Maryland secured a commitment from Ridge Point (Missouri City, Texas) safety Jameel Cook June 20, and afterwards we spoke to his head coach, Brett Sniffen, to gain more insight into the 6-foot-1, 187-pounder.
Here's our Q&A session with Sniffen:
Terrapin Times:Coach, first of all, I always ask head coaches what their players bring to a team. I know Jameel played at Dulles High last year, but from watching film and what you've seen in spring ball, what does Jameel bring to Maryland's defense?
Brett Sniffen: He's just a playmaker. He has a nose for the ball, he has a knack for creating turnovers, he plays fast and sideline to sideline. At safety, he's going to do a good job for what we want our safeties to do, which is come down the ally and make the tackle. And he's also good over the top in how he tracks the ball. He's a complete player.
TT: I know he's played outside linebacker most of his life. Can he make that transition to safety pretty seamlessly?
BS: Oh yeah, I have no doubt about that. In 7-on-7 he's had a couple picks and looked really good. He had a little trouble at first staying on top of guys, but he adapted quickly. He's going to have no problems making that transition. He has all the physical qualities and the instincts needed to do it.
TT: What does Jameel need to do, though, to be ready for the next level? What does he have to do to be ready for the Big Ten?
BS: It's just more time at safety and more experience there. He's still growing and adding strength too. He'll be about 210, 215 pounds and he'll get a lot stronger by the time he gets to the next level.
TT:Now, in the recruiting process, Jameel had a lot of offers closer to Texas like Missouri, Kentucky and places like that. Were you surprised he came all the way out to College Park?
BS: I'm not surprised at all. Coach [Keenan] McCardell had a great relationship with him and did a great job recruiting him. And if I'm not mistaken, Coach McCardell and his father played together in the NFL, so he's known him for a long time. Jameel just felt very comfortable with him, so it didn't surprise me at all.
TT: Is Jameel going to be a kid that's OK playing so far from home? Maryland is a long way away from Texas…
BS: Well, Jameel is already away from home. He's from Miami originally, so he's not home now. He's used to moving around and adapting, so I think he'll do just fine at Maryland.
TT: What is your relationship like with Coach McCardell? How did you view him when he came through the school?
BS: Well I've known Coach McCardell for awhile now. His daughter was the setter on our volleyball team. He lives in our neighborhood. He's a great guy, gets along great with the kids and he really is a great ambassador for Maryland. Maryland is lucky to have him.
TT: What kind of potential does Jameel have? Is he a guy that can make an impact right away as a special teams guy, or even at safety?
BS: I don't know what Maryland's plans are but I can tell you he can definitely be a special teams guy that first year. At Dulles, he returned the ball pretty well and was a playmaker on special teams, so I feel like he can definitely continue that at Maryland. And as for safety, it just depends how quickly he adapts. He has the physical tools, but whether he's able to play there as a freshman, that's up to him and how much he puts into it.
TT: Jameel said he wants to play on Sundays. Does he have that kind of potential?
BS: Oh yeah, he has that potential. Like I said, he has the tools. But it's all up to him now and the work he puts in.
TT: And what kind of a kid is he? What kind of a character is Maryland getting?
BS: Coming over from Dulles High, it took Jameel no time at all to bond with his new teammates. He's an easy-going guy, but he pumps everybody up. He's focused on what needs to get done, and he has a high football IQ that rubs off on the kids here. He knows how to carry himself as a person and football player. There's no problems with Jameel whatsoever. He's a really great kid.
TT:What's Jameel like in the locker room? What's he like around his teammates? Is he a leader, a prankster?
BS: He likes to have fun, there's no doubt about that. He gets along well with the guys and is always joking with them. But he knows when to have fun and when to work. He definitely leads by his example and work ethic in the weight room and on the field.
TT: Was there a play that Jameel made, either that you saw on film or during the spring game, that made you say, ‘Hey, this kid's a player. This kid can play FBS ball?'
BS: Yeah, his first time here we were practicing and the defense lined up against our offense. We tried to throw a little corner route to the inside receiver, and Jameel covered like 40 yards in about a second. He jumped on the [receiver] so quickly and just broke the play up. After that I was like, OK, we've got something special.
Then at Dulles, there was a play I saw on film where this kid caught a pass in the flat, and Jameel comes flying in out of nowhere and just levels him. The closing speed was just unreal. There was something real unique about that.
TT:Is there a player that Jameel reminds you of at the college or NFL level, just for comparison's sake?
BS: I'd like to say like a Sean Taylor. He's a big safety that can cover a lot of ground, has a knack for making plays, has a great football IQ, can dissect what a quarterback's trying to do, and is just a great all-around player. He's someone that's going to make a lot of people happy in the future.
TT: In terms of his character, Jameel seems like a very respectful, grounded person. Is that accurate?
BS: Oh yeah, he really is. I think his dad has done a great job in teaching him how to treat people with respect and how to take to coaching. Just because he comes from a football background doesn't mean he's entitled. His dad has really done a great job keeping him humbled and teaching him how to show respect.
TT: Coach, I'm not too familiar with Ridge Point. Have you sent players to the FBS level before and what's your history like there?
BS: Our school is only four years old, so we don't have a ton of history yet. We have about eight kids on our team now who have some kind of scholarship offer, but we're still building up as a program. Guys like Jameel, they're going to help us grow our brand.
TT: Maryland pulled a recruit from Texas last year, and has two more this year. Do you think Maryland can have a consistent presence in Texas where kids like to stay home and go to places like TAMU and Texas and Texas Tech?
BS: Well Texas is loaded with talent, and there's too many kids to go to all those schools you mentioned. A lot of kids just can't go to Texas or Texas Tech because the competition is so high. So if you get a great recruiter down here like Coach McCardell at Maryland, you can pick guys up and you can get some pretty talented players like Jameel. It just takes a good recruiter and a little effort.
TT: One more question about Maryland. What's it going to take for them to consistently pull kids out of Texas? Can they grab the higher-profile kids down there every year, or is that a pipedream?
BS: Well, Maryland has a lot going for it. The flashy uniforms appeal to the kids, and them moving to the Big Ten and what Coach [Randy] Edsall has going there – it's an attractive option. It's a beautiful campus, and it's great academics. Then you add in a great recruiter like Coach McCardell, and Maryland can do it. They can get kids out of here if they keep going after them like they did Jameel.
Coach Speak: Brett Sniffen on Jameel Cook
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