Maryland secured a commitment from Woodbridge Senior (Woodbridge, Va.) cornerback Mike Majette July 21, and in order to gain more insight into the 5-foot-11, 175-pound converted quarterback, we spoke to his head coach, Karibi Dede.
Here’s our Q&A session with him:
Terrapin Times: Coach, I know you’ve only been at Woodbridge since 2013 so you haven’t seen Mike his entire high school career, but can you give us a breakdown of what he brings to the table as an athlete?
Karibi Dede: He’s very dynamic. He’s a guy who plays quarterback for us, but he also plays defensive back. He’s a big-time competitor. The one thing about him that really stands out is he has that competitive spirit, that want-to and that drive. I had the opportunity to play in the SEC at Auburn, so I’ve seen how competitive the athletes need to be to succeed, and that’s the thing about Mike – he’s the ultimate competitor. Whatever it takes to get over the hump, he’s going to get it done.
TT: Besides that intangible, is there anything physically that you can point to that Mike does well?
KD: He’s got cat-like, first-rate quickness. He moves very, very quickly laterally, and he’s a track guy, too, so he has that pure speed. He runs a 4.4 40-yard dash, so he can definitely run. And he’s explosive and dynamic; he can jump and get off the ground. Mike has great hips, he’s loose, he transitions easily and he has good recovery speed too. He has a great all-around skill-set. Some corners can just run, and they need to be taught the finer points of the position, but Mike has a great all-around skill-set and feel for the position.
He’s not the strongest guy, but he can press and get physical. Mike can definitely sit out on an island and hold his own.
TT: Making the transition to cornerback, what does he have to do to get ready for Big Ten ball?
KD: Well, he does play a bunch of corner for us. In one-on-ones, in camps, in practice and even every now and then in games -- he has played corner before. The thing is, it’s difficult as a high school head coach to take your quarterback and put him on the defensive side of the ball. But he is a lockdown corner, now, believe that. For a lot of coaches it’s hard to project a quarterback to the cornerback position, but the thing is he has played a lot at corner, we just don’t have film of it.
In retrospect, looking back, maybe we should’ve opened it up and let him play more corner [to get him more film at that position]. As a high school team, though, sometimes you don’t have that luxury. But this year I told Mike, ‘Look, football is a bang-bang game, and you can get hurt just as easily at defensive back as quarterback.’ So it is what it is, and this year we’re rolling Mike out there and letting him play as much cornerback as he can.
TT: I was wondering why some of the larger schools weren’t recruiting Mike as heavily. I guess a lot of that has to do with projecting from quarterback to cornerback?
KD: There are two reasons. If you look at his highlight tape, he’s a quarterback, so yes, it’s all about projecting [to cornerback]. Now, a lot of college coaches can make that projection, but in today’s age of football you have these kids who are highly trained at one position since they were four years old. There are kids out there now who have literally been playing corner all their life, and a lot of times those are the kids being gobbled up by some of the bigger programs. Mike, he’s been playing quarterback and it’s not always convenient to make that projection [to corner] when there are these specialized corners out there.
And two, if you think about how college football recruiting is going, a lot is determined by star rankings, Rivals.com, things like that. And a lot of those stars and rankings are determined by kids going to camps; being in front of these analysts from your sophomore year on; and getting your name out there. Well, not every family has the resources to go to all these camps, so a lot of guys who might be four-star players have never been seen by these scouting agencies. So they don’t get the same recognition as some of the kids who do go to these camps. And the fact is, colleges do put a lot of weight into having a top-ranked class on Rivals or Scout or wherever. They’ll recruit guys with more stars to get a higher ranked class.
So that hurts some of these kids like Mike, who wasn’t able to go all over the place. He was down in Virginia Beach for a good part of the summer to see his mother, and he wasn’t able to attend too many of these big camps.
And one more thing. If you look at the Seattle Seahawks and how they’re sort of branding a new type of corner. These big, long guys who can get physical and also run like Richard Sherman. Well, Mike can run, but he’s only about 5-11 and not 6-2. A lot of these colleges are looking at 6-1, 6-2 corners now, and that’s the model.
TT: As far as the recruiting process, how did that go down with Maryland and Coach Lyndon Johnson?
KD: Coach Johnson is a really good guy. He came down here last year and I like him. But in today’s day and age, there’s a lot more media attention and things that go on in recruiting. So what colleges are doing is they’re trying to protect against kids going elsewhere [once they’ve committed], while also becoming a little less liberal with the scholarships they’re giving out. They target their top two or three guys, offer them, try to get them on board, and then work to keep them there.
So with Mike, he had an opportunity to visit Maryland and go to a camp there, and they did offer him. But right after the camp season ended, Maryland got two commits and filled up their spots, so Mike couldn’t commit to them then.
Maryland, though, they stayed on Mike and made sure to keep him on the radar. Coach Johnson, Coach Edsall, they stayed on him, and when the one kid decommitted they came back to him and said there was an opening. Mike wanted in, and he took the opportunity.
TT: What do you think about Maryland? Do you think it’s a good fit for Mike?
KD: Well, I’ll tell you this. I was an assistant at Auburn a couple years back before coming to Woodbridge, and we recruited Stefon Diggs. And the big thing with Maryland was, and still is, can they keep guys like that home? Can they keep the best talents in-state? They got Stefon Diggs, but they’ve lost a few big ones as well.
But I believe if they keep winning the recruiting battles for hometown guys like Diggs, then that program has a chance to be something special. You’re going to have some guys get away, but you bring in the top guys in the DMV, and you’re going to be going places. Mike has a chance to be part of a program that, if they keep getting the top in-state talents to stay, can really make some noise in the Big Ten.
TT: What kind of a character is Mike? I’m guessing he’s a leader considering he’s a quarterback?
KD: Mike is the kind of kid where you don’t have to tell him to do something twice. He’s very coachable, and if you give him instructions he’s going to follow it without question. And yes, he’s a leader, and he’s a guy who commands respect from his teammates. He says something in that huddle, or the way he carries himself in practice, he sets an example for the rest of the team.
Then he’s also very well-mannered and respectful on top of that. Some star athletes get all this reverence and walk around with a big head, but Mike is very grounded and humble. He’s a great kid.
TT: And I’m sure that translates to the huddle as well?
KD: Oh, no question. Mike’s the type of quarterback where he’ll say, ‘Follow me,’ and then he goes out and makes a big play on the field. He’ll take charge and put the team on his back if he has to. He’ll throw a touchdown, break off a big run – something to get the job done.
TT: Is there a memorable play you can point to that let you know Mike was an FBS talent?
KD: Oh yeah, definitely. I’ll give you one where he was on defense. There was this one pick he had last year where he read the quarterback, tracked a ball thrown over his head, high-pointed it, and grabbed it away from the receiver.
I mean, that’s the kind of ability Mike has. When this season is over and it’s all said and done, Mike is going to get a whole lot more looks. He’s got so much ability as a cornerback. I was talking to a [college] coach about Mike who I know pretty well, and he was saying that [Majette] reminded him of a couple corners we had at Auburn like Ryan White and Jonathan Mincy. He said Mike can definitely play the [corner] position at a high level in college.
TT: How is Mike off the field? What’s he like around his teammates?
KD: Well the thing about Mike is he knows when to turn it on and off. When he’s on the field he’s real serious, but off the field he’s one of the biggest jokesters we have. Him and one of our defensive backs are the two guys who are always laughing and telling jokes. Mike, he knows how to have a good time, and he’s very well-liked in the locker room.
Coach Speak: Karibi Dede on Mike Majette
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