In addition to a pair of prospective Maryland recruits who took official visits to College Park, Md., last weekend, the Terps hosted seven of their class of 2015 pledges Dec. 5-7 as well.
Three in-state offensive linemen -- Ellis McKennie (McDonough/Owings Mills, Md.), E.J. Donahue (Linganore/Frederick, Md.) and Will McClain (Middletown, Md.) -- made the drive in, while cornerback Darnell Savage (Caravel/Bear, Del.) came over from Delaware and inside linebacker Brett Zanotto (Franklin Regional/Murrysville, Pa.) journeyed down from Western Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, both slot receiver Jahrvis Davenport (Robinson/Tampa, Fla.) and center Mason Zimmerman (Anthony Wayne/Whitehouse, Ohio) hopped on a plane and arrived with their families in time for the festivities Dec. 5.
Uncommitted junior college defensive lineman Drew Bailey (Pearl River C.C./Hattiesburg, Miss.) and Trinity-Pawling (Pawling, N.Y.) defensive end Austrian Robinson, who arrived Dec. 6, were also in attendance. (Bailey’s reaction to the official can be read HERE.)
“It was really hard for me to leave [Dec. 7],” said the 5-foot-10, 170-pound Savage, who committed June 23. “I was having such a good time with everyone, and I really can’t wait to go back. This [visit] just basically reaffirmed everything I already felt about Maryland. It’s my home for the next four years.”
“It was really a lot of fun, and the coaches made me and my family feel very comfortable,” said the 6-0, 215-pound Zanotto, who pledged June 19. “I know my mom, she was talking to all the coaches there and saying how nice everyone was. And just meeting all the players and other recruits, it was just a great time.”
The majority of the group arrived mid-afternoon Dec. 5, starting with an introductory meeting with head coach Randy Edsall and then meeting their respective player hosts. Afterwards, they ate lunch and met with other coaches and academic advisors before watching the team practice. The visitors were treated to dinner that night at Ruth’s Chris in Washington, D.C.,, and then spent the rest of the night hanging out together, joined by numerous current Terps.
The next day, following breakfast, the recruits took in another team practice from the President’s Lounge in Tyser Tower before talking to the staff and meeting with their respective position coaches. The group was introduced to Maryland’s strength coach, toured the team house and other facilities, and then went to the Xfinity Center for the hoops team’s 2 p.m. game against Winthrop. After yet another satisfying dinner that evening, they chilled in the dorms with the other Terps.
Finally, on Dec. 7, each official visitor had an individual sit-down with Edsall before departing early that afternoon.
“I enjoyed everything. I really can’t pinpoint any one thing,” Savage said. “From going to dinner, to seeing the new gear, the new facility, talking to the coaches, meeting the other recruits -- everything was exciting.
“I was mainly with E.J., Ellis, Jahrvis and Brett, and my host was Jarrett Ross. [Ross and I] know each other from back home. He was really cool, and we were cracking jokes the whole time.
“But I’ve been around the program for so long now that I’m pretty comfortable around everyone and know what Coach Edsall brings to the table. But [the current Terps] were just telling me about the campus, living there, and things I needed to know outside of football -- what things to do and what not to do.”
Savage said he had a memorable departure meeting with Edsall Dec. 7. The Delaware corner expressed how he believes in Edsall, the direction of the program and what the Terps can accomplish in the future.
“[Edsall] just keeps telling me their expectations for me are very high and how happy he is for me to be on board,” Savage said “And I told him I’m really excited to be part of the program, and how the other [recruits] are excited too. I told him we can’t wait to get there and get started. There’s a lot of excitement around the team right now.”
Savage could pretty much speak for the rest of the pledges, though each identified different highlights from their 48-hour stay. McKennie, the McDonogh lineman, pointed to his steak dinner and the various Under Armour jersey combinations as two of the more aesthetic experiences that resonated.
“I had a filet at Ruth’s Chris and it was amazing – maybe the best steak I’ve ever had,” said the 6-3, 285-pound McKennie, who committed May 28. “Then just putting on the jerseys, I got a bunch of pictures with all the different uniforms. Me and Darnell, we actually put a couple jerseys on and then went out on the field [at Byrd Stadium] and started playing catch under the lights. That was really cool.”
McKennie noted how he bonded with all the recruits in attendance, in addition to his host and former high school teammate, Josh Woods. The McDonogh lineman said he’s stayed in contact with the likes of Woods, Donahue, Zanotto, Savage and more on Twitter and via text, but it meant more to interact in person.
“We had a whole lot of fun, and I really got to know them better,” McKennie said. “With Josh, you know, we were teammates last year and we’re already friends, so there wasn’t much to catch up with, but he was cool. He’s roommates with [outside linebacker] Jesse Aniebonam, so I got to know him a little more too.
“Basically [Woods, Aniebonam, etc.] were telling me that what you see at Maryland is what you get. There’s no false advertising. They said the coaches are all really good guys, they push you, and they get the most out of you. They were saying they really believe the coaches and guys in the program can take Maryland to the next level.”
While McKennie mainly stayed with the aforementioned players and pledges, he said he spent time with the junior college lineman Bailey as well. Bailey has now taken three official visits to Fresno State, N.C. State and Maryland, with one more scheduled for Louisville Dec. 12.
“[Bailey] was a really good kid and easy to get along with,” McKennie said. “I hope he jumps on board. We were all telling him he should come [to Maryland] and it would be great to have him here. Hopefully he joins the family; he seemed to like it a lot.”
McKennie went on to note how he’ll continue working offseason and is anxious to report to College Park in the summer.
Fellow local offensive lineman E.J. Donahue harbored similar sentiments. And while he too enjoyed the steak dinner (“amazing rib eye,” he said), the Linganore product said he appreciated the time he spent with the current players most.
“I’ve talked to the players before, but I got to spend a lot more time picking their brains,” said the 6-5, 330-pound Donahue, who committed Oct. 26, 2013. “I got to find out some things the coaches didn’t tell us, like how hard the practices are; what time they start; how it was coming in in the summer for camp; how hard the transition is from high school to college – things like that. That was really helpful.”
Donahue’s host, offensive lineman Sean Christie, evidently answered said inquiries well. The Lancers’ left tackle mentioned how the redshirt freshman Christie was “a really good, funny guy.”
“I couldn’t have asked for a better host,” said Donahue, who also questioned Terps lineman Michael Dunn. “Sean was great to be around, and he said when you come in, make sure you’re conditioned and ready to go. He said college is a lot better than high school, and it’s a lot of fun, but you have to work. But he said he loves it at Maryland; he really promoted the program well.”
Donahue spoke to Edsall and his position coach, Greg Studrawa, as well. He said their overarching message was to not worry about playing time; starting; redshirting; and the like, but to concern yourself with what you can control.
“The big thing that stuck with me was how they kept emphasizing, ‘Work hard,’” Donahue said. “They said don’t worry about if you’re going to redshirt or if you’re going to play your freshman year – just work and the rest will take care of itself. Then they also really emphasized school work, the SAT and taking care of your grades. That was big for them.”
The Frederick, Md., native’s parents accompanied him on the official. Donahue said both his mother and father spoke extensively to Edsall and his assistants, coming away knowing, “that I’m going to be taken care of. They were really impressed with everyone,” Donahue said.
Donahue also lauded the team practices, the Under Armour gear and new facility showings.
“We went over all the gear, jerseys and helmets we’d be wearing, which was awesome,” Donahue said. “Then they showed us the new indoor facility again, and that looks sweet. They’re telling us it’s going to be done in 2017, so that’s exciting.
“So overall, just an amazing weekend. I can’t wait to get started.”
Neither can the third offensive linemen who chimed in about the Dec. 5-7 trip. Mason Zimmerman and his parents flew down from Whitehouse, Ohio, via Detroit Metropolitan Airport, and the 6-5, 275-pound center said all three are sure UMD was the right choice.
“It was a very, very good time. We ate a lot of really good food, met a lot of really great people and were just overall very impressed with Maryland,” said Zimmerman, who committed June 15. “My parents, they were impressed with the coaches, and we just all really enjoyed ourselves.”
Zimmerman said he enjoyed hanging out with his host, Michael Dunn, and many of the veteran Terps’ offensive linemen most. The Ohio center mentioned how he had been in Byrd Stadium for Maryland’s against Ohio State and Michigan State, but, “I’d never really been able to talk to the players before, because they were always playing.”
“So it was really good to go back to the dorms with the older O-linemen and bond with those guys,” Zimmerman said. “Michael [Dunn], he was my host, and we just spent a lot of time talking, playing video games and just chilling. We got along really well, and he was telling me about Coach Stud [Studrawa]. He was letting me know that [Studrawa will] yell at you in practice, but he’s doing it to make you the best you can be. That’s just his teaching philosophy.”
Speaking of Studrawa, Zimmerman spent ample time chatting with UMD’s offensive line coach, as well as Edsall and other staff members. Zimmerman said all the coaches were eager to have him and the rest of the pledges on campus and to “get us started in the program.”
“Coach Stud, he was talking to all the offensive linemen there like me, E.J., Will and Ellis. He was all excited about us,” Zimmerman said. “I spent a lot of time with [Donahue, McClain and McKennie], and we were talking about what we were going to do at Maryland. They’re all really good guys and they have the same goals I do -- to win a Big Ten conference championship and compete nationally.”
Zimmerman went on to call the “New Cole” a “really awesome facility,” though he acknowledged he would like it to be finished sooner rather than later. He praised the Under Armour uniforms, the team practices and the Ruth’s Chris dinner as well.
“It was an awesome experience,” Zimmerman said. “I love it down at Maryland.”
For Zanotto, although he had his share of fun trying on jerseys and playing video games, he made sure his official was a learning experience as well. He said he paid close attention during team practices, noting how his position coach, Keith Dudzinski, used the linebackers.
“I talked to pretty much every coach on the staff, but it was mostly Coach Dudzinski and Coach [Greg] Studrawa, who recruits Western Pennsylvania,” Zanotto said. “I really spent a lot of time talking to them and just asking questions. Me and my family, we really liked all the coaches there, and I honestly can’t say enough about them. They’re all so nice.
“But when I was talking to Coach Dudzinski, I really liked how he broke everything down for me. He went over their base defense and the different coverages they do, and he showed me how I’d fit in as an inside linebacker. I learned a lot from that and just from watching practice. The [practice] gave me a better sense of how they do things and how they prepare.”
Another inside linebacker from Pennsylvania, Terps freshman Tyler Burke, hosted Zanotto. The Franklin Regional defender called Burke “extremely nice and outgoing” and said he interacted well with both the former Coatesville, Pa., star and his roommates.
“I can’t remember everyone I met, but they were all very welcoming and they made me feel like I was already part of the team,” Zanotto said. “Just being with those guys and the other commits, you can’t really beat that.
“I asked [Burke and Co.] typical questions about what the coaches were like, how it was learning the defense, things like that. And they said all the coaches there are really good teachers and really help you understand your responsibilities.”
Zanotto mentioned how he and the rest of the pledges received an exclusive “sneak peek” at next year’s uniform combinations (“I loved that,” Zanotto said.). He liked the program’s equipment and facility upgrades as well.
The commit who had the furthest to travel admitted he had plenty of sleep to catch up on after returning to Tampa, Fla., Dec. 7. The 5-10, 180-pound Davenport, who was joined by his two guardians, said he “loved the entire experience” at Maryland and can’t wait sign on the dotted line this February.
“There’s not much I can really say other than I really liked everything. Everything and everyone was really nice, and I liked how [the visit] was set up,” said Davenport, who committed June 20. “I’m not taking any other visits or looking at any other schools – this [visit] showed me that I made the right choice. I’ll be up there [in August] when we all report.”
The Robinson product isn’t a linemen, so it was a bit ironic when the 180-pounder said the food was his favorite part of his visit.
“For me, eating was the best part. Everything on the house. I had a big rib eye at Ruth’s Chris in D.C. -- awesome,” he quipped.
Davenport hadn’t been in College Park since he committed last summer. He said it was good to see all the UMD staff members again, as well as his future teammates.
“Will Ulmer, who was just moved to my position, he was my host, and he was good,” Davenport said. “He told me how it would be when I got there, and he explained the system and what it was like getting used to that. So that was good and I learned a lot from him.”
The Florida slot also spoke to his area recruiter, Mike Locksley, tight ends coach John Dunn, receivers coach Keenan McCardell, as well as Edsall.
“They were all just saying how they’re real excited for me when I go up there,” Davenport said. “They said they love my game and think I can do big things in the offense. And I told them I’m going to work and do my best to get it done. I’m ready to get it going at Maryland.”
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