Welcome to our next edition of Inside the Shell, the weekly Maryland football recruiting roundup.
Ealey Ready For Return
At this time last week, Coatesville (Pa.) outside linebacker/tight end Amir Ealey had no idea when he’d be visiting his primary suitors, but after a conversation with Maryland area recruiter John Dunn Sept. 8, he decided to take in the UMD-West Virginia game Sept. 13. The visit will be an unofficial, as Ealey plans to return to College Park, Md., for a third time (he visited once before back during the spring), officially, later this fall.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Ealey has had UMD as his No. 1 option for a solid month. He has a strong, developed relationship with Dunn; he likes head coach Randy Edsall’s academic-oriented message; he felt comfortable on campus during his initial trip; and he likes the idea of playing Big Ten ball. Ealey is primarily being recruited as an outside linebacker, though it is always possible he could switch to tight end after he arrives in College Park (should he choose the Terps).
Regardless of how the visit goes, Ealey is not expected to pop while on campus, especially considering he has plenty of other trips on the docket. North Carolina, recall, is a real threat considering the Coatesville product is originally from the area and grew up watching the Heels. The fact UNC wants him as a tight end, along with his budding relationship with the staff, have North Carolina sitting in a prime spot to pounce.
Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia are also in play, with the Panthers and Orange of particular intrigue. Ealey has already seen Pitt before and wants to take in SU Sept. 20 (which is when Syracuse takes on Maryland). He has not set up any other trips as of yet.
In terms of a decision date, Ealey has wavered back and forth on when he wants to commit. Sometimes he says he’d like to decide in the next couple weeks, and other times he insists he’ll take official visits before announcing after his senior year.
Either way, the feeling here is this could come down to North Carolina and Maryland. That could easily change if Ealey drags the process out and other suitors become involved, but we think the Terps have a legitimate shot here.
Davis, Cowart Returning
They were both in College Park June 28 for the Big Show camp, and now they’re trekking back up the East Coast a little more than two months later for Maryland’s home game against West Virginia. Three-star receiver Ryan Davis (Lakewood/St. Petersburg, Fla.) and five-star defensive end Byron Cowart (Armwood/Seffner, Fla.) are en route to UMD as you read this Sept. 12, and each has the Terps among their final suitors. Now, do we project either of these two to pick Maryland when it comes time to decide? Not at this juncture, but as recruitniks know, strange things happen in this business, and fact is the fat lady hasn’t sung yet. And given that area recruiter Mike Locksley has secured a second trip from both, well, that’s a moral victory in and of itself.
Cowart, the five-star end, is the least likely of the two to wind up in College Park. The 6-4, 250-pounder actually did not list UMD among his four finalists a couple weeks back, a quartet that included Florida, Florida State, Alabama and Oregon. If that list remains kosher, one can surmise UMD is probably riding fifth behind the aforementioned four.
Cowart did seem to genuinely enjoy his last visit to UMD, and he had high praise for defensive coordinator Brian Stewart and his 3-4 defense, but that alone might not be enough to pry him from the perennial powers. Maybe a standout official can vault the Terps into contention, but at this point we can’t see Maryland surpassing the Sunshine State programs.
Florida, a school he’s visited twice recently and will return to for an official Oct. 11, is the heavy hometown favorite. Cowart has a very close relationship with assistant Brad Lawing and knows numerous current Gators. Not to mention UF is pushing hard, selling him on the “program changer” angle.
Conventional wisdom suggests Cowart will choose Florida unless the Gators tank this year, losing to the likes of Bama, South Carolina and Georgia. If UF struggles, however, FSU, Bama and Oregon are probably next in line.
The Noles would seem to be the consensus No. 2, as they are also an in-state school that’s made Cowart a priority. FSU assistant Sal Sunseri has built a rapport with Cowart, and the fact they are the defending champs gives them a leg up as well. The Armwood product will officially visits Florida State for the Florida game Nov. 29.
Meanwhile, Bama’s winning tradition and head coach Nick Saban’s cache has Cowart high on the Tide, and he will take an official to Tuscaloosa Sept. 20. And Oregon, which Cowart’s still setting up a date to visit, is on the brain because he can play early; learn under coaches with NFL experience; and because it would allow him to get away from the hometown pressure cooker. He wants to see how Oregon does on the field this year first before taking a closer look, however.
Expect Cowart to make a decision later this fall, after he’s had time to watch the aforementioned squads perform. Maybe, just maybe, if Maryland can shock some Big Ten foes it might get him thinking Terps. It’s not going to be easy to leapfrog the Gators, Noles, Tide and Ducks, but at least UMD is in the conversation.
As for Davis, he too is considered a heavy Florida lean. He’s visited Gainesville four times since August, relishes the gameday atmosphere, loves the fact it’s an SEC school, and believes he’d fit well into the offensive scheme. In fact, Davis seems on the verge of popping to UF at any moment. However, every time someone predicts a Davis pledge, he backs off, saying he’s waiting to see how Will Muschamp and Co. perform in the SEC this season.
We’re not sure he waits as long as Cowart, but Davis could hold out until after Florida plays its next few games against Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, LSU and Missouri. If the Gators can hang tough against that gauntlet, well, Davis will almost assuredly give them a big ‘ol Chomp.
Florida State is also a heavy contender, and Davis and his family were in Tallahassee back in July. The reports were positive, and FSU’s national dominance, along with his familiarity with the staff, certainly has resonated. Davis plans to officially visit FSU at some point in order to see a game.
It should be noted that Davis’ brother, Chris, was a Seminole back in the mid-2000s. The thought is, since Ryan Davis is a legacy recruit, FSU will make room for him even though it already has several receivers already in toe.
Other schools Davis is considering taking officials to include Kentucky, Ole Miss, Texas Tech and Missouri, with the Wildcats perhaps standing at the forefront of that group (he is likely to officially visit Kentucky).
Maryland, of course, will be the first of his officials this weekend. For the last two-plus months Davis has spoken highly of area recruiter Mike Locksley and the program in general, consistently mentioning the Terps in most of his interviews. He believes he can make an early impact at UMD, following in the footsteps of current Maryland star wideout Stefon Diggs. Moreover, he thoroughly enjoyed being near Washington, D.C., during his last visit and likes the opportunities the location affords him.
We think if Davis continues to drag out his recruitment, the Terps may have a real shot here. Some things would have to fall into place for sure, but the following scenario isn’t impossible:
1. Florida tanks and Davis becomes disenchanted.
2. FSU gets tired of waiting around and tells Davis, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
3. He’s down to Kentucky and Maryland and after weighing the advantages of each, decides his relationship with Locksley and UMD’s academics/after-college opportunities are too good to pass up.
As we’re apt to say in this space: Stay tuned.
Provided Friendship Collegiate (Washington, D.C.) doesn’t hold practice the day after their Sept. 12 game, offensive guard Quarvez Boulware should be able to make the noon bout between Maryland and West Virginia. The 6-3, 283-pound Boulware has already seen numerous Terps games the last couple years, so we don’t expect this unofficial visit to sway him too much. But another dominant showing against the Mountaineers, coupled with a live atmosphere at Byrd Stadium, certainly won’t hurt Maryland’s chances.
Plus it’s yet another opportunity for the FCA standout to chat with both area recruiter Mike Locksley and head coach Randy Edsall, and to watch offensive line coach Greg Studrawa for the first time. Recall, four-star tackle Isaiah Prince (Roosevelt/Greenbelt, Md.) was highly impressed with Studrawa after taking in the James Madison game, and if the Terps’ O-line puts on another solid performance Sept. 13, we expect Boulware to have a similar reaction.
As for his recruiting status, it remains pretty much status quo. Boulware still has the Terps right in his top five, along with Wake Forest, Alabama, North Carolina and Florida. But as we’ve reported in this space numerous times, we think this could come down to UMD and Wake Forest, as those are the two programs who need him most. Alabama has plenty of elite targets on its board, Florida already has numerous interior linemen committed, and North Carolina wants him at defensive tackle since it’s filled up along the offensive line (Boulware may not be too keen on playing defense).
So, if the logic is correct, that leaves Wake Forest and Maryland. Wake is in the game because that’s where Boulware’s originally from, as well as his relationship with the staff, but if it truly come down to a Deacons-Terps battle, one would think Maryland would have an edge. We’ll see how it plays out, but we still like the Terps’ chances at this juncture. That said, don’t expect Boulware to pick his school before taking several official visits, giving his recruiting plenty of time to (you guessed it) ebb and flow.
More UMD-WVU Visitors
In addition to Ealey, Boulware, Cowart and Ryan Davis, it looks like Maryland will host about 30 to 40 more high school football players for the West Virginia affair Sept. 13. We already know numerous current Terps pledges will be in attendance, including Ty Johnson (Fort Hill/Cumberland, Md.), Gus Little (Massaponax/Fredericksburg, Va.), Will McClain (Middletown, Md.), E.J. Donahue (Linganore/Frederick, Md.), D.J. Moore (Imhotep/Philadelphia, Pa.), Brett Zanotto (Franklin Regional/Murrysville, Pa.) and Gage Shaffer (Frankfort/Ridgeley, W.Va.).
One other class of 2015 visitor to note is Seton Hall Prep (West Orange, N.J.) offensive lineman Jared Southers, who our Jersey guy, Brian Dohn, tipped us off on. Southers has a couple FBS offers from the likes of UConn and Rutgers, and apparently the Terps are somewhat intrigued too. Southers may be someone UMD looks at down the road if it strikes out on Boulware and/or Prince, but for right now he seems like a backup option.
In the 2016 class, we know the DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) youngins will be coming in, headlined by early Maryland pledge Lorenzo Harrison. Harrison has actively been recruiting his teammates and several other nearby locals to UMD, and on Sept. 13 he’ll have Stags like receiver Tino Ellis, lineman Terrance Davis and tackle J.P. Urquidez with him. Of those, both Ellis and Davis have UMD under prime consideration.
Some other 2016’s of note include D.J. Moore’s teammate, tight end Naseir Upshur, Donahue’s teammate, running back Dante Butler, lineman Richard Merritt (Carroll/Washington, D.C.), receiver Brennon Dingle (Spalding/Severn, Md.), receiver Trevon Diggs (Avalon/Bethesda, Md.) and linebacker Keith Simms (Landon/Bethesda, Md.).
Of those, Upshur, Dingle, Merritt and Diggs hold Terps offers and are top targets. Upshur will now have been in College Park four times since the spring, and he certainly has had high praise for UMD. Moore has been in his ear about the Terps, and area recruiter John Dunn has left an impression as well. Upshur is a national recruit and won’t be an easy pull, but Maryland is doing all it can to make inroads.
We reported on Dingle a couple weeks back when I scouted Spalding. Maryland remains his one firm offer, and he’s extremely high on the hometown program. It would not shock us if he committed to the Terps at some point this offseason, though he insists he’s going to take his time with the process.
With Merritt, he didn't seem all that interested in UMD the last we spoke to him. His focus was on a few "name" programs and he wasn't too keen on the idea of staying home. But perhaps area recruiter Mike Locksley has made headway here; we'll see what he's thinking following the game.
Last but not least, there’s Trevon Diggs. We all know his situation by now. Stefon Diggs’ little brother. Attends every home game. Loves the program. Loves the staff. Loves the environment. Diggs doesn’t want to tip his hand too soon considering he’s a national name with numerous schools he still wants to explore, but you’ve got to like Maryland’s chances here.
I was able to take in three high school games in the last few days, allowing me to evaluate a couple current Terps pledges, potential Terps pledges and also some up-and-coming possible targets. Let’s start with the Sept. 5 game at McDonough (Owings Mills, Md.), the first under-the-lights bout in Eagles history.
McDonogh vs. St. Joseph Montvale (Montvale, N.J.)
The third-ranked team in New Jersey traveled down the turnpike in order to face the No. 2 team in Maryland, McDonogh, but it was clear from the jump the Jersey boys had way more manpower than the Eagles. Just watching the two squads warm up, comparing sheer numbers and body sizes, I had a feeling it would be a long day for the locals. But even though McDonogh lost, 31-18, the Eagles were in the game until the last few minutes, hanging with St. Joseph’s throughout.
While Montvale’s Tommy Hatton, a North Carolina commit, may have been the most impressive player on the field, McDonogh’s Ellis McKennie showed why Maryland and area recruiter Keith Dudzinski jumped on him early. The Terps commit, who projects as a guard but lines up at tackle for the Eagles, allowed zero sacks against St. Joe’s potent pass rush and recorded an eye-popping four pancakes.
Watching how he held up in pass protection, not to mention his already solid run blocking, against a team like Montvale was encouraging. The kid’s not only a physical force with a mean streak, but he’s uncannily athletic for a 300-pounder. After a bit of conditioning work and fine-tuning, McKennie should slide right in at guard once he arrives in College Park.
After the game, McKennie broke down his game and reiterated his status as a firm Terps pledge. You can read my full evaluation and see the interview here: ARTICLE.
Besides McKennie, I paid close attention to two McDonogh underclassmen, class of 2016 safety Eric Burrell and class of 2017 right tackle Jordan McNair. McNair, of course, already holds a Maryland offer, and it’s easy to see why. He’s an absolute mammoth of a sophomore, a near 6-6, 290-pound specimen who is only going to get bigger and better these next couple seasons. McNair made some characteristic underclassmen mistakes (leverage, hand placement, etc.), but the potential is there for him to be a heavily-recruited tackle in the next year or two. He already has high praise for UMD, and with the Terps’ McDonogh pipeline well established, Maryland is positioned nicely for this rising star.
As for Burrell, he holds Va Tech, UVA and ODU offers, and is still working for a Terps verbal. He’s a solid player who tackles well and has above-average instincts, but he’s not the fastest or rangiest safety out there. If Maryland is only taking one safety in the 2016 class, it might hold off to see what other options are available to them before pouncing on Burrell. The Terps know they could potentially snag Burrell even if they slow-play him, so the vibe is Maryland will take a wait-and-see approach. Here is my evaluation and interview with him: ARTICLE.
Potomac (Oxon Hill, Md.) vs. Suitland (District Heights, Md.)
The annual Prince George’s County Classic takes place in Byrd Stadium every year, and on Sept. 6 I ventured down to College Park in order to see Potomac’s Keiron Howard and Kesean Strong in action (Potomac won, 28-0). The defensive tackle Howard is a UMD pledge who I wanted to evaluate in pads, while Strong is a former Terps target who is hoping he can jump on the Maryland bandwagon at some point down the road.
The 6-3, 280-pound Howard, who is a firm Terps pledge, is someone UMD had to take a chance on given his upside, but it’s fairly clear he’s going to need a redshirt year. The strength is evident, the want-to is there, and the fight is outstanding, but the fundamentals and feet need some work. A plugger who plays hard through the whistle, I liked Howard’s motor and determination -- plus his potent bull-rush and ability to finish with authority.
But he comes off the ball high, he doesn’t have rapid-fire quickness, and his feet can be a bit slow. Linemen with lead in their feet don’t typically succeed at the FBS level, so we’d like to see Howard really hone in on his conditioning and burst during the offseason. You can read my evaluation and interview with him here: ARTICLE.
With Strong, we put him back on our radar when Maryland lost a commit in running back Deltron Sands (St. Thomas Aquinas/Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.). But while Strong does play running back for Potomac, he projects as a slot at the next level. Strong’s speed and vision are evident, but he’s not the most natural back and doesn’t possess a frame that will hold up between the tackles. If the Terps lose another slot receiver and need someone who can make plays in space, then Strong’s their guy. But I’m not sure UMD takes a flier on him just because they lost a running back pledge. You can read my evaluation and interview with him here: ARTICLE.
Bullis (Potomac, Md.) vs. Mount St. Joseph (Baltimore, Md.)
In perhaps the most intense high school game I’ve seen so far this year, Mount St. Joe’s prevailed over Bullis, 20-14, in a Sept. 8 afternoon matinee. The game was originally scheduled for Sept. 6, but lightning delayed the outing until Sept. 8, giving me the opportunity to check out top 2016 quarterback Dwayne Haskins, a clear Terps target.
While Haskins may be Ohio State’s to lose, the feeling is Maryland is right smack in the thick of things, along with a few other elite players like Texas, Texas Tech, Notre Dame, Penn State and a couple more. With triggerman Kai Locksley (Gilman/Baltimore, Md.) heading to Florida State next year, Haskins views the hometown school as a viable option considering he’d have a chance to contribute right away. Moreover, Haskins already has a strong rapport with quarterbacks coach Mike Locksley, has bought into the “hometown movement,” is familiar with the campus, and knows several current Terps. He plans to return to Maryland for the Ohio State game this fall.
And after what I witnessed Sept. 8, Maryland would do well to go all-out to land him. Haskins may not have Joe Flacco arm strength, and there are mechanical flaws to iron out (elbow drops, locks onto receivers, etc.), but he is the real deal. He’s a natural leader, possesses an above-average football IQ, can spray the ball all over the field, has a repeatable and easy follow-through, moves well in the pocket, puts terrific touch on his passes, and fires frozen ropes in-between defenders.
But what I like best about Haskins is how he commands respect, owns the huddle, and keeps his head up following mistakes. He’s a cool customer, refusing to get rattled during crunch time or when defenses bring the pressure.
On top of that, he’s a shotgun-spread quarterback who would seem to fit perfectly into Maryland’s system, so we’ll see how much traction Locksley and Co. can gain here. You can ready my evaluation and interview with Haskins here: ARTICLE.
More Prep Action
I didn’t travel to Missouri City, Texas, to see Ridge Point safety Jameel Cook last week, but Scout’s Midlands’s reporter, Ahmard Vital, did. He interviewed the Terps commit after his game Sept. 5 in order to evaluate his linebacker-to-safety adjustment, and to make sure he was still on board with UMD. The feeling is Cook has made steady progress as a defensive back, showing a knack for finding the football while pursuing well in space. His footwork, drops and coverage have also improved compared to previous seasons.
As for his standing with Maryland, Cook, as Vital pointed out in his headline, is “All Terps.” Some worried Cook would begin to waver once his Twitter friend, Deltron Sands, opted out, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Cook has maintained his relationship with area recruiter Keenan McCardell and said he’s looking forward to officially visiting UMD at some point later this fall.
Some of the junior college defensive line targets we’ve bandied about seem to be falling off the radar.
Anthony Fotu (Laney CC/Oakland, Calif.) claimed a Terps offer and was considering visiting College Park at some point, but in his most recent interview he didn’t mention Maryland as a school that was pushing for him. He said Illinois, where his brother Joe attends, Miami, Oregon and USC are all in play and covet his services. He seems to be favoring USC considering he’s grown up in the shadow of Trojans country, while Illinois is a natural fit if in fact he wants to play with his brother. Regardless, it doesn’t look like Fotu will be a Terp.
Another California JUCO, Deonte Reynolds (Contra Costa/Contra Costa, Calif.), was supposed to be at Maryland this weekend for the West Virginia game, but word is he’s not going to make it. To this point he has not rescheduled, and we’re inclined to believe he may not head East at all. Reynolds was primarily focused on Oklahoma, Arizona State, Kansas State and Washington anyway, and it seemed like UMD was merely the “other” school in the running. We see Reynolds staying on the West Coast; he never expressed a strong desire to travel cross-country for college.
Finally, we discussed Oxford (Ala.) defensive end Ulric Jones last week, noting how he’d had little to say about Maryland in recent interviews. Oregon, Mississippi State or perhaps another top SEC or Pac-12 programs look to be the prime contenders.
Two Quick Notes
Two quick class of 2016 recruiting notes from the last week. Scout’s Brian Dohn provided us with an update on Red Bank Catholic (Red Bank, N.J.) safety/quarterback Eddie Hahn, who doesn’t hold a Terps offer yet but has been hearing from area recruiter Keith Dudzinski for some time. If the Terps were to ante up – and I suspect they’d offer him as a safety – they would become a prime contender. Hahn has visited College Park before and expressed plenty of interest in the school. Right now, though, nearby programs like Rutgers and Boston College have his eye, along with North Carolina, NC State and Penn State. So far only the Wolfpack have offered, because many programs want to see how he fares as a quarterback this fall.
Last but not least, the Terps finally offered Ocean Lakes (Virginia Beach, Va.) five-star cornerback Levonta Taylor a few days back, joining about 30 other programs. Taylor is very high on hometown Virginia, though, and all the national powers want him as well. In other words, he’s not going to be an easy pull.
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