Big Picture Look at Latest Commitment

Keith Cavanaugh takes a closer look at what McDonogh (Owings Mills, Md.) offensive lineman Ellis McKennie's commitment to Maryland means for the program as a whole.

Landing a commitment from a "need" position from one of the state's top prep powers, a school in which the Terps were looking for something of a rebound after last year's messy Jared Cohen split…

Another key, early verbal pledge after going eight months between commitments in the 2015 class…

Finally, an athletic offensive guard from one of the state's most accomplished offensive lines, coached by former Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Spencer Folau…

Bundle it all up, and that's what the Terps got with this week's pledge from McDonogh (Owings Mills, Md.) guard Ellis McKennie, the third commitment of the incoming class.

McKennie, who had long favored Maryland, hits on a lot of key points, obviously.

Maryland has had decade-long woes on the offensive line -- ranging from prospect hits and misses, to freak accidents, to transfers -- and pivoting to the Big Ten next month they need plenty more beef up front to begin with.

Now, the 2015 class is off to a quick start among the 'big nasties,' with McKennie preceded by four-star Linganore (Frederick, Md.) tackle E.J. Donahue back in October.

Maryland, which has constantly been re-tooling and trying to upgrade up front, couldn't have gotten them at a better time, what with in the last two weeks saying goodbye to promising freshman tackle Moise Larose (university student-athlete code of conduct violation/one-year suspension) and the loss of incoming four-star junior-college All-American tackle Larry Mazyck, who fell short of qualifying in time for Randy Edsall.

Larose will likely have to attend community college, and it remains to be seen whether he will return to College Park, Md. Mazyck is gone for good, though he could qualify this summer and play for another DI school. The two local losses stung no doubt.

The Terps were already thin enough up front, what with a starting group last year comprised, in part, of former walk-ons and converted defensive linemen -- not to mention freshmen and sophomores trying to hold the fort down along another dangerously thin group. Larose, as a true freshman last fall, started a game at left tackle due to injuries. The Terps lose center and line leader Sal Conaboy to graduation after this season, while they still don't have a starter at right guard. Overall, they need more physical, nasty trench-men, to tell the truth.

Maryland welcomes two elite tackles -- five-star tackle Damian Prince and four-star tackle Derwin Gray -- this fall, but continuing to stockpile offensive linemen is essential in their move to the Big Ten this summer.

McKennie is a bright and upwardly mobile line prospect who excels in aggressive run blocking while improving in pass pro. McDonogh may have the best offensive line coach in the state in Folau, and many compare McDonogh's cohesive and technically advanced front to some small college lines, as they are that dominant and technically sound. Just ask Gilman, which McDonogh ran all over in the 2013 season finale for conference supremacy.

McKennie, who had early offers from Maryland, Rutgers and Marshall and was on the verge of a next wave of offers, projects as a three-star national talent according to most. He has refined craft, and at 6-feet-3, 305-pounds, plays and looks lighter than that.

Beyond the player and his tangible skills, it was imperative to bounce back strong at the top Baltimore power after the Cohen debacle a year ago. The addition of athlete Josh Woods last year, and now McKennie, well it proves there is no hangover at the school and Cohen was an isolated incident.

Meanwhile, Terps inside linebacker coach Keith Dudzinski continues to prove he is among Maryland's best recruiters, adding McKennie this week while in each of the last three classes he has brought in elites in four-star linebacker Abner Logan, four-star tight Andrew Isaacs and four-star receiver Juwann Winfree. He gets it done, and often in tough spots for the Terps historically. His message and personality has obviously been resonating, and with all the talent McDonogh continues to accumulate, his presence will serve the Terps well at the power led by veteran coach Dom Damico.

McDonogh also has 2015 linebacker Wyatt Cook, another touted prospect that Dudzinski has the Terps in excellent early shape for, and UMD will undoubtedly get involved with top 2016 athlete Eric Burrell. McDonogh corner/slot Kareem Montgomery, who led Baltimore in picks last season for most of the year, is also camping at College Park this summer. Suffice to say, it's a perennial power you want to remain tight with.

There are several young linemen the Terps have high hopes for -- ranging from Texas 2014 signee Brendan Moore to redshirt freshman JaJuan Dulaney, who is coming off knee surgery. But the Terps still need both quantity and quality in a big way as they make their BIG move.

The 2015 offensive line group has begun to come together, and hopefully both Donahue and McKennie continue to spread the word among their classmates. And there's no denying the impact of quality locals like these have in hopefully turning around some of the local flight of late. The Terps missed on four-star local legacy lineman Richie Petitbon (Alabama) this winter, and need to need to keep other top locals -- four-star Friendship Collegiate Academy (Washington, D.C.) guard Quarvez Boulware And four-star Roosevelt (Greenbelt, Md.) tackle Isaiah Prince -- home next as they assemble the coming class at this crucial unit.

Maryland will have to stay on Donahue, as he has made college trips since his fall commitment to UMD. But he told TT last week that he is firm. McKennie is rock-solid, and if the Terps can pluck multiple talents from the Baltimore power McDonogh, well there's one local program they can depend on regularly. McKennie's pledge this week may have affirmed that.

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