Maryland is continuing to make a strong push for Ridge Point (Missouri City, Texas) safety Jameel Cook, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound three-star who has held a Maryland offer for several months now. Cook's recruiting has grown exponentially since the evaluation period began, but even as he's added offers from Arizona State, Kentucky, Minnesota and others, the Lone Star State product is keeping the Terps in the driver's seat.
"You know, the recruiting really picked up. I had six offers one day and now I'm at 15," said Cook, who holds offers from UMD, Kentucky, Utah, Colorado, Colorado State, Illinois, Indiana, Memphis, Minnesota, Missouri, UTSA, Louisiana Tech and others. "So I'm really enjoying it, and it's cool. But you can only go to one school, and right now I'm getting a good idea what schools I really want to look at.
"Maryland, that's my No. 1; they're right there for me. Kentucky, they're right there too, probably No. 2. I like Arizona State, Utah and Missouri – I have relationships with all of them, but right now the two I'm really feeling good about are Maryland and Kentucky."
Terps area recruiter Keenan McCardell has developed a strong rapport with Cook, who is the son of the former NFL fullback by the same name. The two are in contact every week, and McCardell has been through Ridge Point a couple times to talk to the coaches. In fact, McCardell was just at Ridge Point's spring game May 29 in order to see Cook in action.
"It meant a lot to see Coach McCardell there. I waved at him and it was good to see him on the sidelines," Cook said. "At first I was worried I wasn't going to put on a good show for him because we were losing 21-0, and I'm not going to lie, on one play I bit on a play-action and got beat deep. But I recovered pretty well and ended up catching a 21-yard touchdown and having a 35-yard run, and our side came back to tie it at 21-21. So that was great for us.
"But [afterwards], I couldn't really talk to [McCardell], but there's really not much more that needs to be said anyway. I mean, we're very, very close. Coach McCardell played with my dad and they won a Super Bowl together, so we have that connection going. And his daughter, who just graduated, went to school with me.
"It's a very personal connection we have. Coach McCardell already knows what kind of person I am, how hard I work and what I'm about just from being my dad's son, and there's a trust there. I probably have a closer relationship with Coach McCardell than any other coach."
McCardell isn't the only Maryland coach Cook has spoken to. He also had a phone conversation with head coach Randy Edsall.
"I was telling Coach Edsall the other day how excited I am to see Maryland. I was telling him that Maryland is still my top," Cook said. "And Coach Edsall, he loves me and I know he wants me there. He's cool because he doesn't pressure me or anything, and he was even cracking a few jokes. He's definitely a good guy."
Cook plans to visit College Park, Md., for the first time in late July or August. He's going to be taking some summer classes in June (Cook transferred from Dulles High last year and has to make up credits), so he won't be able to take any trips until those are completed.
"I'm looking forward to meeting all the coaches, the players and seeing how everyone interacts at Maryland," Cook said. "Right now, aside from what I've heard from Coach McCardell, I really don't know too much about the university. I know they're moving to the Big Ten, which is great, but I really need to see the school for myself."
Although he has never been to Maryland before, Cook does have nearby connections. He has an aunt that lives in Pennsylvania and an uncle in Virginia.
"Having family close by definitely gives Maryland a leg up," Cook said. "There's comfort knowing there's family around."
While Cook had plenty to say about the Terps, Kentucky is sitting almost even with UMD. The chance to play in the SEC, the relationship he has with the staff, and the fact that he knows several people in and around Wildcat country are all major plusses for KU.
"Kentucky has a great defensive backs coach who can help me get to the next level, and I have a great relationship with their staff," Cook said. "My godmother just moved to the area, too, which is nice, and I know a lot of people around there. I'm looking forward to visiting Kentucky too."
Due to his busy schedule with track, school and workouts, Cook has only been able to see Nebraska and Missouri recently. And the only schools he knows he's tripping to this summer are UMD and KU.
"I'll probably hit a couple others as they come up, but I'm definitely getting to Maryland and Kentucky. Those are the two I know I have to get to," Cook said.
Cook, however, does not plan to announce his college decision until November or December. He said he wants to play out his senior year and put recruiting on the backburner before revisiting it late during the year.
"There's going to be some other teams that get involved with me, I'm sure. I'm sure some of these bigger schools in Texas and other places will offer at some point," Cook said. "But I'll tell you, they better get in there fast, because I'm not the type of person who is going to just jump on with them because they're a big school. I'm going to go with a school that was there from the start -- a school that wanted me all along."
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