Welcome to our next edition of Inside the Shell, the weekly Maryland football recruiting roundup.
The Ohio State Showdown
There will be quite a crowd coming in for Maryland’s Big Ten home opener against Ohio State Oct. 4, and we’re not talking about Buckeyes and Terps fans. Many of the area’s elite class of 2016 recruits, in addition to a couple prime 2015 targets, are scheduled to attend the game. There should be around 40 to 50 prospects in Byrd Stadium for the noon bout, though only about a third of them have UMD offers or are serious targets.
There are probably others who may show as well, but here are the underclassmen headliners who indicated they’d be in attendance:
Dwayne Haskins, QB, Bullis (Potomac, Md.)
Lorenzo Harrison, RB, DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.)
Tino Ellis, WR, DeMatha
Terrance Davis, OL, DeMatha
Ellison Jordan, DT, Gilman (Baltimore, Md.)
Devery Hamilton, OT, Gilman
Keith Simms, DE/OLB, Landon (Bethesda, Md.)
Keandre Jones, LB, Good Counsel (Olney, Md.)
Brennon Dingle, WR, Spalding (Severn, Md.)
Rahshaun Smith, OLB, St. Frances (Baltimore, Md.)
Kareem Felder, CB, St. Frances
Trevon Diggs, WR, Avalon (Bethesda, Md.)
Jordan McNair (2017), OL, McDonogh, (Owings Mills, Md.)
Steven Smothers, WR, Franklin (Reisterstown, Md.)
Josh Ball, OL, Stafford (Fredericksburg, Va.)
Jamie Newman, QB, Graham (N.C.)
We’ve already delved into each of these players’ recruiting situations in past Shells and interviews, but we’ll give you the CliffNotes version below.
-- Haskins is high on Ohio State, but has Maryland right in the thick of things. Oct. 4 gives him an opportunity to see both programs up close and personal. Terps quarterback coach Mike Locksley, as well as area recruiter Chad Wilt, have done well with the four-star gunslinger, though we’ll have to see if it’s enough to stave off OSU head coach Urban Meyer’s potent pursuit.
-- Harrison is already committed to Maryland and is in the ear of numerous other local recruits, including his two teammates who will be at the game.
-- Ellis has UMD rated highly, but also likes WVU and UVA as well. The Terps are in prime position, however. Mike Locksley has known Ellis since middle school, and that could pay dividends.
-- Davis has warmed up to the Terps recently, though he’s a national recruit who is keeping his options open. Florida State, Penn State, Tennessee, South Carolina and Alabama are all after him.
-- Jordan is very high on Maryland, and it wouldn’t surprise us to see him eventually commit to the Terps. He insists he has no clear leaders, but he’s considered an early UMD lean. Penn State is also a possibility.
-- Hamilton has the Terps in play, too, but isn’t quite as effusive in his UMD praise as Jordan. He’s a much more difficult read. Michigan State seems to have his eye right now.
-- Simms gushed over his recent Maryland offer, which came on his birthday, and has genuine interest in playing his college ball in College Park. But his offer list is growing by the week, and he has PSU (no offer yet) on the brain, at least initially.
-- Jones has a current top two of Maryland and Penn State, though the vibe is the Nittany Lions are the team to beat. The Terps are in position to pounce, though, considering his strong relationship with area recruiter Mike Locksley.
-- Dingle still has just one offer from Maryland, and we could easily see him becoming the Terps’ next 2016 popper. He’s been to multiple Terps events this year.
-- Smith is a national recruit who is at least intrigued by the hometown program. Oklahoma, FSU, UF and Penn State are probably the front-runners, however.
-- Smith’s teammate, Felder, doesn’t have a Terps verbal yet, but would highly consider staying home for college if one is presented. For now, though, he likes Rutgers, which has already offered, and is in the process of accumulating more suitors.
-- Diggs’ recruitment has been hashed and rehashed. Maryland is still the only school he’s really seen, and he’s at pretty much every home game to see his brother, current Terp Stefon Diggs. The vibe I get is Trevon Diggs isn’t fazed about following in his brother’s footsteps, and truly does enjoy being at UMD. You’d have to consider it an upset if he elected to play his college ball somewhere other than College Park.
-- McNair is only a 2017 prospect, but already holds offers from Maryland and Ohio State. He likes the hometown program, but it’s way too soon to make a call on him.
-- Smothers still doesn’t have a Maryland scholarship, though maybe Oct. 4 is the day one finally materializes. Either way, we don’t project him to be a Terp. WVU has been all over this guy, and Alabama, Ohio State and Florida State are in hot pursuit as well. In fact, Smothers may just be attending this game to see the Buckeyes.
-- Ball is an emerging lineman from Virginia, who couldn’t say enough great things about Maryland following his College Park one-day camp. Since then, though, he’s added about eight more FBS verbals, and seems to be favoring in-state UVA and nearby West Virginia. The Terps are in the conversation, however.
-- Last but not least, there’s Newman, who’s coming up from North Carolina. The dual-threat quarterback holds verbals from Boston College, N.C. State, Duke and West Virginia, but he’s been in touch with Maryland assistant Andre Powell. He could conceivably pick up an offer following the Oct. 4 game, and if so, would at least place the Terps on his radar. He won’t be an easy pull from the South, but you never know unless you extend the scholarship.
Two other juniors to keep an eye out for are St. John’s (Washington, D.C.) defensive end Terrell Hall and tight end Devante Brooks. Both said they were attending the game, but that would mean they’d be skipping St. John’s outing against Bishop O’Connell (Arlington, Va.) that afternoon. Unless they have permission to miss their high school game, it’s going to be hard for them to make it to College Park and return in time for the 2 p.m. kickoff.
If they are in Byrd, though, here’s what you should know:
Hall has seen his recruitment skyrocket these last two weeks. He now holds offers from UConn, Iowa, North Carolina, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Toledo and others. The Terps haven’t anted up yet, but are expected to very shortly (perhaps Oct. 4 before or after the game.) Hall does like the hometown school, but PSU, which he just visited, has his eye, and he’s bound to land other national offers too.
As for Brooks, he’s still rehabbing from his torn ACL and hasn’t played a down this year. The burly tight end wasn’t quite as high on UMD as he previously had been when I spoke to him, but that could change if the Terps put on a good showing Oct. 4. Virginia Tech is a personal favorite, while Rutgers, Nebraska, Tennessee and North Carolina are firmly in play as well.
The 2015 Visitors
In addition to commits like E.J. Donahue (Linganore/Frederick, Md.), Will McClain (Middletown, Md.), Ellis McKennie (McDonogh), Darnell Savage (Caravel/Bear, Del.), Brett Zanotto (Franklin Regional/Murrysville, Pa.), Isaiah Davis (St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes/Alexandria, Va.), Keiron Howard (Potomac/Oxon Hill, Md.), Gus Little (Massaponax/Fredericksburg, Va.), Mason Zimmerman (Anthony Wayne/Whitehouse, Ohio), Ty Johnson (Fort Hill/Cumberland, Md.) and Gage Shaffer (Frankfort/Ridgeley, W.Va.), the Terps will host two other 2015 targets.
And the names are familiar.
Both left tackle Isaiah Prince (Roosevelt/Greenbelt, Md.) and offensive guard Quarvez Boulware (Friendship Collegiate/Washington, D.C.) attended the Maryland-West Virginia game earlier this fall and have been on campus more times than they can count. Nothing has really changed in their recruitments since then, but Oct. 4 is yet another prime opportunity for the Terps to show out in front of its two top remaining 2015 targets.
Boulware has been talking up Florida as of late, but the Terps are right there for him, along with Florida State, Wake Forest and North Carolina. Prince, meanwhile, doesn’t want to list any standouts among his top four -- Maryland, Alabama, Florida, Ohio State -- but UMD is in a solid position for his services as well. Expect both to take their officials a little later this fall (Boulware has a bye week coming up and may use it to officially visit Wake or UNC) before announcing their respective decisions at an All-American game or on Signing Day.
The Quarterback Situation
Last week we suggested the Terps could be scanning the junior college ranks for a second class of 2015 signal caller, and we expect that pursuit to intensify next week when Maryland is on its bye. Junior college recruiter and California native Brian Stewart will likely trek West to scan the talent-rich community colleges he has connections to out there.
Stewart apparently is looking at 6-7 quarterback Kelly Hilinski (Riverside CC/Riverside, Calif.), a name we broke out last week, but we’re not projecting him to get a Terps offer. Another name to monitor, though, is Arizona Western (Yuma, Ariz.) dual-threat Trent Hosick (6-2, 225).
We heard this week from one of our Scout.com junior college guys that Hosick, who transferred to Arizona Western from Missouri, is getting some ACC and Big Ten looks. Our guy suggested Maryland may be taking a look as well, so we’ll monitor the situation and see if Hosick is planning to visit College Park at some point.
Whether Hosick is a serious offer candidate or not, we'll see in the coming weeks just how the Terps plan to proceed in terms of quarterback recruiting. Will they go after a JuCo guy like Hosick? Will it be a late-emerging prep star? A fifth-year transfer? It all remains to be seen, but obviously the Terps are looking for another triggerman.
Milan Almost Popped?
Depending on who I talk to, and what reports I read, I get a slightly different take on Al Raby’s (Chicago, Ill.) Jamal Milan. The 6-foot-2, 288-pound defensive tackle and clear Terps target took his first official visit to Iowa State Sept. 26-28, and pretty much everyone reporting on it agreed the three-star recruit had a great time. But just how great is what’s being debated here.
A couple Cyclones reporters suggested that Milan enjoyed himself so much he came close to committing while on campus. And still others close to the program surmised an ISU pop is all but inevitable, perhaps before the Chicago product even takes another official.
This is what Milan told AllCyclones.com Scout reporter Alex Halsted: “I would say [Iowa State is] No. 1 to be real.”
So, that certainly lends credence to the Milan-to-ISU line of thinking. But it’s now five-plus days since the defensive plugger was in Ames, and the sense is, while Iowa State may currently be sitting pretty, he is going to give his other suitors a chance.
And who are those other suitors? Again, it’s up for debate as Milan hasn’t been completely clear. But after skimming through all the reports, and speaking to the Chicago product myself, I got the sense Illinois, Maryland and Syracuse (as we’ve been reporting for a good while now) are still firm players. Indiana and Minnesota, meanwhile, are trying to work into the game.
Milan has already seen the Illini and Orange unofficially, and both were considered the leaders before ISU entered the picture. Each could receive a return visit in December as well, though that’s not set in stone.
As for Maryland, it is right in the thick of things thanks to area recruiter Chad Wilt’s overtures. Milan and Wilt have a strong rapport, with the latter preaching early playing time, academics and the chance to play Big Ten ball. Right now, based on Milan’s most recent comments, the big defensive tackle will indeed take a flight to College Park after his senior season.
But while this may look like a four-team race between the Cyclones, Illini, Orange and Terps, there are two other schools that could potentially enter the picture. North Carolina and Wisconsin are said to be showing interest, though neither have offered yet. If either did, however, Milan would assuredly take them under consideration, especially UNC, which he wants to officially visit.
If Milan follows through with said Tar Heels trip, and subsequently pulls a scholarship, well, he might reconsider his whole “stick to the Midwest” line of thinking. (Recall, one of the main reasons we thought he might ultimately end up at Illinois is because we sensed he didn’t want to travel too far from home).
Quick Note On Austrian Robinson
Nothing has really changed with this Trinity-Pawling (Pawling, N.Y.) defensive end and prime Terps target, except he decided to turn his top six or seven list into a top 10. Which really doesn’t mean a whole lot, because half the schools in that top 10 aren’t under serious consideration. But, for the sake of news, here are the lucky finalists: Maryland, Purdue, Miami, Kansas, UCF, UConn, Temple, Rutgers, Boston College and Pittsburgh. (The only real surprise is the exclusion of Syracuse, a school Robinson had talked up in the past.)
Robinson tweeted that his list had “no order” to it, but when I texted him afterwards he clarified his comment: “Maryland is still my No. 1. They’re still my leader.” The New York end, who visited College Park back during the spring, should be officially visiting UMD following his senior season. Area recruiter Lyndon Johnson has worked this one hard, as has position coach Chad Wilt.
UCF and Miami (no offer yet) are on Robinson’s mind as well, while he has already taken an official to Purdue. Those four – UMD, UCF, Miami and Purdue -- are probably the front-runners, along with Pittsburgh, which he’s also visited before.
Based on our conversations with Robinson, however, we think Maryland’s in a very good spot here. That is, unless the Hurricanes do offer and make a strong impression.
We’ll know for sure what the deal is in December as Robinson won’t be taking anymore trips until then (Trinity-Pawling plays on Saturdays).
After months of mentioning Maryland as one of his top three to five suitors, we got the impression Coatesville (Pa.) safety Jazzee Stocker was in consistent contact with area recruiter John Dunn. But recently Stocker said he hadn’t heard from UMD since late August or early September, which probably indicates the Terps have backed off and are content to go with one safety in the 2015 class: Jameel Cook (Ridge Point/Missouri City, Texas).
In his latest interview, Stocker didn’t even mention Maryland as a school he wanted to visit. His focus now seems to be on Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Duke, with Rutgers entering the picture as well. He’s attended games at RU and Duke this fall, and should be seeing Pitt and the Cuse soon. Expect Stocker to choose his destination after the fall, and unless there’s another 180 degree turn between now and then, he’s not coming to College Park.
Now, should Maryland fans be worried about another Deltron Sands situation arising (i.e. putting your eggs in a mercurial recruit’s basket, only to be left out to dry down the line) with Jameel Cook? It’s a fair question to ask considering Cook is a “swagger” recruit from Texas who has a kid on the way.
But from my interactions with Cook, as well as other Texas reporters’, the feeling is he’s a firm Terps pledge. Area recruiter Keenan McCardell has Cook’s mind on the red and white, and the Maryland receivers’ coach should be stopping by Missouri City next week during UMD’s bye to touch base with the Ridge Point safety.
Stocker’s Teammate Still In Play
Another week, another update on Coatesville outside linebacker Amir Ealey. This time Scout’s Brian Dohn caught up with the 6-4, 230-pounder, and his take was a bit different than mine last week. Remember, the vibe at TT was that Maryland and North Carolina were the two primary contenders -- with the Terps selling academics, early playing time and an overall comfort level with the staff; and the Heels pumping up the Ealey-as-tight-end angle, the “next Eric Ebron” angle, as well as the homecoming angle (Ealey is originally from the Carolinas).
Dohn, however, suggested it’s a three-team race between Maryland, Syracuse and Virginia, with the Terps and Wahoos as the front-runners. Other primary contenders include Pittsburgh and UCF, with UNC and West Virginia trying to work back into the game.
It’s not surprising our reports were a little different, because Ealey tends to change his mind quite a bit (he has a lot of people in his ear). But the one constant in our reports was Maryland, the program that’s been consistently atop Ealey’s favorites list for two-plus months. After visiting College Park unofficially in the spring and later for the WVU game, he came away raving about the campus; environment; fan atmosphere; emphasis on education; and the entire coaching staff.
Ealey will be back a third time for an official visit, leading us to believe UMD has more than a legitimate shot here.
Of course, Ealey has also stayed consistent with his insistence on taking all five allotted officials. So, would it shock us if he went to Chapel Hill, N.C., and was overwhelmed by Butch Davis and Co.? We’ve seen it happen before, so we’re not ready to elevate him to “hot” on the hot board just yet.
Expect Ealey to select his school sometime in December.
A Note on Ryan Davis
As we've reported the last two Shells, momentum may be fading for wide receiver Ryan Davis (Lakewood/St. Petersburg, Fla.), the three-star dynamo who officially visited UMD a few weeks back. Davis lauded Maryland and area recruiter Mike Locksley following that College Park trip, and even suggested the Terps were either a leader or right up there with longtime pursuers Florida and Florida State. But since then he's come off his official visit high; he now looks to be zeroing in on the Sunshine State powers again.
Last week we let you know how Davis had attended games at FSU and UF, with the latter's head coach, Will Muschamp, visiting Lakewood High to add a personal touch. Now, Davis has come out and said he and five-star defensive end Byron Cowart (Armwood/Seffner, Fla.) will almost assuredly attend the same college.
It's true, Davis' good friend Cowart did officially visit Maryland as well, but we're not expecting a Terps coups here. Cowart's top four (Florida, FSU, Oregon, Alabama) does not include the Terps, so if what Davis is saying holds true, the pair will either wind up Gators or Seminoles. Right now, the smart money is on UF, unless Florida tanks in the SEC this year.
Middletown (Md.) vs. Walkersville (Md.)
The first high school game I stopped by last week featured two Frederick County rivals. Beyond Middletown’s Will McClain, neither squad featured any realistic Division I-A players, but it was an opportunity to watch the big 6-5, 295-pound Knights tackle in action. But McClain, who popped to Maryland back in June, did not have one of his better efforts Sept. 26, and maybe that explains his lack of major FBS attention beyond UMD and West Virginia.
There is certainly potential here, however, what with McClain’s apparent athleticism and ability to get to the second level. He has a stout, well-built frame, strong hands, and plenty of natural power too.
But McClain has some fine-tuning to do before he’s ready for Big Ten ball. McClain’s technique, especially in pass protection, needs honing, while his footwork; hand placement; and leverage could use work as well. We’d also like to see more fire (read: mean streak) out of McClain, and a consistent, every-down effort as well. When evaluating offensive linemen, you never like to see guys take plays off or look lethargic.
As for the Terps, McClain’s fully on board with Randy Edsall’s program. He never had much interest in recruiting to begin with, and his college search effectively ended for good once he popped. Unless something wacky happens in the next couple months, he’ll be signing his Maryland Letter of Intent in February.
You can read my report HERE.
Carroll (Washington, D.C.) vs. O’Connell (Arlington, Va.)
A day after watching McClain, I stopped by Carroll to take a look at two more offensive line recruits: Jauan Williams and Richard Merritt, the former a left tackle and the latter a right tackle. Both Williams and Merritt are class of 2016 prospects, and each are nationally rated and firmly on Maryland’s radar.
Neither is going to be an easy pull considering both have offers from powerhouse programs throughout the SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Big 12, but they do have the Terps on the brain -- Williams more so than Merritt.
The 6-6, 275-pound Williams didn’t want to list leaders, but the vibe is the Terps are right in his top three to five current favorites (programs like Penn State, Ohio State, Florida, Florida State and Alabama are the others). Maryland was the first school to offer Williams, and he has had a relationship with area recruiter Mike Locksley for more than three years now. Not to mention he knows numerous current Terps, and has had the “hometown movement” mantra drilled into his brain. There’s a ways to go, but I’d expect UMD to remain in prime contention throughout the recruiting process.
Williams can play a little too. He has a traditional left tackle’s frame, is powerful at the point of attack, gets off the line well, can finish plays, looks great in pass protection, and is extremely athletic for his size. He’s still a bit raw technically, and he has to keep building his body, but once Williams shores up those areas he’ll be good to go. He should be a three-plus-year starter on any FBS offensive line.
You can read my report on him HERE.
With Merritt, the Terps seem to have made up some ground. Remember, when we interviewed him back in the summer he wasn’t thinking about the hometown school at all; the “name” programs had him seeing stars. And, honestly, many of them still do, with FSU, Alabama, Oklahoma, UF and Penn State on his brain. But area recruiter Mike Locksley has obviously done work here, because Merritt said he is now considering the benefits of staying home, where his family can see him play at least six times a year.
I didn’t get a chance to scout Merritt as closely as Williams (it’s difficult to hone in on two offensive linemen without your attention being divided), but from what I could tell Merritt was blowing guys off the ball. He looked to have a nasty streak, and more than enough power, drive and agility. I can’t really comment on the finer points of Merritt’s game, but it was pretty clear why he has 25 offers already.
You can ready my report HERE.
Gilman (Baltimore, Md.) vs. St. Frances (Baltimore, Md.)
Keith was able to make the Sept. 26 bout between these two MIAA A-Conference squads, with the intention of scouting and interviewing two St. Frances class of 2016 studs: Rahshaun Smith and Kareem Felder.
The defensive end/outside linebacker Smith, a four-star recruit, projects as an outside backer in college. He may not be as refined as his ranking would suggest, but Smith isn’t a slouch by any means. The 6-4, 235-pounder has a fast first step, can rush the passer, shows good lateral agility and tackles well in the open field. He’s a backfield buster who works to disrupt the pocket, or take on multiple blockers to free up his teammates. At the same time, Smith has to become more powerful at the point of attack; refine his rush moves; develop even more quickness and agility; and work on his hips and drops.
In terms of recruiting, Smith seems to be focused on Oklahoma, Florida State, Penn State, Florida and a few other national universities. He did have plenty of positive comments about Maryland and his recruiter Keith Dudzinski, but at this point the Terps are probably on the outside looking in.
You can read Keith’s report HERE.
The cornerback Felder, meanwhile, does not hold a Maryland offer yet, but very well could receive one this offseason. The 5-10 defensive back is in touch with area recruiter Andre Powell, and said he’d love to garner a hometown scholarship. He has spoken highly of the program’s direction, has heard plenty about UMD from his coaches (LaMont Jordan and Messay Hailemariam are former Terps), and likes what he’s seen at camps and games.
Felder already claims verbals from Rutgers, Iowa, Toledo, Cincinnati and New Mexico. He said UMD, UVA, Louisville, WVU, Oklahoma and Virginia Tech are in touch.
It’s easy to see why he’s getting that kind of attention, too. Not only does Felder run well, but he’s aggressive at the line; attacks the ball in the air; can play bump-and-run; has loose hips; and is fluid in and out of breaks. He’s still a little raw technically -- namely with his footwork, eye discipline and hand placement -- and his recovery speed is questionable, but he’s certainly a Division I-A talent.
La Salle (Plymouth Meeting, Pa.) vs. McDonogh (Owings Mills, Md.)
Scout’s Brian Dohn made the trek down to Pennsylvania from New Jersey to watch McDonogh in action Sept. 26. But he had a different take on the Eagles’ three main recruits than I had after watching McDonogh earlier this year. Recall, I was highly impressed with Terps pledge Ellis McKennie; liked class of 2017 lineman Jordan McNair’s potential; and thought class of 2016 safety Eric Burrell was “OK.”
It just goes to show you talent is in the eye of the beholder. Dohn said McKennie still had work to do, while he elevated McNair and Burrell to “four-star” talents. McKennie apparently didn’t impress with his run blocking, but McNair showed advanced mechanics and athleticism for a sophomore, and Burrell displayed top-notch acceleration. Go figure.
As for their respective recruitments, McKennie is still a firm Maryland commit; Burrell likes Maryland, but currently has his eyes on Virginia Tech and Penn State (no offer yet); and it’s still way too soon to tell for McNair (although he’s highly appreciative of his two early verbals from the Terps and Ohio State).
Two New Offers Out
The Terps extended at least two offers this week to Forest Park (Woodbridge, Va.) receiver Eric Kumah and Camden (N.J.) receiver Brad Hawkins. Kumah currently holds offers from BC, UMD, ODU, Tennessee and UVA, and will be in Charlottesville, Va., this weekend. He likes the Terps a good deal, and said he’s had plenty of contact with area recruiter Lyndon Johnson, but we’ll have to see if UMD can pry him away from the in-state programs.
Hawkins, meanwhile, is a four-star stud with offers from elite Big Ten programs and several SEC powers. Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Florida, South Carolina and others are all over this guy, and he seems to be focused on several “name” suitors at this time.
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