.) guard Andrew Miles (6-4, 285), a current Western Carolina commit who looks like he'll be flipping to Air Forces. Miles personally hasn't given any interviews, but his coach, Chris Griffin, has kept us in the loop.
Here's what we know: Maryland assistant Lyndon Johnson visited Miles in-home Jan. 22 and basically said that while UMD was interested, there's no firm offer on the table (code word: UMD has other primary targets, and Miles has to visit College Park fist). While the Mileses appreciated the pitch, they still haven't scheduled a firm official to Maryland and it's likely they will not do so. They may have been a bit flustered after learning the offer wasn't quite on the table and the Terps had other O-line priorities.
Can UMD Fend Off UVA?
Maryland will have its chance to woo Colonial Forge (Stafford, Va.) cornerback Daniel Ezeagwu this weekend when he, his brother -- outside linebacker David Ezeagwu -- and his aunt and uncle trip to College Park. Ezeagwu has gone on record as saying he was "very close" to committing to Virginia, which he officially visited Jan. 17, but he refrained from doing so. That gives the Terps an opening, and we'll see if the staff can take advantage of it.
Ezeagwu did have an in-home visit with UMD defensive coordinator Brian Stewart following the UVA trip, and that apparently went very well. The Virginia corner and his parents both felt Stewart came across as genuine, and Ezeagwu liked the plan Maryland's defensive backs coach has laid out for him (early playing time, taking the Will Likely route, developing his game, etc.). Maryland would do well to stress its academic reputation on the visit, as well as potentially making a pitch to David Ezeagwu.
Daniel and David Ezeagwu are twins, and both have said they'd love to go to school together. Daniel Ezeagwu even admitted if either Virginia or Maryland offered his brother, that school would have a major leg up. In fact, one of the main reasons Daniel has James Madison, a Division I-AA program, under consideration (he said he'll officially visit the Dukes Jan. 31) is they've extended a scholarship to his brother.
So far neither UVA nor UMD have indicated an offer is coming for David Ezeagwu. Virginia wants David Ezeagwu to head to Fork Union for a year, while the Terps said they'd "explore" an offer if their other target, Nnamdi Egbuaba (St. Frances Academy/Baltimore, Md.), opts to head elsewhere. But at this point, with UMD in need of another 2014 cornerback to pair with Josh Woods (McDonogh), the Terps should probably up the ante and offer. They have scholarships to give -- what could it hurt to spend one on a well-built linebacker prospect who at the very least could be a valuable special teams contributor?
If Maryland doesn't pull out that trump card, there's a good chance Daniel Ezeagwu heads to Charlottesville. Not only did he enjoy being around the players and coaches, but his aunt and uncle really liked the school as well. If you're a Terps fan, that's worrisome.
Speaking of Egbuaba…
Recall the Terps offered this St. Frances senior in mid-January after it became clear they weren't getting top target Melvin Keihn (Gilman/Baltimore, Md.). Egbuaba (6-1, 220) is a good-looking, sturdy linebacker who had a big year for the Panthers, racking up 17 sacks as a rush outside backer. Now, Egbuaba is very raw -- he needs to gain strength, has footwork issues, doesn't always fight off blocks effectively and can overpursue at times -- but he has a good get-off and attacks the backfield. There's nothing wrong with taking a flier on a kid who can disrupt a quarterback's rhythm, and Egbuaba can certainly do that.
Now, can the Terps land him? As of right now, they'd seem to be in a good position given Egbuaba's previous relationship with the school and the coaches. He's been in College Park several times, knows recruiter Andre Powell fairly well and has said he likes the area. Not to mention his head coach, Messay Hailemariam, is a Maryland graduate and has been pushing for one of his prospects to land at UMD (remember Sunny Odogwu?). Egbuaba takes his official visit to Maryland this weekend, so we'll see what comes of it.
At the same time, Egbuaba said he will give his two other suitors, Virginia and Connecticut, their due. He'll officially visit both to see what each has to offer and then make a decision right around Signing Day. Of the two, UVA once again looks to be the biggest threat what with its academic reputation, coach overtures, and the fact Charlottesville isn't too far from where Egbuaba lives now.
To recap, we know for sure Daniel Ezeagwu and Nnamdi Egbuaba are coming in for officials this weekend, along with three current Terps commits: Sean Christie (Patchogue Medford/Medford, N.Y.), Andrew Gray (Chardon/Chardon, Ohio) and David Shaw (Spring Grove/Spring Grove, Pa.).
Other visitors expected on campus include a few local junior studs. The Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) triumvirate of Richie Petitbon, Jabari Greenwood and Marcus Lewis all should be in College Park for a "mini" junior day.
Where does Maryland stand with this trio? The receiver Greenwood is the best bet to be a Terp; he has spoken highly of the program since last year and has much love for the coaches. Maryland also has a legitimate shot at Lewis -- who recently backed away from his Virginia Tech pledge -- considering Randy Edsall and Mike Locksley have made quite a push, although there's still a ways to go with that one. Petitbon, the big tackle prospect, is still favoring the Alabamas and LSUs of the world, however. We'll see if Maryland can make headway over the next few months.
The fourth headline junior on campus will be Friendship Collegiate Academy (Washington, D.C.) lineman Quarvez Boulware, who UMD remains in solid standing with. Boulware recently backed off his initial "favorites" list, the Terps and Florida State, but UMD aficionados shouldn't worry at this point. Maryland and Mike Locksley have made quite a favorable impression here.
Reports on McCardell, Wilt
So far the reports have been positive regarding new defensive line coach Chad Wilt and receivers coach Keenan McCardell.
McCardell has been up to see current Terps receiver commit Juwann Winfree (Dwight Morrow/Englewood, N.J.), and the two apparently hit it off. Winfree was excited, to say the least, and said he couldn't wait to start learning from the former Pro Bowler.
In the meantime, McCardell has already hit the recruiting trail fairly hard, flying down to Texas to make a UMD pitch to several junior prospects. Reports came out a couple days ago that Maryland had extended offers to three stud Lone Star State players from South Oak Cliff in Dallas: safety Jamile Johnson, athlete J.F. Thomas and safety Prentice McKinney. Can the Terps lure these elite talents away from the in-state programs? Well, we'll see how good of a recruiter McCardell is…
Wilt, meanwhile, was up to see Brett Kulka, and the Maryland defensive end recruit had plenty of positive remarks about his new position coach. Look for Wilt, formerly of Ball State, to mine that Midwest area and drum up Terps interest in a few top juniors during the offseason. We already know he's been in Western Pennsylvania and Ohio trying to make inroads.
Some Other 2015 Notes
We spoke to a number of juniors this week, including Ayron Monroe (St. John's/Washington, D.C.), Ryan Buchholz (Great Valley/Malvern, Pa.), Jay Stocker (Coatesville, Pa.), Chris Clark (Avon Old Farms/Avon, Conn.), Elijah Robinson (Montclair, N.J.), Dionte Austin (Calvert Hall/Towson, Md.), Devin Phelps (St. Frances/Baltimore, Md.) and three premier Virginia talents. Monroe, Buchholz, Stocker and Austin all have UMD verbals, while Robinson and Phelps have been in touch with the staff and Clark should get one in short order.
Here's the gist of the conversations. Maryland is still in a favorable spot for Andre Monroe's younger brother Ayron; Buchholz' profile is growing, but he has much love for UMD, where his brother attends school; Stocker's recruitment is all over the place; Clark thinks highly of UMD, though the Terps have ground to make up; Austin still talks the Terps up, but we're not sure if it's genuine or just lip service; Robinson is intrigued but has no offer; and Phelps is probably someone UMD will look at but not seriously pursue.
As for the Virginia guys, they told me a few things off the record so I didn't want to report their names. So here's the deal -- and it's nothing earth shattering to UMD fans: Maryland still has a lot of ground to make up in the 757.
While Virginia recruits will give College Park plenty of props publically, it's going to be difficult for Maryland to pull the elite area prospects. Most of these guys are either looking to go further south for college, or want to stick with their in-state options. Even with Virginia and Virginia Tech stumbling a bit, both schools have deep ties to the top high school institutions and will likely get first dibs on the best of the best.
For the Terps to have any sort of traction down there, they need to jump on the elites early, win some games, and have an ace recruiter in place. Right now, the name "Maryland" just doesn't hold much water with many of these cats and their coaches. We'll see if the Terps can change that in the coming years…
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