COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland coach Randy Edsall thought he had a couple of aces in the 2014 recruiting class, but Feb. 5 the hand turned into a royal flush with the B1G addition of a Prince.
That would be Damian Prince, Scout.com's No. 5 rated offensive tackle. The 6-foot-5, 295-pound Forestville native out of Bishop McNamara joins Silver Spring linebacker Jesse Aniebonam, Englewood, N.J., wide receiver Juwann Winfree and offensive tackle Larry Mazyck from Iowa Western Community College as Scout four-star prospects in the Terrapins' 17-man class, announced Wednesday.
"We knew we had 16 young men in the fold and we found out just like all of you about Damian when he made the announcement (on ESPNU)," said Edsall. "We thought we were in good shape and we had done everything we could possibly do, and that was great news."
Prince committed around 10:30 a.m., and that pushed Maryland's haul from 65th nationally to 60th, and up a notch to 12th in the Big Ten, where Maryland will initiate football operations next fall.
The Terrapins, coming off that 7-6 Military Bowl season this fall, landed nine players from the Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia metro area, and overall got eight offensive and eight defensive prospects, along with one key specialist.
"We really had it zeroed in on exactly how many we wanted to get at each position, and really got the guys that we wanted at those positions," Edsall added. "And now what that's done is add depth, more competition to our roster. Now we've kind of got the numbers in place at each position in terms of what we like."
For instance, Winfree was the only wide receiver, and one too good to pass up after 33 catches, 733 yards and eight touchdowns last year at Dwight Morrow High. The 6-2, 180-pound Winfree played on both sides of the ball but had an expressed preference for offense, and that's where the Terps see him.
"Juwann is very dynamic and he's the one guy we identified," said recruiting coordinator John Dunn. "You watch him at kick-returner, at receiver, he's a big kid and can make plays with the ball in his hand. I think he's a big-time guy that can have a special career here."
Aniebonam, of Good Counsel, was an early commit who projects at weakside linebacker where his 6-3, 240-pound frame is ideal for the dual roles in coverage and as a pass-rusher.
"He's a really good athlete from a great family and wants to do well at everything he does," said Edsall. "We targeted Jesse very early. We had him in camp and had him around here and he's been around us quite a bit. Really just like his size, speed and athletic ability."
Being around Prince, the prize of the class, since his freshman year was a key in finally resting the top lineman away from Florida. Prince, along with the 6-8, 340-pound Mazyck, originally from Friendship Collegiate in Washington, D.C., has a chance to have an immediate impact up front.
Likewise, 6-5, 295-pound Derwin Gray should help right away on the offensive line. He prepped at Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy, but originally hails from Friendship Collegiate, where he too was a four-star prospect.
"We knew we needed to address the line situation on both sides of the ball and we were able to do that with quality people," said Edsall. We feel good in that because your team is built from the inside out."
Three-Stars Add Depth (and Worms)
Three-star prospects include Laurel quarterback Will Ulmer (6-0, 185), Spring Grove, Pa., defensive tackle David Shaw (6-5, 276), Chardon, Ohio, tight end Andrew Gray (6-4, 235), and Coatesville, Pa., linebacker Tyler Burke (6-4, 240).
The athletic Ulmer led St. John's Collegiate to a 9-2 record, throwing for over 1,100 yards and rushing for more than 1,300 yards. He accounted for 21 touchdowns and may end up as a receiver or defensive back.
Shaw had 54 tackles and won All-York-Adams Interscholastic Athletic Association honors for two straight years. Most of the talk Wednesday though was about his family's worm farm.
"The biggest two hobbies are fishing and gardening and wherever you find worms is the best compost," explained Dunn. "His father has the biggest worm farm in the United States and they sell millions in a week. Coach (Andre) Powell is an avid fisherman so he was like, ‘Let me go to his house next time.'"
"I learned more about worms this year than I ever knew about them before," added Edsall.
Back to Shaw, Dunn called him, "big, athletic, a man among boys. He just mauls guys."
Andrew Gray was known mostly for his blocking at Chardon High, but also caught 12 passes for almost 200 yards. Edsall said he's "athletic and moves well."
Burke, one of three signees from Pennsylvania, played linebacker and tight end at Coatesville High. He had 150 tackles, 11 sacks and three interceptions last year for the 9-2 Red Raiders. He could end up at defensive end.
"He's a blue collar, get your hands dirty kind of player that we identified early as an inside linebacker," said Dunn. "He's very athletic, starts on the basketball team but he related very well with Coach Edsall and this program."
The other Pennsylvania product, along with Burke and Shaw, is Edinboro defensive tackle Brett Kulka (6-5, 230), a two-star prospect who was all-region on offense and defense at General McIane High School. He had 52 tackles (34 solo), three sacks, 10 tackles for loss and one touchdown last year.
Local Signs Include ‘Sleeper"
Maybe the most talked-about two-star recruit, Baltimore linebacker Nnamdi Egbuaba (6-1, 216), is considered by many as the "sleeper" of the class. A hard-hitter, Egbuba had 105 tackles, 19 sacks and 17 tackles for loss last year at St. Frances Academy.
"When you watched the film, I don't know in all my years evaluating I've ever seen a young man that ran to the ball as hard as he did, play after play, down after down, game after game," gushed Edsall.
Along with Egbuaba, two defensive backs – Antwaine Carter of Waldorf and Josh Woods of Baltimore, also hail from Maryland. Carter (6-1, 180) helped Westlake High to the Maryland 3A Regional Semifinals last fall. Woods (6-2, 180) was a two-way performer at undefeated McDonogh. He had four interceptions and 35 tackles at safety.
"When he was a freshman, he was like 5-5 and 140 pounds, and all he has done is grow and develop," said Edsall. "(Assistant coach) Keith (Dudzinski) was at a game watching another player and No. 1 keeps standing out to him. He goes back and watches film and thinks he has a guy that's pretty good, then goes to (defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach) Brian (Stewart) and then to John (Dunn) and then to me."
Daniel Ezeagwu of Stafford, Va., is another defensive back out of Colonial Forge High School. Ezeagwu (6-1, 200) had 62 tackles, four forced fumbles and an interception last year.
Edsall likes the additions on defense. "I thought we got very athletic at the linebacker position, and then we got length and speed and range in the secondary."
Landing Top Recruit is a Snap
By several accounts, Maryland also signed the nation's best player at one position – long snapper. Nate Adams (6-2, 230) out of Greenway (Ariz.) High School, was a good get, considering Greg Parcher graduated, leaving an immediate vacancy. Adams was rated the best at his art by Rubio Long Snapping and Kohl's Kicking Camps, and Maryland coaches like his versatility. He played linebacker, tight end and running back.
Maryland didn't sign a running back this year, according to plan, said Edsall, who said the Terrapins had the right numbers at the position, seven, counting fullbacks.
Teams can't have enough linemen, and two more round out the class. Brendan Moore (6-4, 285) of Austin, Tex., and Sean Christie (6-5, 280) of Medford, N.Y., are two-star signees. Moore earned Class 5A all-state honors at Westwood High, and Christie was Class AA all-state at Patchogue-Medford High.
"With all the offensive linemen, those are guys we feel have the size, the athletic ability, the mentality that we want in our offensive line," said Edsall. "When you watch them, they all move well, they're athletic, they're tough. They can bend well. That was something we wanted to address and I thought we addressed it in a big way with those five guys."
Derwin Gray and transfer Mazyck will be out for spring practice so they'll get a jump on contributing in the fall.
"That's all up to the young men," said Edsall about which players might step forward next season. "When I went into all of their homes and told them that we don't determine when you play. There's only person who determines that and I aske them who it was, and they all said, ‘me.' And I said, ‘You're exactly right.'"
Edsall stressed the Terrapins had signed players that "fit a profile," and Dunn went further. "We don't recruit sleeper guys or under-the-radar guys," he said. "Each recruit, we have a special and certain role for them. Like Coach said, we don't go off stars or those kind of things. If we offer them a scholarship we think they're good enough to win a Big Ten championship for us."
NOTES: Dunn broke down the recruiting assignments of the new coaches on staff. Offensive line coach Greg Studrawa, who actually got onboard in time to go meet with each OL recruit before signing day, will handle Frederick and Carroll Counties locally, and then western Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh, and also Ohio, emphasis in Cincinnati and Cleveland.
Defensive line coach Chad Witt gets the counties of Montgomery, Allegany, Garrett and Washington, and into Virginia from Richmond to the Tidewater and that talent rich "757." He coached at Virginia, and also has roots out west, too, so he also handles Chicago and Indianapolis.
Receivers coach Keenan McCardell has Delaware locally, and obviously North Florida after his standout NFL career, mostly in Jacksonville. He'll also do Houston, Texas, his home.
Edsall said assistant coach Lyndon Johnson, recruiting down south last week, got caught in the Atlanta ice storm and had to abandon his car on the interstate.
While not offering specifics, Edsall, unsolicited, said that several commits were approached by other schools but Maryland was able to fend off the challengers.
The Terrapins, by recent standards small class, was a result of this year's small senior class. More returnees means fewer scholarships.
About local recruiting Edsall said this: "We want to recruit the best possible players here locally. Not everybody is going to fit the profile we have; we're not going to be able to keep them all at home, but the ones that we identified that we want to keep at home, that fit those particular needs for that year, fit the profile that we have, we're going to aggressively pursue them. I really believe that if we keep a nucleus of guys from this area at Maryland, that's going to make us a better football team."
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