LEONARDTOWN, Md. – St. Mary's Ryken in Southern Maryland has secured many of the Charles County and St. Mary's County talents, and the school now produces its share of Division I recruits every year. The 2015 class features a pair of scholarship linemen in guard Barnabas Baning and defensive end Casey Bernard, but the 2016 class has upwards of seven scholarship players, including two who have a shot to reach college football's top levels.
Safety Damien Jones is a 5-foot-11, 210-pound thumper with 4.5 40-yard dash speed, while offensive guard Matthew Hunt is a 6-2, 290-pounder who looks the part.
Jones, according to Ryken head coach Jerry Franks, could be his most marketable 2016 talent, though the recruiting hasn't really picked up in earnest yet.
"So far the only schools I've really heard from are Northwestern and Georgia State. I feel like I'm a sleeper right now," Jones said. "But I'm looking to change that this offseason and summer. I'm working on my size, my agility, my bench, my squad, my speed – just trying to get better. I feel like by the end of next season I'll have a couple offers on the table."
The Southern Maryland plans to attend one-day camps this summer at Maryland, NC State, North Carolina and Pittsburgh in order to increase his exposure.
"I think once these schools see me in action they'll take a longer look at me," Jones said. "I can play press, zone, I can hit and I can pursue. I'm a good all-around safety, and I think that's going to help me [with recruiting]."
So far Jones hasn't toured any campuses, but he did take in games at UNC, UMD and West Virginia. Of those, he liked the Tar Heels and Terps, nothing the stadium atmosphere in Chapel Hill, N.C., and the overall vibe at Maryland.
"Maryland is a school I really, really like. It's the hometown team and I came to like them because they're familiar," Jones said. "I know people from around here who are going there, and I'd love to go there and do the same things they're doing.
"And I really like what they bring to the table defensively. I feel like it would be a good fit for me. I like how they play and I like their aggressive style."
Jones went on to say that UMD's Under Armour affiliation and Big Ten move were appealing as well.
"Maryland is going to do real well in the Big Ten. It's going to help raise recruiting and interest in the school," he said.
But while the Ryken safety would love a Terps offer, his dream school is actually one of the Florida programs.
"I'd love to hear from any DI school but my favorite is ‘The U,'" Jones said. "Ed Reed, Sean Taylor – I love Miami."
The guard Hunt, meanwhile, has already started to hear from numerous programs via social media. He said Wake Forest, Iowa, UNC, Mississippi State, Penn State and UMD have all shown early interest.
While Hunt doesn't claim any early favorites -- he admitted he'd like to hear from Virginia Tech, Virginia and some California schools -- he said the local school definitely holds water.
"If Maryland offered it would mean a lot – a whole lot," Hunt said. "It's the hometown school, and a lot of my friends talk to me about Maryland and how they like Coach [Mike] Locksley and Coach [Randy] Edsall. I'm good friends with guys who are there now and they say how great a school it is."
Hunt said he actually grew up a Terps fan and has seen them play on TV multiple times. He hasn't been to any games in person yet but plans to this fall.
"It would mean a lot to my family if I was recruited by Maryland, too," Hunt added. "To be close to home, so my mom could see me play, that would mean a lot. I'd really like to get to know Coach Locksley more."
The Ryken lineman attended a Terps one-day camp his freshman year and plans to participate in another this June. He'll also hit UNC, NC State, PSU, Vanderbilt, Iowa and Rutgers for one-days.
"I actually haven't taken any visits yet, so these camps will be the first time I've gotten out this year," Hunt said. "I was supposed to go to spring practices at UNC, and Penn State, but I couldn't make it."
This offseason Hunt said he's been honing his all-around game. He spends each afternoon in the weight room and then goes through drills on his own.
"I'm trying to have quicker feet, better balance, a better first step and work on my hands," Hunt said. "I just want to be a better all-around lineman."
TT Spring Tour:SMR's Matt Hunt & Damien Jones
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