Maryland secured a commitment from Anthony Wayne (Whitehouse, Ohio) offensive center/guard Mason Zimmerman June 15, and afterwards we spoke to his head coach, Craig Smith, to get a bit more insight into the latest Terps' pledge.
Here's our Q&A session with Smith:
Terrapin Times: Coach, wanted to ask you a question about Maryland first. The Terps are obviously trying to be more active in Ohio with their Big Ten move. Have you seen the Maryland staff being more active up there the last couple years?
Craig Smith: I know two Maryland coaches, Andre Powell and Greg Studrawa, both came up through here and said they were looking to be more active up here. They said with moving to the Big Ten they wanted to have more of a presence in Ohio, so I do think they are going to make an effort to get kids out of here.
But, you know, we already had a connection to Maryland because our former punter, Travis Baltz, played for [the Terps] three or four years ago. Travis loved Maryland when he was there and really spoke highly of the program. He actually talked to Mason about it, and I think that helped [Zimmerman] to get a great feel for Maryland before he even went there. Then obviously he visited and really liked Coach Stud and enjoyed being on campus, but he first got interested in [the Terps] because he knows Travis.
TT: So even though Travis is several years older than Mason they know each other pretty well?
CS: Oh yeah. We're a small, tight community up here and everybody knows each other. Travis did well down there and spoke highly of the school. Whether or not that convinced Mason to go to Maryland, I don't know, but I do know that Mason loved the coaches, the campus, the academics and is really excited about it. I'm really excited for him too; I think Maryland is a great school and a great fit for him.
TT: What kind of a player are the Terps getting here Coach?
CS: You're getting a real competitive, hard-nosed kid who has a high-character. We run the ball a lot here, so Mason excels at run blocking – that's what he does best. He gets a good push off the ball, he's quick, very strong and he can move. He gets good leverage, he's aggressive, and he can get to the second level and finish for you.
Mason is going to have to work on his pass blocking since we don't do a lot of that here, but once he gets into the college program he'll be fine. He's going to learn a lot from Coach Stud about all that good stuff, and he's going to do well [at Maryland]. He's really excited to get down there to learn and work, and he's going to be a good player for [the Terps].
TT: Mason didn't know exactly what position he'd be playing, but I assume he'll be a center. What's your take?
CS: Yeah, center or guard, but it depends on what Coach Stud wants from him. Mason is the type of kid who will play wherever he's told. He's not going to complain or anything like that. You tell him what needs to be done and he'll get it done. He'll compete and do a real good job.
TT: Coach, I know you've seen your share of FBS players up there in Ohio. When did you know that Mason could be an FBS-caliber player?
CS: Last year Mason really developed for us and took on a leadership role. He really started to mature physical last year, growing to 6-5 and putting on good weight. He really put in the work in the weight room and transformed his body last season.
And we have a tackle who is starting at Iowa now, and Mason is a little bit shorter than him, but they're a similar type of kid in terms of work ethic, demeanor and skill level. So we have one lineman starting at a Big Ten school right now, and we should have another in Mason.
TT: Now I know Maryland was the only Big Ten school to offer Mason, though. He said Northwestern and Illinois are still evaluating him. Any reason none of the other schools pulled the trigger?
CS: We really respect all those schools, and you know, they may have been looking at some other kids and are waiting to hear back from some other linemen. But Mason is going to be just fine at Maryland. You know, the recruiting game is a funny business. It is what it is. But we love Maryland, we love the academics, we love the coaches – Coach Powell and Coach Stud were great when they came up here – and we love the situation down there. Mason feels really good about Maryland and he's excited to get down there, and ultimately that's what matters.
TT: Coach, did you know Coach Powell or Coach Stud before they began recruiting Mason?
CS: You know, I really didn't, but they're classy guys. I've done this a long time, and you can't find two classier individuals than Coach Powell and Coach Stud. I know Mason really valued his relationship with Coach Stud and what he can teach him, and I know he's eager to work with him.
TT: I wanted to ask you about Maryland recruiting in Ohio. Do you think it's possible for the Terps to make even more in-roads into Ohio and get a couple kids each year from up there?
CS: Oh yeah, I definitely do. There's a lot of really good football players, a lot of linemen, up here and not all of them can go to Michigan or Ohio State. There's some solid Big Ten guys up here, and Maryland should be able to get a couple of them if they keep at it.
TT: Wanted to get back to Mason here before we close this out. Just from talking to him, he seems like he has a very strong family support system. He really values his parents, and it came across when I was interviewing him.
CS: Oh yeah, Mason is a very high-character kid who is all about the team. He's a natural leader, and he's actually the captain of the baseball team here. (His sister is the same way; she's the captain of the volleyball team here). So he's just a good kid with great parents, and I can't say enough about him. And he's very competitive and hard working on top of that, so he's the type of kid you want in your program.
TT: Last question, Coach. Is there a play you can recall that really defined Mason as a player? Any play stick out in your mind?
CS: We had a kid break away for a 70-yard touchdown. Mason was the center on the play and was blocking down on the run, but when our running back broke away Mason was full speed running down the field. I mean, Mason was like stride for stride for like 60 yards, just looking back every now and again for somebody to block.
Mason has that kind of drive -- to continue to block, to continue to run, to continue to work. He didn't have to run down the field on that play, because our guy was going to score anyway. But the fact he did that, and showed that kind of effort, it was very impressive to me.
Coach Speak: Craig Smith on Mason Zimmerman
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