Maryland secured a commitment from DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) athlete Darryl Turner Jan. 24. We spoke to his head coach, Elijah Brooks, to gain more insight into the class of 2016 5-foot-10, 175-pound cornerback/safety/slot. Here is our question-and-answer session with Brooks:
Terrapin Times:So, Coach Brooks, second DeMatha commit to Maryland in the last few months. Your initial thoughts?
Elijah Brooks: Oh, I think it was a great move. That's where DJ has always wanted to be. He was just waiting for it. I know today [Jan. 24] is just a great day for him and his family. I know [Turner] was thrilled on his birthday [Jan. 18] when they offered him, and he just wanted to have a chance with his family visit and meet with Coach [Randy] Edsall, and he had that opportunity [Jan. 24]. He didn't want to waste that opportunity that was on the table for him, and he took it. We're very proud of D.J. here, and we expect him to do big things at Maryland. It's a great day for DeMatha, and a great day for Maryland.
TT: How big is it, Coach, for the premier high school in Maryland, DeMatha, to now send two players to Maryland in LoLo [Harrison] and now D.J.? I know there was a drought for a little while there between Kenny Tate and then LoLo jumping on board years later, and now being in position for even more guys like Tino [Ellis] and Terrance [Davis]...
EB: Oh, it's great. It's great for both schools. You know, Maryland is a great school, and we have a lot of guys that want to be there. We know what's going on at Maryland, and our guys do too. So far [the Terps] have gotten two very good student-athletes in LoLo and D.J., and they're very popular kids. So that definitely helps with other kids here and in the area with how they view Maryland. So just all around, it's great for DeMatha, great for Maryland, and hopefully we can continue this trend.
TT: And can you give us a little insight into D.J. in particular? What does he bring to the table as a player?
EB: The thing with D.J. is he's a playmaker. He started both sides of the ball for us, and also returned kicks. Every three times he touched the ball, he scored. He is just a dynamic playmaker, and has a knack for making the big play. You can't measure his heart. I think he's going to be a fantastic player at the next level.
TT: Where do you see D.J. fitting in at the next level? I know he said he can play on either side, but do you see him as a slot or more like a corner or maybe even a safety?
EB: You know, that's going to be up to the coaching staff. To me, I'd give the edge offensively just because of how elusive D.J. is. He's one of the purest route runners I've ever coached. He catches everything, the movement in his routes -- he he's really refined. So in my opinion he's a slot and a punt/kick returner, but, if he needs to play DB he can do that without any problems. He's just that valuable as a player, and I think Maryland saw that.
TT: Sure. But what do you think D.J. needs to do to get even better? To take his game up to a Big Ten level?
EB: Well definitely for a guy his size, he has to continue working on his speed. Pound for pound, he's the strongest player on the team, so he just needs to continue working on his speed. He'll be able to bang with guys on that [Big Ten] level, but he just now has to be able to run away from everyone. He does it on our level, but once he gets to college he need to take it up a notch.
TT: Understood. Now, in terms of recruiting, I know D.J. had offers from like Western Michigan, UMass, Toledo, Old Dominion... Is there a reason the FBS suitors haven't taken a look yet?
EB: Well, I think D.J. is very similar to Will Likely at Maryland. He's not going to wow you with the eyeball test. He's not going to pass many of those eyeball tests. You just have to turn on his film to see that he's a football player. Most of the time, bigger schools, they're scared to take that chance on a guy like D.J., but definitely Maryland saw that, hey, we have a guy in our program like Will Likely who isn't 6-4, but is one of our better players anyway. So to them [Maryland] size didn't matter. They know what kind of a playmaker D.J. is.
TT: Right. And what is D.J. like around his teammates? What's his personality like? Is he a leader or a lead-by-example type?
EB: He's a lead-by-example guy. He's quiet until he gets on the field. And when he gets on the field, he lets his play speak for itself, but he brings a lot of emotion to the table. He's really well respected, not only within our program, but within the D.C. area. He's had success on all levels, and is just a well-liked kid all the way around.
TT: I've personally known D.J. since he was in the Grassroots League with Mike Anderson. When did you first identify D.J. and was like, OK, this kid is a player? Is there a play he made or something he did that stood out to you?
EB: Honestly, not really. We knew of D.J., but he was tiny. He was only about 5-1 coming into DeMatha. It wasn't like he was the highest rated recruit out there. But because of his lineage and his brother [Charles Hayes] going to DeMatha, he kind of found his way. But once he got into the program, even at his size, just from a skills standpoint, he was better than everyone else. But we really didn't even realize it until he got into the program.
TT: When did he break out, though? Is there a moment that made you say, 'OK, this guy can play at the FBS level?'
EB: Yeah, his sophomore year, both in the regular season and championship we played Good Counsel (Olney, Md.), and we didn't win either game, but he was the only one that scored a touchdown in both games. You know, playing against Kendall Fuller, and Stefon Diggs before that, D.J. did his thing. I was like, 'Wow, we've got ourselves a heck of a player here.'
TT: So now that D.J. is on board, and LoLo too, do you see Maryland moving in the right direction for guys like Tino [Ellis], Terrance [Davis], maybe even Shane [Simmons], and some of the other elite recruits in the area?
EB: Yeah, absolutely. All the guys at DeMatha are extremely close. It's human nature to want to play with your boys -- your friends. I don't know how it's all going to shake out, but it's definitely going to have an impact with Lo and now D.J. in their ear. It definitely makes Tino's, Terrance's and everyone elses decision that much harder moving forward.
Coach Speak: Elijah Brooks on D.J. Turner
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