Maryland was swarming with recruits for the Terps' first major junior day Feb. 22, as some of the area's elite locals and a few top out-of-towners made the trek over to College Park.
An estimated 60 prospects attended, among those Maryland offerees such as Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) quarterback Nick Johns, Gilman (Baltimore, Md.) signal caller Kai Locksley, Bishop McNamara (Forestville, Md.) cornerback Ashton White, Roosevelt (Greenbelt, Md.) tackle Isaiah Prince, St. Joseph's (Philadelphia, Pa.) corner John Reid and UMD commit E.J. Donahue (Linganore/Frederick, Md.).
Also in attendance were St. John's (Washington, D.C.) outside linebacker Eric Assoua, his teammate tight end Scottie Washington, Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) receiver Myles Robinson, Gilman safety Robert Branch, Wise (Upper Marlboro, Md.) tight end Trevor Brown, North Point (Waldorf, Md.) quarterback Brandon Battle, Sidwell Friends (Washington, D.C.) running back Christian Martey, Wilson (Washington, D.C.) linebacker Kareem McDonald, Potomac (Oxon Hill, Md.) running back Kesean Strong, and his teammate defensive tackle Keiron Howard.
Some of the out-of-towners were Manalapan (N.J.) kicker Michael Caggiano, Liberty (Bethlehem, Pa.) defensive tackle Louis Csaszar, New Rochelle (N.Y.) running back Jonathan Forrest, St. John Vianney (Holmdel, N.J.) defensive tackle Clay Kemp, Sayreville War Memorial (Parlan, N.J.) safety Myles Hartsfield, Westwood (Washington, N.J.) receiver Nolan Borgersen, St. Joseph's (Philadelphia, Pa.) running back Olamide Zaccheaus and Millburn (N.J.) tight end Jake Pickard.
There were a few notable sophomores on campus as well. That includes 14 Gilman recruits, headlined by recent offerees defensive tackle Ellison Jordan and defensive end Devery Hamilton, in addition to freshman quarterback Kasim Hill. DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) sophomore cornerback Daryl Turner was also in attendance.
Of course, quarterbacks always grab the spotlight, and we would be remiss if we didn't begin with one of the top triggermen on Maryland's radar: Nick Johns.
Johns, who also holds an offer from Virginia and could be closing in on Penn State, had plenty of praise for his hometown school.
"It went really well. I sat down and talked to Coach [Randy] Edsall and Coach [Mike] Locksley for about 30 minutes separately with my dad, so that was good to get my dad involved in all of that," Johns said. "Coach Edsall was just saying that he is always going to be straight up and tell me the truth during the recruiting process. They really treat me well up there, and my dad really liked what they were doing recruiting wise and their upside with them joining the Big Ten."
The Gonzaga gunslinger has oft repeated how his coach, Aaron Brady, runs a similar system to Maryland's, which makes the Terps appealing. Moreover, heading to Maryland would give him a chance to compete for a job early during his career. Johns, who plans to be at Maryland's basketball game Feb. 24, also mentioned how he and his father like Edsall's academic-oriented focus.
"Academically [Edsall] is always going to be on us, and he was telling us how he graduated 79 out of 80 players who went there for four years," Johns said. "And just getting my dad involved with the whole process with Maryland, and telling my dad what the playing-time situation would be like when I am come in -- there will be competition but hopefully not as much as some others schools, so my dad was really interested in all of that."
Besides meeting with Edsall, Johns sat down with his recruiter and quarterback coach, Mike Locksley, as well. He said there were only three quarterbacks in attendance: himself, Kai Locksley (who did not return calls for this story) and Gilman freshman Kasim Hill.
"[Locksley] talked about expectations for QBs like socially between the team, with the media. And he had us go through some of our plays and go through progressions and reads, and he tried to pick apart our brains a little bit," said Johns, who mentioned that Kai Locksley seemed to be enjoying himself as well. "It wasn't intimidating, though you kind of expect that going in, and Gonzaga really prepared me for that."
While the coach meetings struck home, Johns enjoyed hearing about Maryland's future plans as well. Namely, the $200 million indoor facility that is supposed to be constructed in short order.
"I actually just heard they are getting a … facility with an indoor football field and a new weight room and a new training facility," Johns said. "That was great; hopefully they can get that done quick [and] they are supposed to start hopefully in six months.
"That was definitely a top-notch facility; I have never seen anything like it basically. They were showing us little graphic images of it that they developed and it looks really nice."
The man who guards quarterbacks' blindsides, Isaiah Prince, was back in College Park for the first time since the fall. Prince recently named a top four of Maryland, Florida, Penn State and Auburn, and the Terps had a chance to make their most recent pitch Feb. 22.
"I saw the plans for the new football facilities. I thought it was great; it was really impressive," said Prince, who just picked up an offer from Ohio State. "It was a great time; I talked to Coach Locksley and it was my first time meeting Coach Stud [Greg Studrawa]."
Prince had a lot to say about Maryland's new offensive line coach. Apparently Studrawa left his mark, which could bode well for the Terps down the road.
"I think he is great. He said he is all about winning and building us as men -- not just football players and getting an education," Prince said. "He was saying how I could play early if I went there. He has a lot of guys in the NFL, and he has experience at the NFL Combine. He said my game is great, and he saw my film and he said he automatically knew I could be a great lineman. He said I could have an impact at the next level."
Edsall and Locksley had a similar message for Prince. It's obvious Maryland has made him a priority recruit along the lines of Damian Prince, last year's major offensive line signee.
"The coaches were talking about how good the line would be if I were to go there with me and Damian [Prince] on one side," Isaiah Prince said. "That was very interesting, and it would be very interesting especially working with him and coach Stud every day in practice if I was to go to Maryland."
Another key lineman in attendance, EJ Donahue, was the first 2015 Maryland commitment. However, in recent weeks he's taken a visit to West Virginia and procured offers from Wisconsin and Florida State. But the big Linganore tackle insisted he's still firmly on-board with the Terps.
"I love Maryland. The opportunity right now is just too great to pass up," Donahue said. "Everything is coming together for Maryland. I'm committed to Maryland, but if i do visit other schools and look around it's just because I'm enjoying the recruiting process. I'm a Terp."
Donahue went on to say he loved the junior day experience, from meeting with the staff again to interacting with other recruits.
"The junior day was great, they really did an awesome job with the information and tours being given," he said. "They definitley set out to show the recruits what Maryland can offer that no one else can. And my favorite part was sitting one-on-one with Coach Edsall, and just getting to talk about the future and everything going on there."
From nearby McNamara, Ashton White, a 6-foot, 182-pound Virginia Tech commit, has Maryland firmly on the radar. After this most recent junior day, he said the Terps are "definitely in the game, definitely."
"It was a great time; I had a real good time. I've seen everything there since I've been there so much, but I really thought the academics support staff was cool. They talked about what they had planned for the athletes and stuff like that," White said. "I also thought it was cool Maryland is getting an indoor facility, and I really liked that. A new facility, and with them going to the Big 10, it's awesome."
The McNamara corner said he had a chance to speak to Mike Locksley and Randy Edsall, but defensive coordinator Brian Stewart wasn't there.
"[Edsall and Locksley] were happy to see me, they enjoyed having me up there and said I should stop by anytime," said White, who plans to be at Penn State's spring game in March. "They're recruiting me, you know? And I'll probably be back up there soon, for the spring game and a spring practice too."
One of the guys White will be covering on the gridiron this year, Good Counsel's Myles Robinson, chimed in on his experience as well. The speedy receiver already holds offers from Michigan State and Virginia, but believes he'll have the hometown verbal by late next week.
"The coaches told me they're extremely interested in me, and they're almost 100 percent sure I should get the offer next week at some point. Most likely I'll know by Friday," Robinson said. "That was definitely the best part of the whole trip, hearing how they wanted me there."
So, what would a UMD offer mean to Robinson?
"It would change a lot with what I think of them," he said. "It's the home school, and my mom and family could come to all my games. I'm really hoping to get the offer, since Maryland has definitely been a school I'd be looking at."
While on the visit Robinson had a fairly lengthy conversation with Mike Locksley and new receivers coach Keenan McCardell. Naturally, he had high praise for both.
"Coach Locks is a great guy and I had a good conversation with him. He said they throw the ball and use their receivers a lot, so that's really making Maryland stand out and move up my list," Robinson said. "And Coach Keenan, it was cool because my mom already knew him from awhile back. I had a good talk with him too."
Robinson, who is thinking about visiting Miami next week, said Maryland and Iowa are the two schools closest to offering next. He said in addition to Michigan State and Virginia, he's in touch with the Terps and Hawkeyes the most.
Two of Robinson's rivals from nearby St. John's were on campus as well. Defensive end/outside linebacker Eric Assoua made the short drive to College Park with tight end Scottie Washington.
"I liked the players' lounge, and all the jerseys they had, especially the red jerseys," Assoua said. "I tried on the Stefon Diggs jersey, that was the best part for me (laughs). And I got to meet one of their receivers, Deon Long, and he was pretty cool… But I think just going on the field again, that was awesome too."
Assoua said the Terps are recruiting him as an outside linebacker. During the visit he had a chance to meet UMD linebackers coach Lyndon Johnson.
"We watched film, and I liked the way he explained the defense -- like how they moved in it and what their linebackers did. He seemed like a good coach," Assoua said.
Right now Assoua holds a pair of MAC offers and isn't sure if or when Maryland will come through. He said he's probably have to attend a camp and be further evaluated by the staff.
"I really don't know what Maryland thinks of me yet," said Assoua, who plans to attend Rutgers' junior day March 29 and Western Michigan's at some point this spring. "They're going to keep in touch, see me at camp, see me at my school. If they did offer, though, it would mean a lot; I'm very high on them."
Washington doesn't hold a UMD scholarship either, and he too will have to show out at camp and on the field to procure one.
"[The coaches] didn't say much about an offer, but Coach Dunn could see me playing downfield tight end and catching the ball, and he sees me fitting well into the offense," Washington said. "Coach Locksley said pretty much the same thing, and he wants to keep putting weight on."
The St. John's tight end has been in College Park upwards of 10 times now. He said this Feb. 22 trip was a particularly good one, however.
"It was really fun. I really liked what Maryland had to offer," said Washington, who has been to a Virginia Tech junior day and will see Duke March 8. "Obviously I liked the Under Armour connection with St. John's and Kevin Plank, and I also like the academics. I'd be really excited if Maryland offered; it would be one of my top choices."
From over in Prince George's County, a number of recruits made their way to College Park, including Wise tight end Trevor Brown and Potomac Wolverines KeSean Strong and Keiron Howard.
Strong, a running back, said he could be closing in on his first offer.
"I think I'm really close. Coach Powell said he really likes the way I run," Strong said. "I wouldn't commit immediately if I got [the Maryland scholarship], but I would highly consider going there. I've been there four or five times now and I'm pretty high on them."
Of the visit itself, Strong said he had a good time touring the facility and trying on the Under Armour gear. His favorite part, however, was talking to the coaches.
"Just breaking into groups and going with the position coaches, I really liked that," said Strong, who will make a number of college visits this summer, with the next one being to N.C. State. "I talked to Coach Powell and he was telling me what I can work on and what the offense is like and stuff like that. It gave me a good understanding of what they do there."
Howard, meanwhile, currently holds offers from Tennessee and Temple, but he's not sure where UMD stands with him. He said the staff is still evaluating him and hasn't indicated a verbal is close.
But even though Howard didn't get the coveted Terps scholarship, he still had a good time on campus.
"I liked the tour we did and how the coaches talked about how the defense attacked," Howard said. "Coach [Chad] Wilt, I think he's good. He's a real nice guy; I learned hand movements, stances, things like that. It was informative.
"I also liked trying on the jerseys. I tried on the Black Ops Under Armour one, and that was really cool."
Right now, though, barring a sudden change, the Volunteers are a clear favorite. In fact, Howard hinted he could commit to Tennessee during his next visit.
"I've been down to Tennessee for a camp and another visit, and I'm going back in the spring," Howard said. "I'd say they're my favorite right now."
Potomac's county rival, Wise, sent tight end Trevor Brown over to College Park Feb. 22. The 6-6, 250-pounder has been on campus before, but this was his most extensive visit yet.
"It was real nice; I liked it a lot," Brown said. "The academic portion and support there was big for me. Everyone gets a tutor for their position.
"And I liked the Under Armour stuff. They're the first team to get all that new stuff since the dude who created Under Armour [Kevin Plank] went there, and that's awesome."
Brown had a chance to speak to his position coach John Dunn, who is also the UMD recruiting coordinator. The Wise tight end said Dunn is still evaluating him and he'd have to come to a camp and perform before an offer is considered.
"[Dunn] said I'm looking good, but I just have to show out, do my thing," Brown said. "I liked talking to [Dunn]; he was giving me tips and he's a good guy."
If Maryland did eventually offer, the Terps would be in a very good position for Brown's services.
"I love it because Maryland is close to home," said Brown, who has interest from N.C. State and Kentucky and will likely be visiting the Wolfpack March 29. "I already like it a good amount."
Brandon Battle, the North Point quarterback, and Christian Martey, the Sidwell Friends running back, also chimed in. Neither seems to be getting a serious look at this time, but Battle thanked Locksley for inviting him and said he had fun, while Martey mentioned that he had a great all-around trip.
Kareem McDonald, meanwhile, did his usual mass posting on Twitter. He has done little to hide his affection for UMD, though at this time he does not hold an offer.
One of the more intriguing out-of-state recruits in attendance was Jake Pickard, an offensive lineman/tight end. He indicated previously he was closing in on an offer, and that looks like more of a possibility following the Feb. 22 trip.
"Coach [Keith] Dudzinski had said he wanted them to offer me in his personal report, and he'll let me know by Tuesday, Wednesday (at the) latest," Pickard said.
If the scholarship is on the table, expect to Pickard, who doesn't hold any offers yet, to give Maryland a long, hard look. He thoroughly enjoyed meeting the coaches, the players and touring the school.
"The whole coaching staff and atmosphere (stood out). It wasn't just a football team," Pickard said. "Every coach was different and had their own personality, and you could really tell that they would do anything for the Maryland program."
Another Jersey recruit, Myles Hartsfield, had a good time as well. The safety was recently at Penn State, lauding State College, Pa., but he had equal praise for College Park.
"Maryland was great. I really like where the program is heading," Hartsfield said. "I learned a lot [Feb. 22]. Their education is great, and my family and my best friend really liked it."
Hartsfield hinted heading into the Maryland trip that he could leave with an offer, though that didn't happen. The Terps could make a push in short order, however, joining Syracuse and Rutgers, which have already offered. If PSU pulled the trigger the Nittany Lions would be considered the favorite, but Hartsfield said schools like UMD and Rutgers would be "right up there."
Sticking with this Jersey boys theme, wide receiver Nolan Borgersen made it down to College Park. Borgersen doesn't have any offers yet, but he said Maryland, Boston College, Duke and Northwestern have been in touch. He is particularly high on the Terps and said the staff is monitoring him and he'd welcome an offer.
"It was really cool down there. The facilities there they're building are going to be unbelievable and the campus was beautiful too," said Borgersen, who will visit Rutgers next weekend. "And they have a new receivers coach, Keenan Mccardell, who played in the NFL for 17 years, and he was awesome. I talked to Coach Dudzinski and Coach Edsall too, and they both really like me.
"[Edsall] said they're a school that just doesn't throw out offers, and they really do their homework on kids. They've been up to the school twice so I know they're looking at me. [Dudzinski] said he'd be Facebooking me after the staff watches film on receivers this week. I know they're only taking one or two receivers in my class, so it's going to be tight."
From a state away, in New York, running back Jonathan Forrest trekked to College Park Feb. 22. A 5-10, 200 pounder with solid speed, he's still looking for his first scholarship, but believes Maryland is at least considering one.
"Coach Dudzinski told me that they are evaluating the RBs this coming week and will let me know by Friday if they are going to offer and where I stand on their board," he said.
Of the trip, Jones said the coaching staff and academics impressed him. He mentioned how, if given the opportunity, he could "really see myself" at Maryland.
"Overall, I loved the coaching staff; I felt extremely comfortable around them," Jones said. "Also the campus is beautiful and really diverse."
Sticking with the New England region, kicker Michael Caggiano came down from Manalapan, N.J. to see Maryland for the second time. He'd previously attended a camp in College Park and plans to do another this summer.
"It was very nice, an awesome day, great weather. It was my first junior day, and I liked it all. It was a great experience," Caggiano said. "My favorite part was seeing the weight room. The trainer spoke about how kickers are trained differently then regular football players and should train differently then the bigger guys, so that really stood out."
Caggiano, who is receiving interest from East Carolina, Duke, Boston College, Penn State, Miami of Ohio, Yale and ODU, isn't sure whether or not UMD will use a scholarship on a kicker. But he did get some positive vibes from special teams coach Andre Powell.
"Coach Powell said this is a big year for me. He said if I perform well at camp they'd offer me," said Caggiano, who is visiting ECU today and Rutgers March 29. "I liked that a lot. If [Maryland] did offer I'd 100 percent consider it. I'm definitely coming down June 14 for their next camp."
Fellow Jersey native, defensive tackle Clayton Kemp, is still searching for his first verbal as well. The burly plugger has plenty of interest, including some from Maryland, but he's unsure how hard the Terps will push.
That said, he did have a great time at the junior day.
"I loved everything there. The education they have is top notch, the coaches are real and are a great bunch of guys. I loved the facilities; the field is beautiful," Kemp said. "I really loved the enthusiasm the coaches had about being successful in the Big Ten; that's what really caught my attention. They really know what it will take to be successful at the next level.
"Overall the visit was amazing and I plan on going back to watch a spring practice in the next month or so."
There were a few recruits from Pennsylvania as well, headlined by John Reid. The four-star corner has a slew of offers on the table, though he's remained relatively mum about his recruiting. In fact, he didn't offer a whole lot about the UMD trip except to say, "The coaches were really cool. It was great to meet the staff."
His teammate, running back Olamide Zaccheaus, had a bit more to say. Zaccheaus currently holds verbals from Miami, Temple and Pittsburgh, but said Maryland, Rutgers, Penn State and others are monitoring him.
"I like the direction Maryland is going," Zaccheaus said. "They bring a lot to the table when it comes to academics and supporting players making sure they graduate. The coaches seem to be straightforward and truthful with their coaching approach. It also seems like the coaches have an extreme care for each player."
Zaccheaus mentioned that if Maryland were to offer, he'd definitely have UMD under consideration. At this time, however, he's still being evaluated and there's no indication a huge push will be made.
A third Key Stone State prospect, Louis Csazar, is looking for an offer as well. A 6-4, 280 pound guard/tackle, Csazar said John Dunn is impressed with his game and wants him to return for a one-day this summer.
"Coach Dunn invited me down [Feb. 22], and he's been in touch," Csazar said. "It would be nice to show enough to get an offer from them, because I really like the school."
Indeed he did. Csazar said everything from the facilities to the coaches to the campus tour stood out.
"I talked to Coach Dunn and the offensive line coach too, Greg Studrawa. They were both great; Studrawa was a really cool guy," said Csazar, who is hearing from Pittsburgh, Maryland, Miami, Penn State, Kentucky and Missouri, but is being recruited hardest by Villanova and Delaware. "He's someone who you'd want to play under for four years.
"And then the academics, I really like how the coaches focus on that. That was big for me. The jerseys, those were really cool too. It was like the Under Armour 2.0 ones that are coming out this year – they were awesome."
There were a couple awesome sophomores who chimed in about their UMD experience. Most notably, Gilman defensive end Devery Hamilton, who received his Terps offer while on campus.
"Well we were eating dinner and Coach Edsall came over and asked me if I had heard about the news, and I said no, and he said, ‘The good news is I am offering you a full scholarship to the University of Maryland,'" Hamilton said. "It was pretty exciting. I was surprised … and also just very happy, because their running backs coach sat with us while we were eating and he asked if I had talked to Coach Edsall yet. And I said no, and then Edsall came over and said [I had the offer]."
After receiving the scholarship, Hamilton spoke to Edsall one-on-one during dinner.
"Coach Edsall told me he had seen my highlight tape and he thinks I could be a key piece in their defense and I could be someone who really helps the program," Hamilton said. "He said he couldn't really talk to me after today, but after Sept. 1 he could start calling me, and he invited me to the basketball game [Feb. 24] so I might try to go."
Hamilton also holds offers from Michigan State and Charlotte. During the Maryland trip, he spent a good deal of time chatting up defensive line coach Chad Wilt.
"[Wilt] was really exciting in the meeting. He got us super pumped up and showed us some highlights from last year," Hamilton said. "He had a great energy and he said he had seen my highlight tape and liked the way I played. I really liked talking to him. He was showing us some moves, and he was just saying how much he loves the D-line there even though he just got there -- just the way they play and how much he'd love for me to come there and help out the program."
Hamilton's linemate, Ellison Jordan, just chimed in about his Terps offer Feb. 21. The sturdy tackle then let us know what he thought of UMD following the junior day.
"I loved it; the uniforms are just lovely -- the red, the Maryland pride, I just loved it," Jordan said. "I saw the plans for the new facilities and those were real cool. The Maryland walk was probably my favorite part; it looked like it was going to be really big and really nice.
"Trying on the equipment was great -- they are getting all new customized cleats. I tried on the red jersey, the helmet, the gloves -- I got a picture in it all."
While Jordan relished in the uniforms, he spent much of his time talking to Edsall and Wilt. The latter left an impression with his energy and enthusiasm.
"[Wilt] is a coach I really like and he is so enthusiastic, and he likes me. Just his ability to produce quality D-linemen, and he is just so energetic and knows a lot about football," Jordan said. "And he was saying that he wants to have me out there a lot and get to know me better. He was saying I really have good quickness and tenacity. But he got me so juiced up during the position meetings and he was real, real cool.
"And [Edsall], we were having a good conversation. He was just saying he was really interested [in me] and he told me more about their communications program, and he was telling me what a good program they have there. It was really cool talking to him; he is a really cool guy."
Jordan left the visit beaming. In fact, he downright lauded College Park, more so than pretty much any other recruit on campus.
"It was really, really cool. I felt like I fit in and I really felt like a Maryland Terrapin," Jordan said. "It was a great experience; I saw a lot of my friends there too. Now I am not saying I am going to go there; I am still keeping my options open because it's early, but that will be one of the schools that I will be looking into real closely."
Daryl Turner was actually supposed to be a junior this year, but he reclassified after being injured all last season. He is now in the 2016 class and said that should help him with his recruiting.
"I talked to Coach Locksley and Coach Edsall, and they haven't offered me yet, but now that I'm in 2016 they said they're definitely going to be looking at my tape this year and see if I come back strong," Turner said. "It was a good conversation I had with them."
Turner said he's been to Maryland plenty of times, but he was really impressed with the new facilities the school is building, and just the overall direction of the program.
"Maryland is a great school; I really like it," said Turner, who is hearing from Virginia Tech, California, North Carolina, Duke and Maryland. "The uniforms, I love those, and the academic support is really good, and that's a big part of my decision."
Rachel Klein and Brian Dohn contributed to this article
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