Welcome to our next edition of Inside the Shell, the weekly Maryland football recruiting roundup.
The Michigan Game, Two Road Wins, Facility Upgrades & More
Slowly but surely, it seems like Maryland is beginning to gain the attention of several high-profile recruits, and, more specifically, those close to College Park, Md. No, we haven’t heard any poppage recently -- to the chagrin of Terps fans, who have watched Virginia and Virginia Tech, two nearby programs who have had subpar seasons, pull in a few four-star talents this fall -- but if Maryland continues to make strides like it did this past week, it’s going to pay dividends.
There is a buzz about the hometown school among the “name” recruits in the 2016 class (and no, we’re not talking about the mid-level prospects who are complaining on Twitter about not having a UMD offer), and it’s growing louder as the offseason nears.
The Terps’ victory at Michigan, it’s second such significant road win after defeating Penn State in Happy Valley earlier, rang true with many, as did the now-public plans for the new multi-million-dollar football practice facility. Granted, recruits had already seen photos of the “New Cole” prior to UMD’s announcement, but, as head coach Randy Edsall said in his Nov. 25 press conference (I’m paraphrasing here), “It means something more when shovels are in the ground and dirt starts moving.”
Facilities and relationships are arguably the two most important selling factors in recruiting these days, at least as far as crème de la crème prospects are concerned, and now the Terps have something tangible to hang their hats on. Top hometown talents like Dwayne Haskins (Bullis/Potomac, Md.), Tino Ellis (DeMatha/Hyattsville, Md.), Jauan Williams (Carroll/Washington, D.C.), Terrell Hall (St. John’s/Washington, D.C.), Trevon Diggs (Avalon/Bethesda, Md.) and Ellison Jordan (Gilman/Baltimore, Md.), among others, have chimed in via interviews or social media how impressed they were with Maryland’s future digs. In addition, elite out-of-town targets, namely tight end Naseir Upshur (Imhotep/Philadelphia, Pa.), lauded the rollout as well.
In regards to the Terps’ inaugural Big Ten season, headlined by the aforementioned road victories over traditional powers, the main Maryland targets have all responded positively. We touched base via text with many of the familiar nearby prospects, and conducted a long-form interview with Ellison Jordan, who, along with his Gilman teammates, was actually in the Big House for the Terps’ big win.
Jordan, naturally, left impressed with Maryland’s mettle and how the defense shut down Michigan’s attack. He once again lauded the Terps’ coaching staff and said he’s excited for UMD’s future.
But, at the same time (and Jordan’s comments were par for the course), he said he wants to go through the recruiting process; take several more trips; and explore what else it out there. Jordan will be heading to Va Tech this weekend, and wants to see Michigan State, North Carolina, Rutgers and Penn State again this offseason. (ARTICLE).
Jordan can basically serve as a microcosm for many of Maryland’s most coveted recruits, including the four-star Bullis (Potomac, Md.) quarterback Haskins, who is the proverbial “straw that stirs the drink.” The Terps are on their brains, and in some instances right at the forefront of said brain (Haskins is in this latter category), but they are still taking a wait-and-see approach.
Again, we don’t put a ton of stock into wins and losses, but prospects are typically drawn to programs whose arrow is pointing upward, and a strong finish to the 2014 season would definitely put UMD into that category.
So a win against Michigan here and a win against PSU there isn’t going to convince these kids to jump on the Maryland bandwagon just yet. But finish 8-4, go to a solid Florida bowl game, and come out with a victory against an established SEC program? And then open up a state-of-the-art facility to cap it off? Well, that could very well do the trick.
Ealey Still In Play
As expected, Coatesville (Pa.) outside linebacker/tight end recently backed off his previous comments that Maryland was his clear No. 1 suitor. He originally declared UMD the team to beat after taking in College Park, Md., during the summer and then returning for the Terps-WVU game in September, citing the welcoming atmosphere; the environment; his affinity for the staff, namely his recruiter, John Dunn; and Maryland’s strong academics.
Now, the 6-foot-4, 230 pounder still holds the Terps in high regard, but there are at least three other programs right in the thick of things as well (which is a step in the right direction for Ealey, whose recruiting was so jumbled until the last week or so that he had upwards of nine schools under consideration).
Ealey said Pittsburgh, Syracuse, UCF and UMD are the Big Four, although he’s leaving room for a fifth should an appealing suitor emerge late. He said he’s been in close contact with USC, and if the Trojans do ante up (we’re not expecting it), Ealey would almost certainly officially visit and put the Pac-12 mainstay firmly on his radar.
As for UCF, Pitt, UMD and the Cuse, it seems like they made the cut (over North Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia, Rutgers and others) because assistants from each have continued heavy involvement with the Coatesville product. When breaking down each school, the first comment Ealey made was: “Their coach really wants me there.”
Ealey has seen the Terps, Panthers and Orange before, but wants to take officials to each in December/January. He has not been to UCF yet, but said he will officially visit Central Florida as well. Ealey’s Maryland visit, barring a late change, is scheduled for Dec. 5, which is when numerous current Terps’ pledges, in addition to defensive line target Drew Bailey (Pearl River C.C./Hattiesburg, Miss.) and defensive end Austrian Robinson (Trinity-Pawling/Pawling, N.Y.), are set to be in College Park.
If we had to handicap it now, we still like Maryland’s chances with Ealey. We previously thought North Carolina would pose the greatest threat, but the Tar Heels haven’t been in the picture for a couple months now (their coaches may have stopped making a push).
Ealey had already heard a ton about Maryland from his former teammate-turned-Terp Tyler Burke, and he’s thoroughly enjoyed both UMD visits. He and John Dunn have a close rapport, and Ealey said he appreciated how “[Dunn] wants me bad…and said [Maryland is not] offering anyone else at my position.” On top of that, Ealey likes how Maryland will bring him in as an outside linebacker, but will let him try tight end if that’s where he fits best.
Expect Ealey to select his destination in mid- to late-January. (ARTICLE).
Robinson Still Set To See UMD
Last week we speculated that Austrian Robinson might have to reschedule his Dec. 5 Maryland official visit due to his sitting for the SATs, but the Trinity-Pawling product said he’s still planning to be in College Park that weekend. Robinson will take the SAT the morning of Dec. 6, drive to UMD with his family that afternoon, and be in town until Monday. In other words, he’ll miss the Friday night festivities, but will still get the full 48-hour experience.
We updated Robinson’s recruitment last week, and had a full interview with him this week, so here’s a brief recap for those who don’t remember:
1. Robinson picked up a coveted Penn State offer Nov. 19 and is set to visit PSU Nov. 29 for the Nittany Lions’ game against Michigan State.
2. Robinson still has Maryland as his No. 1 suitor, despite the recent Penn State scholarship, though we expect that could change.
3. After seeing PSU, he’ll visit Maryland officially Dec. 6-8.
4. Following his College Park stay, Robinson will probably hit UCF and Miami on consecutive weekends in late December/January.
5. Robinson will visit Ole Miss Jan. 24, more than likely.
6. Robinson has already taken one official visit to Purdue, but the Boilermakers are not considered a contender.
7. Some programs may be a bit leery about taking Robinson due to his SAT/academic situation. Could a prep school year be necessary, regardless of where he commits to?
8. Robinson will select his school around Signing Day.
What’s our gut? The Terps remain in a very good spot for Robinson given his relationship with area recruiter Lyndon Johnson and position coach Chad Wilt. Not to mention he rated his summer campus visit a “10 out of 10.” But the prevailing feeling among various media members is the Nittany Lions could have the inside track.
We’ll see if Johnson, Wilt and Co. can stave off the late charge. (ARTICLE).
Davis Rolls A Tide Offer
And just when we thought athlete/receiver Ryan Davis (Lakewood/St. Petersburg, Fla.) was concentrating primarily on 1A) Florida State, 1B) Florida, 3) Maryland, 4) Kentucky, 5) Ole Miss and 6) Texas Tech, a new major suitor entered the mix earlier this week. The 5-9.5, 175-pound speedster said he’d been in touch with Alabama assistant Lane Kiffin since late October, and on Nov. 22 the Tide pulled the trigger on a formal scholarship.
Needless to say, Davis was thrilled, as any recruit who landed an offer from the prestigious SEC power would be. Davis has never visited Tuscaloosa, Ala., before, but plans to at some point in the offseason, likely for an official. He noted how Bama is no longer primarily a running team, and since the Tide do get their receivers involved (see: Amari Cooper), Nick Saban’s squad could be a solid fit for him.
I’m not sure Alabama’s emergence will be enough to unseat the Seminoles or Gators, but the Crimson Tide could very well work their way up to option 1C.
The Terps gave it their best effort, securing two campus visits from Davis, plus area recruiter Mike Locksley’s numerous appealing overtures (i.e. Davis as face of the program, Davis as freshman starter, Davis as the next Stefon Diggs, etc.). But right now we just don’t get the feeling Davis will opt for UMD over the two Sunshine State mainstays, which he has long favored despite the coaching change at Florida.
Expect him to officially visit FSU, UF (he’ll wait to see who Florida’s coach is), Bama and one other in December/January before selecting his school around Signing Day.
Two formerly bandied-about local names resurfaced earlier this week when, first, one of my D.C. area sources let me know Maryland could be back in touch with recent Penn State decommit Adam McLean (Quince Orchard/North Potomac, Md.); and second, when Virginia received a commitment from four-star junior quarterback Sonny Abramson (Pope John XXIII/Sparta, N.J.), leaving the status of current Wahoos 2015 triggerman pledge Nick Johns (Gonzaga/Washington, D.C.) in question.
I pursued both bits of news and found there was really nothing brewing with either McLean or Johns, at least as far as Maryland was concerned.
The Terps have tried to reconnect with the defensive tackle McLean, but after talking to the Quince Orchard senior personally, he didn’t seem all that receptive. McLean, who has a few academic issues to iron out (which likely led to PSU backing out), said he will officially visit Ole Miss, Arizona State and Clemson, along with maybe one or two others, before selecting his new school. He said programs rumored to still be involved like Washington State, Tennessee and now Maryland were on the backburner.
Now, it should be noted that McLean did give our Virginia analyst, Mike Clark, a bit of a different story. The Quince Orchard product told Clark that, in addition to Ole Miss (the favorite), Clemson and Arizona State, both Washington State and UMD were still in the game.
“Maryland is a school that’s kind of creeping in,” McLean said. “It’s a school close to home. A lot of people I played with or against in high school play there and I know the entire team. Coach (Randy) Edsall and (quarterbacks) coach (Mike) Locksley are really good people, too.”
Take that comment for what it’s worth, but on our end, we don’t think it’s worth all that much.
As for Johns, he’s still 100 percent sold on UVA, despite Abramson’s commitment. Johns was in Charlottesville, Va., for the Virginia-Miami game last weekend, and was assured by Mike London and Co. he would have an opportunity to anchor the offense.
Maryland finished second for Johns’ services, but at this point it’s a very distant second as the Gonzaga prospect looks to be fully assimilated into the Virginia program.
So, where does that leave Maryland in respect to a 2015 signal caller and more defensive linemen?
Well, the Terps are probably going to have to scan the post-grad, fifth-year-senior ranks for a triggerman, or perhaps the JUCO ranks or a late-emerging prep quarterback. That said, there just isn’t much available at the high school or JUCO levels, so barring a late flip/decommitment, UMD’s best bet is probably to identify the next Russell Wilson.
With defensive linemen, Maryland has already delved into several junior colleges for the likes of Drew Bailey and Ulric Jones (Butler C.C./El Dorado, Kans.), and we’d expect another name or two to surface along with that pair. We mentioned Itawamba C.C. (Fulton, Miss.) defensive end Larry Jefferson last week as a possibility, but he just popped to West Virginia earlier this week. The Terps, though, are still right in play for high schoolers Austrian Robinson (see above) and Jamal Milan (Al Raby/Chicago, Ill.), who should be officially visiting College Park in January.
Milan, recall, had to reschedule his November official date due to an injury. The Al Raby road grader may be favoring nearby Indiana or Iowa State (he seems to prefer schools closer to Chicago), in addition to Syracuse, but if the Terps get him on campus they’d certainly have a shot at prying Milan out of the Midwest. Area recruiter Chad Wilt has done well with Milan and does have his attention.
Some local names to watch out for: Channing Hames (St. Frances/Baltimore, Md.), who has several FBS offers and may be West Virginia bound; Mufo Taiwo (McDonough/Pomfret, Md.), who is currently committed to ODU but had been hearing from Maryland; and Malachi Felder (Eastern Christian/Elkton, Md.), who would have to smooth out his academic situation before signing with any program.
Of those, Hames is the most intriguing name given his size, the fact he’s shown interest in Maryland previously, and visited for the UMD-WVU game this fall. Hames is still a couple years away from being FBS ready, but at this point the Terps need bodies up front.
St. Frances head coach Messay Hailemariam said Maryland hadn’t really shown much interest in Hames yet (grade issues?), although perhaps UMD will jump in the game late like it did last year for Panthers star Nnamdi Egbuaba.
We do not expect the Terps to make a hard charge for either Taiwo or Felder, however, although stranger things have happened.
Speaking Of Drew Bailey
Junior college signing day is Dec. 18, and it looks like Drew Bailey will drag out his recruitment until right around that time. The 6-5, 280-pounder’s most recent offers were from N.C. State, Fresno State and Maryland, and he could very well be adding one from Louisville shortly. The plan is to officially visit all four schools before the buzzer sounds in mid-December.
In fact, Bailey just took his first official visit to Raleigh, N.C., Nov. 24-26 and was at Fresno Nov. 28-30. On Dec. 5, he should be in College Park for his Terps visit, and the week after, Dec. 12, he’ll take in Louisville, likely receiving a Cardinals offer in the process.
Bailey returned from his N.C. State official with the usual comments about feeling comfortable in the program, while praising the staff and how they treated him. The Wolfpack’s trump card, though, is that Raleigh is only a couple hours from Bailey’s Georgia home, allowing his mother to attend home games.
At the same time, we don’t think the Wolfpack helped themselves by hosting Bailey first. The feeling here is N.C. State may end up finishing second or third for his services.
Fresno is interesting and certainly offers a different vibe than the other programs. But it’s also 3,000 miles from home, which may be a deterrent considering Bailey is close with his mother, and isn’t a power-conference program.
However, the Bulldogs would certainly give Bailey a chance to contribute right away, and maybe that California sunshine sways him as well. But unless the Fresno staff blows Bailey away, he probably won’t end up a Bulldog either.
In our estimation, this recruitment could very well come down to Maryland and Louisville. The Terps were the first major FBS school to extend a scholarship, and that hit home with the Pearl River product. Bailey couldn’t say enough about Terps JUCO recruiter Chad Wilt and how thankful he was when head coach Randy Edsall extended the firm scholarship. The ferocious backfield buster also spoke highly of Maryland’s academics, conference affiliation (Big Ten) and location near Washington, D.C.
At this point, we think the Terps are sitting pretty, but we’ll see what happens with Louisville after Dec. 12. The Cardinals offer many of the same benefits UMD does, and if they offer up, things could get interesting. Louisville also has the advantage of hosting Bailey last, and final impressions do mean something in recruiting.
Maryland’s best bet may be to cull out a Bailey pop before he leaves College Park Dec. 7. Which is something the staff wasn’t able to do after Wes Annan (Lake Forest Academy/Lake Forest, Ill.) took his Terps official Nov. 15, leaving the Illinois plugger free for Stanford to scoop up.
A Senior CB To Monitor
Maryland may still be on the lookout for another defensive back to go along with Darnell Savage (Caravel/Bear, Del.) and Jameel Cook (Ridge Point/Missouri City, Texas), and another intriguing name recently surfaced. Longtime Syracuse pledge Andrew Spence (Coral Gables Senior/Miami, Fla.) has been in touch with several new suitors as Signing Day nears, and at the forefront are FAU and Maryland.
The Terps have not offered yet, but Spence said he’s exchanged messages with area recruiter Brian Stewart and is thinking about officially visiting College Park anyway. If so, we’d expect UMD to consider anteing up, and maybe, just maybe, flipping his colors from orange to red.
Obviously we haven’t seen Spence play, but he’s a 6-2, 180-pounder in the mold of those lengthy corners programs are pursuing nowadays. We’ll be monitoring the situation.
And A Senior LB To Monitor
Maryland is apparently taking a long look at Cass Technical (Detroit, Mich.) inside linebacker Michael Oliver, who committed to Central Michigan all the way back in March. He has since procured a couple more MAC offers, but UMD would be his first major FBS scholarship -- should it materialize.
At this point, going after Oliver seems curious considering the Terps have Brett Zanotto (Franklin Regional/Murrysville, Pa.), Gus Little (Massaponax/Fredericksburg, Va.) and Isaiah Davis (St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes/Alexandria, Va.) already committed at that position. So far we’ve been given no indication that any of the aforementioned trio is considering decommitting from UMD, although Davis would be the most likely bet. Recall, Davis took the longest to accept his Maryland offer, and seemed a bit leery about playing at his older brother, Sean Davis’, school.
Another Maryland pledge to watch, however, is outside linebacker Mbi Tanyi (Bush/Sugar Land, Texas). Tanyi just added an Oklahoma State offer, although he assured me he was still firmly committed to UMD and wasn’t considering flipping unless something weird happened (i.e. the Terps stopped recruiting him).
If Maryland’s staff is worried about Tanyi’s status, though, the Terps could conceivably move an Isaiah Davis to outside backer and have Zanotto, Little and Oliver at inside backer.
Another scenario UMD might be considering: unexpected attrition from the current roster. If someone does leave early from the defense, the Terps would undoubtedly be in need of another safety or linebacker. If it’s a safety, the Terps could possibly convert a Zanotto or an Oliver into a strong safety to fill the void.
Speaking of switching positions, another possibility still is Oliver being recruited as a running back. He lines up in the backfield for Cass Tech, and packs a powerful punch at the point of attack. Maybe Maryland’s coaches envision him as a fullback or a short-yardage back in certain packages. That said, Oliver’s size, speed and physical prowess (he’s a real downhill thumper) suggests he’s best served as a college linebacker.
The Rutgers Game
There should be a smattering of locals who will be in attendance for the Nov. 29 Maryland-Rutgers game in Byrd, though nowhere near as many as there were for the Michigan State, Ohio State and West Virginia bouts. We do know the DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) youngins -- who weren’t able to make the MSU affair due to a playoff game -- will be in College Park, headlined by Tino Ellis, Lorenzo Harrison and Terrance Davis. Also, look for the usual suspects like Trevon Diggs, Keith Simms (Landon/Bethesda, Md.) and various current UMD pledges to stop by as well.
The Bullis quarterback Dwayne Haskins should be in town too, and as we've been saying, we like where Maryland stands with him right now. But besides Haskins, the most intriguing names are three out-of-towners we’ve heard will be coming in.
From Florida, junior guard Andrew Boselli (Providence/Jacksonville, Fla.), who was supposed to be at the UMD-MSU game but couldn’t make it, is scheduled to be in Byrd. Boselli, the son of former Pro Bowler Tony Boselli, landed a Terps offer several months ago and has been trying to see College Park for the first time. He’s been in touch with area recruiter Keenan McCardell, who stopped by Providence High during UMD’s last bye, and seems genuinely intrigued by Randy Edsall’s program.
Also set to visit is Woodberry Forest (Va.) junior offensive tackle Clark Yarbrough, who has 20-plus offers from the likes of Va Tech, UVA, WVU, Maryland, Pitt, Michigan, Kentucky, Florida, Clemson, Duke, Arkansas, California, Oklahoma and more. His recruitment is wide open at the moment, but the prevailing feeling is the hometown schools have the upper hand early.
Finally, we’ve heard that Kingswood Oxford (West Hartford, Conn.) junior linebacker Koby Quansah, another UMD-MSU no-show, will be traveling down to College Park if he’s able to secure a ride. Quansah said he’s excited to see Maryland and his former neighbor and friend, Andrew Isaacs. The Connecticut native has been in regular contact via Twitter with Terps area recruiter Keith Dudzinski and was thrilled when UMD pulled through with an offer Oct. 18. He also holds verbals from BC, UConn, Duke, Syracuse and Rutgers.
New Offers Out
As we’ve said many times in this space, there were probably more, but these are the new offers we heard about this week (all from the 2016 class): Defensive end Khalid Kareem (Harrison/Farmington Hills, Mich.), cornerback Damar Hamlin (Central Catholic/Pittsburgh, Pa.), and cornerback/receiver Robbie Robinson (Phoebus/Hampton, Va.). All three are national recruits with offers from name programs, and each of them will be difficult to pry out of their home states/areas.
Penn State already has a bead on the Pittsburgh product Hamlin, and it would be surprising if the Nittany Lions let him slip away, although Notre Dame or Ohio State could have something to say about that.
Meanwhile, the Michigan defensive end Kareem is looking for a Michigan State offer and seems to be favoring the Spartans. The Midwest schools seem to have an “in” there.
Robinson, however, actually visited UMD for a game earlier this fall and has been in touch with area recruiter Chad Wilt. He’s expressed some interest in the Terps, though in-state UVA is all over this one, as are Penn State and Clemson. Robinson already has close to 20 offers and will be a tough get for UMD.
Also, pay attention to Bush (Lyndhurst, Ohio) athlete Jordan Overton, a junior speedster who has already procured offers from practically every MAC university out there. Maryland, however, has been showing interest, and evidently Ohio area recruiter Greg Studrawa has contacted him. The Terps are probably still in the evaluation stages with the 5-10, 170-pounder, but Overton’s the type of under-the-radar Midwest recruit UMD might be able to snag.
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