Gilman (Baltimore, Md.) junior defensive tackle Ellison Jordan is a youngster with his stuff together.
Between balancing books and football (where on the field he leads the Greyhounds with 13.5 sacks this season), the hour commute each way to the Roland Park school from his suburban Washington, D.C., home, and focusing more on his books and SAT prep work in his spare time than whirlwind college visits like many of his peers, Jordan is serious and focused.
And when an interviewer reaches out to him, he starts the conversation by asking, "How are you?" Not your typical high school junior.
And that's why this week is important to him, with Nov. 8's 99th annual Gilman-McDonogh (Owings Mills, Md.) showdown looming, and the 6-foot, 265-pound whirling dervish, who may have the best motor of any lineman in the state, completely locked in.
You see, last year in the season finale, McDonogh's line and run game blew the doors off of Gilman in the 37-6 lopsided loss, a final few saw coming.
Jordan was just a sophomore tackle at the time learning his way, but he put a lot of it on himself as No. 2 McDonogh knocked off the top-ranked Greyhounds with a ground attack featuring four rushing scores and a punishing O-line. Gilman had owned the series, with a 59-34-5 all-time mark, and had won the previous five meetings before the sobering loss.
"It is going to be a big game," said Jordan, who is up to 12 offers now. Meanwhile, new schools like Arizona, top-ranked Mississippi State, South Carolina and Purdue, among others, are also in pursuit. "We've got to play hard, play smart, and we are doing the best we can to prepare for them. We can't sleep on them like we did last year."
Last year, McDonogh dominated the trenches, and Jordan, who seems to know only one speed (full), said he was not as engaged as he should have been. He finished with 4 or 5 tackles, but no sacks or tackles for loss, which he usually fills the stat sheet with each week.
"They were like running all over us. They were on fire," Jordan said. "And I have to play better because last year I played horrible that game and because of that we lost."
This year, there have been no lapses, as he set concrete goals for himself, be it sacks or tackles for loss, heading into his junior campaign. And "mostly just to run to the ball at all times."
Gilman started off 0-2 after two national games against powerhouses, but has since peeled off eight straight victories to improve to 8-2 heading into their final contest Nov. 8.
"I really give props to both St. Edwards (Ohio) and Paramus (N.J.). They are both the top teams out of their state," Jordan said of Gilman's first two opponents. "And they were just better than us, they had that mentality that they were going to play well and win, and we didn't. But we have gotten back to what we need to do, and what we can do, because of that start. So it has been a blessing."
This year, Jordan sees the Gilman defense as a possible deciding factor in the rivalry war. He has led the way up front all season, a man constantly in motion tracking down quarterbacks and ball-carriers, collapsing the pocket, snuffing out plays in the backfield.
"I have really been working on better pass rush moves, getting to the ball more, and always knowing where I need to go," Jordan said of his personal progress. "I think I have progressed in watching the ball, not being squeezed up...like last year, I would jump off sides. I haven't jumped off sides, maybe once or twice all this season. And that is just my eagerness for the ball."
And as for that Terps-PSU game last weekend, the other "rivalry" he's been hearing about all week, well, given he has offers from both schools, his voice got a bit more animated when the subject came up.
"Oh, yes, I did," when asked if he saw it on television. "I was at home just chillin," added Jordan, who was offered by Penn State last week, while he took in the Terps-OSU game last month. "I mean, I think Maryland should have shook their hands [in the pre-game], but it's just football and emotions got high.
"But you know, both Maryland and Penn State played really well, but Maryland came out with the win in the end and that was big. Penn State, they traditionally have really good teams, and Maryland went into Happy Valley and came out with the win, so that was very good. Both defenses kinda held the offenses down so it was a good game both ways.
"But I think this could be the start of the rivalry because they are right on the border, and this started it up a little bit and now it's like, 'wow.'"
The Nov. 1 game allowed Jordan to watch the program that became his most recent offer as well, PSU.
“I never knew when it [the PSU offer] was coming. They offered me, and I was talking to [head] Coach [James] Franklin, [defensive coordinator Bob] Shoop and [defensive line] Coach [Sean] Spencer," Jordan told Scout's Greg Pickel. “They were saying that they wanted to examine me further by looking at my highlight tape ... and making sure it was the right time to offer. I really like that I got an offer from Penn State, and I really want to learn more about them during the process.”
As far as Maryland is concerned, Jordan is friends with former Gilman and current Terps Kenny Goins and Shane Cockerille, while he knows Terps senior end Andre Monroe, who many compare him to. He's also met Maryland guard Damian Prince a few times.
Jordan enjoyed his visit for the Terps-Ohio State game, along with several of his teammates. He has formed a close rapport with pretty much the entire UMD staff, and continues to sing their praises, as well as the school's academic reputation.
On Maryland's first season in the Big Ten, he said:
"I think it has been good. The first game against Ohio State was a big one because Ohio State is always one of the best teams in the Big Ten. So that was going to be a big test for them.
"And then what they did against Iowa, well a lot of people weren't expecting that, Maryland came out on top of that.
"But Penn State, Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin...I mean this is their first start [in the Big Ten], they have lost some games, but those were some good teams and they have fought hard. I think their program is up and coming."
Jordan has not taken any other campus visits yet, and has no set plans the rest of the way. Meanwhile, after the McDonogh showdown, that will be it for the Gilman season. He's wrestled in the past, but will be focusing on the weight room and conditioning this winter at school.
As for the on-going recruiting process, he said:
"Yeah, I want to go through the process. I don't want to be like choose the first school that offers me. I would like to expand more as this is a really important time in your life, and it only happens once. So I want to see some of the schools and look at all the information and take time to do that."
Jordan Talks Terps, Rivalries
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