TTDave Inside The Shell: Signing Day Analysis

Welcome to our next edition of Inside the Shell, the weekly Maryland football recruiting roundup.

Welcome to our next edition of Inside the Shell, the weekly Maryland football recruiting roundup.

Post-Signing Day Analysis

The Terps brought in 18 recruits in this year’s class, and while they probably would’ve liked to have signed a couple more, this is not a subpar haul by any means. First and foremost, head coach Randy Edsall and Co. wanted to shore up the trenches after Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State exposed the Terps up front in 2014.

And, to UMD’s credit, they added five offensive linemen and three defensive trenchmen to help build depth and create competition. Yes, the Terps were in position to add more than eight heading into National Signing Day, but the 2015 octet is certainly a start as Maryland attempts to compete with the Big Ten’s best.

Rather than concentrate on what Maryland didn’t add, however, Terps fans have to be pleased with most of the incoming talent from an individual standpoint.

Defensive tackle Adam McLean (Quince Orchard/Gaithersburg, Md.), if he works and realizes his potential, is a potential backfield destroyer up front. McLean is coming off an ACL tear and will have to be monitored, but once he’s right he projects as a key cog who will command double teams.

Maryland’s other top line recruit, offensive guard/center Quarvez Boulware (Friendship Collegiate/Washington, D.C.), has the upside of an all-Big Ten interior lineman and the downside of a steady performer. He’s a rock-solid athlete with superior agility and strength, who should hold up for years as a guard/center at Maryland.

Receiver D.J. Moore (Imhotep/Philadelphia, Pa.) and slot Jahrvis Davenport (Robinson/Tampa, Fla.) could be potential game breakers. Moore is a deep threat who poses a matchup problem with his size, speed and girth. Davenport is a quick-twitch, smooth route runner with pillow-soft hands and seam-splitting capabilities.

Gus Little (Massopanax/Fredericksburg, Va.) and Brett Zanotto (Franklin Regional/Murrysville, Pa.) are two of the most underrated linebackers in the region. Zanotto plays like a missile, while Little might be the fiercest competitor in Maryland’s class. Neither are going to wow you with speed and athleticism, but they both have that Cole Farrand-esque ability to find the ball and get the job done.

Ellis McKennie (McDonogh/Owings Mills, Md.) and E.J. Donahue (Linganore/Frederick, Md.) are smart, athletic guard types, who should hold up well at the point of attack and pulling out in space. They have both shown they can get to the second level, locate linebackers in the open field and finish blocks. On top of that, both are coachable and quick learners, and they should develop during their stay in College Park.

Fellow interior lineman, center Mason Zimmerman (Anthony Wayne/Whitehouse, Ohio), is hardly a slouch. He could turn into a nice rotational piece, or even a steady starter, if he keeps working on his strength and power. Guard/tackle Will McClain (Middletown, Md.) has a ways to go, but if he puts the time in and learns from line coach Greg Studrawa, he has a chance to contribute at a tackle spot.

Meanwhile, athlete Ty Johnson (Fort Hill/Cumberland, Md.) is just a playmaker; he will find a niche as either a slot or cornerback, even though he’s being recruited as a running back. Johnson’s speed is a major asset no matter where he’s lined up.

Cornerback Darnell Savage (Caravel/Bear, Del.), meanwhile, could be another Will Likely given his physical tools and lockdown abilities. Savage has everything recruiters look for in a potential top-flight corner: loose hips, fast first step, physicality, active hands, good vertical leap, superior ball skills, and loads of instincts. He could be special.

Speaking of special, defensive lineman Oseh-Lie Saine (Worcester Academy/Worcester, Mass.) looks like a steal out of the post-grad ranks what with his explosiveness and agility. He’s a question mark since he didn’t play last year due to a fallout with Boston College, but the reports suggest Saine is someone who can more than hold his own in the Big Ten.

Outside linebacker Mbi Tanyi (Bush/Sugar Land, Texas) could become a potent edge rusher given his first-step burst and point-of-attack power. Tanyi is slated to play linebacker for now, but don’t be surprised if he bulks up and plays with his hand in the first.

And defensive tackle Keiron Howard may be a project now, but he has the potential to be a good space-eater type up front. Howard’s physical, strong and quick – he just needs to be coached up.

Then you round out the class with a field-position flipper in touted punter Nick Rubinowicz (American Heritage/Delray Beach, Fla.) and a developmental quarterback in Gage Shaffer (Frankfort/Ridgeley, W.Va.), who has the physical tools (he’s 6-foot-7 with a rocket arm) coaches look for in a gunslinger.

Moreover, as both Randy Edsall and recruiting coordinator John Dunn mentioned Feb. 4, 17 of the 18 recruits were team captains their senior years. They all look to be high-character, hard-working individuals, who will take well to coaching and find a way to contribute, whether that’s as a starter, backup or on the scout team. These are the type of kids you need to build a foundation.

Now, it’s true Maryland’s 18-member 2015 recruiting class ranks anywhere between the mid-40s to the low 50s, depending on what service you look at. While I’m never one to put too much stock into these things, trends show college football’s best teams routinely deliver top-20 (or better) crops.

Edsall and Co. insist they don’t pay attention to ratings, nor do they concern themselves with players who are “missing out on the opportunity to compete at UMD,” but truth is the Terps targeted – and went hard after – numerous touted recruits who slipped through their fingers.

John Dunn said this class was about “quality, not quantity,” but there’s no denying UMD wanted to add a safety, a primetime running back, an elite quarterback and perhaps another impact lineman or two and were unable to. The failure to pull in a top-flight quarterback continues to be an issue for the Terps, who haven’t landed a potentially program-changing gunslinger since well before Randy Edsall’s arrival. (The drought is supposed to end soon if four-star junior quarterback Dwayne Haskins jumps on board this winter).

Regardless of position, for the program to take another step, the staff has to hit on more prospects that sit atop their board. Maybe Maryland isn’t in position yet to go toe-to-toe with an Alabama for Richie Petitbon (Gonzaga/Washington, D.C.) or Ohio State for Isaiah Prince (Roosevelt/Greenbelt, Md.), but the Terps have to be able to close on defensive lineman Austrian Robinson (Trinity-Pawling/Pawling, N.Y.), defensive end Drew Bailey (Pearl River C.C./Poplarville, Miss.), safety Ayron Monroe (St. John’s/Washington, D.C.), defensive tackle Wes Annan (Lake Forest, Ill.), athlete Jalen Christian (Damascus, Md.), running back DeShawn McClease (Oscar Smith/Chesapeake, Va.), receiver Brandon Polk (Briar Woods/Ashburn, Va.), tackle Blake Camper (Cox/Virginia Beach, Va.), center Tommy Hatton (St. Joseph’s/Montvale, N.J.) and so on and so forth.

The latter were reasonable, “gettable” recruits who had Terps interest and had been on campus -- many more than once. But for numerous reasons, each of them wrote Maryland off, the majority well before the winter months.

I realize it’s unrealistic to snag more than a couple of the above, but bring in, say, a Bailey, a Robinson, a Monroe, a McClease and a Hatton -- recall, all five of those guys had the Terps among their top suitors -- and all of a sudden you’re looking at a top 25 class.

That might not be enough to compete with Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State right off the bat, but it would be a major move forward.

It’s also concerning that nearby talent-rich states like Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey continue to be problem spots for the Terps. It’s understandable to miss in the Midwest, Florida and Texas, because those areas aren’t in UMD’s backyard and are filled with highly-coveted recruits who are infatuated with the blueblood schools. But the Terps should be more consistent in both the DMV and surrounding states, where the corps of your program is built.

Granted, the Terps, with area recruiter Mike Locksley as the spearhead, are making a serious move to lock down the DMV. They have already secured three class of 2016 locals – and numerous others are about to join “The Movement.”

That’s all well and good, but it would be nice if the Terps could pick off several elite out-of-state talents to complement the core D.C.-Maryland recruits.

Jersey recruiter Keith Dudzinski and Pennsylvania recruiter John Dunn have done well establishing relationships with crucial prospects in their respective areas, but it seems like for every Juwann Winfree or D.J. Moore (Imhotep/Philadelphia, Pa.) that’s hauled in, there are four or five others that slip away (see: Tommy Hatton, Jamie Gordinier, Kareem Ali, Grant Newsome, Ryan Buchholz, Johnny Petrishen, Andre Robinson, John Reid, etc. this year).

Talent levels are going to fluctuate from year to year in both the Garden and Keystone States, but ideally you’d like to cherry pick a couple solid recruits from each outpost every class.

Virginia, meanwhile, is always going to be difficult to recruit what with UVA, Virginia Tech and the southern ACC schools ruling the area. But it would probably behoove the Terps to land an impact prospect every once in awhile.

Maryland wasn’t going to get Matthew Burrell (Hylton/Woodbridge, Va.) or Ricky DeBerry (Atlee/Mechanicsville, Va.), but Blake Camper, A.J. Turner (Centreville/Clifton, Va.), Darrell Taylor (Hopewell, Va.), Tremaine Edmunds (Dan River/Danville, Va.), Deshawn McClease (Oscar Smith/Chesapeake, Va.) and Aaron Crawford (Stone Bridge/Ashburn, Va.), among others, were all recruits who had seen College Park, knew about Maryland, and gave the Terps but a passing glance -- if that.

Now, Virginia Beach recruiter Chad Wilt has seemingly done a nice job building a rapport in a historical UMD trouble spot, so perhaps that will pay off in coming classes. Wilt established his foothold, and now, when he returns in the spring/summer, maybe Maryland will reap the benefits.

That said, there probably needs to be more traction gained in the northern part of Virginia. Perhaps Maryland could take someone like Keenan McCardell, who recruits seem to love, and reallocate him to Virginia instead of, say, Texas. No matter how hard he tries, McCardell’s Lone Star State success will assuredly be limited since luring four-star talents away from UT, TAMU, Texas Tech and the other nearby Big 12 programs is one tough task indeed. (The Terps can find similar talents to Mbi Tanyi in other areas of the country).

Or here’s another thought: Since Maryland just hired running backs coach Terry Richardson, whose forte is recruiting Florida, you could take McCardell out of the Sunshine State and allow Richardson to take over the Jacksonville area. Then McCardell could concentrate on helping the Terps burrow into the 757 and/or northern Virginia.

It might make even more sense to allow Locksley to recruit Northern Virginia since he’s already in Southern Maryland. If you take Locksley out of Florida, insert Richardson in the Miami/St. Petersburg areas, and then allow the Terps’ offensive coordinator to mine NoVa, it could pay major dividends.

Recruiter Breakdowns

Here’s a list of who each of Maryland’s assistants and position coaches brought in for this year’s class. It’s followed by a few of the prospects UMD targets, but who chose to attend school elsewhere (this is not an indictment on the recruiter; it’s just to offer perspective).

By my take, Locksley was UMD’s most effective recruiter this year, though the recruiting buzz surrounding Chad Wilt and Keenan McCardell was palpable. Those three names cropped up more often than any other Terps assistant on the trail this year, with perhaps Keith Dudzinski and John Dunn running fourth and fifth, respectively.

Mike Locksley (D.C., PG County, Southern Maryland, Southern Florida, Quarterbacks): OL Quarvez Boulware, DL Keiron Howard, DL Adam McLean

Slipped Away: OL Isaiah Prince (Roosevelt/Greenbelt, Md.), OL Richie Petitbon (Gonzaga/Washington, D.C.), DB Marcus Lewis (Gonzaga), WR Jabari Greenwood (Gonzaga), DB Ayron Monroe (St. John’s/Washington, D.C.), WR Ryan Davis (Lakewood/St. Petersburg, Fla.), DE Byron Cowart (Armwood/Seffner, Fla.), RB Ray Ray McCloud (Sickles/Tampa, Fla.), CB Juwann Briscoe (Stone/Waldorf, Md.), QB Joe Burrow (Athens, Ohio), QB Sheriron Jones (Rancho Verde/Moreno Valley, Calif.), QB Nick Johns (Gonzaga), QB/ATH Kai Locksley (Gilman/Baltimore, Md.), Travis Waller (Servite/Anaheim, Calif.)

Brian Stewart (California, parts of Florida, parts of New Jersey, Junior College recruits, Defensive Backs): Nick Rubinowicz

Slipped Away: DB Kareem Ali (Timber Creek/Sicklerville, N.J.), DL Deonte Reynolds (Contra Costa C.C./San Pablo, Calif.)

Chad Wilt (Montgomery County, Western Maryland, Virginia Beach, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Alabama, Defensive Linemen): Ty Johnson, Gus Little, Oseh Saine, Adam McLean
Slipped Away: DL Mose Hall (Murphy/Mobile, Ala.), RB DeShawn McClease (Oscar Smith/Chesapeake, Va.), DL Jamal Milan (Al Raby/Chicago, Ill.), DL Wes Annan (Lake Forest, Ill.), DL Micah Dew-Treadway (Bolingbrook, Ill.), OL Brandon Knight (Noblesville, Ind.), ATH Jalen Christian (Damascus, Md.), DL Drew Bailey (Pearl River C.C./Poplarville, Miss.), OL Blake Camper (Cox/Virginia Beach, Va.), OL Chance Hall (Northside/Roanoke, Va.), RB Jaason Lewis (Ocean Lakes/Virginia Beach, Va.), DE Neville Gallimore (St. Catharine’s/Ontario, Canada), DT Harry Lewis (Phoebus/Hampton, Va.), DL Darvin Taylor (Thomas Dale/Chester, Va.)

John Dunn (Howard County, Anne Arundel County, Eastern Shore, Pennsylvania): D.J. Moore

Slipped Away: OL David Robbins (Glenelg, Md.), DL Ryan Buchholz (Great Valley/Malvern, Pa.), DB John Reid (St. Joseph’s/Philadelphia, Pa.), OL Ryan Bates (Archbishop Wood/Warminster, Pa.), RB Andre Robinson (McDevitt/Harrisburg, Pa.)

Keith Dudzinski (Baltimore County, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts): Ellis McKennie, Oseh Saine

Slipped Away: TE Chris Clark (Avon Old Farms/Avon, Conn.), DL Christian Wilkins (Suffield, Conn.), WR Lawrence Cager (Calvert Hall/Towson, Md.), TE Chris Garrison (Lawrence Academy/Groton, Mass.), LB Manny Bowen (Barnegat, N.J.), OL Grant Newsome (Lawrenceville, N.J.), OL Tommy Hatton (St. Joseph’s/Montvale, N.J.), LB Joe Giles-Harris (St. Joseph’s/Montvale, N.J.), LB Jamie Gordinier (Red Bank, N.J.), QB Brandon Wimbush (St. Peter’s Prep/Jersey City, N.J.), OL Kevin Feder (Don Bosco/Ramsey, N.J.)

Keenan McCardell (Delaware, Texas, Northern Florida): Jahrvis Davenport, Darnell Savage, Mbi Tanyi

Slipped Away: TE Chris Cunningham (Atlantic Coast/Jacksonville, Fla.), CB Jay Irvine (Sandalwood/Jacksonville, Fla.), DB Jameel Cook (Ridge Point/Missouri City, Texas), WR James Proce (DeSoto/Dallas, Texas), DB J.F. Thomas (South Oak/Dallas, Texas), CB Jamile Johnson (South Oak/Dallas, Texas), DB Prentice McKinney (South Oak/Dallas, Texas), WR Jonathan Giles (Elkins/Missouri City/Texas), DL Quincy Vasser (Navarro J.C./Corsicana, Texas), DL D’Vonta Hinton (Texas City/Texas), WR James Locke (Central/Beaumont, Texas), RB Javarius Davis (Ed White/Jacksonville, Fla.), RB Tristan Houston (North Shore/Houston, Texas), DB Will Lockett (Manvel, Texas)

Greg Studrawa (Frederick County, Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Offensive Linemen): Will McClain, E.J. Donahue, Mason Zimmerman, Brett Zanotto

Slipped Away: DB Johnny Petrishen (Central Catholic/Pittsburgh, Pa.), OL Tony Pilato (Hampfield/Greensburg, Pa.), OL Cameron Bell (Nordonia/Macedonia, Ohio), OL Noah Listerman (Winton Woods/Cincinnati, Ohio), Robert Windsor (Fond Du Lac, Wisc.)

Lyndon Johnson (New York, Northern Virginia): Isaiah Davis, Gus Little

Slipped Away: DL Austrian Robinson (Trinity-Pawling/Pawling-N.Y.), DL Tremaine Edmunds (Dan River/Danville, Va.), ATH Brandon Polk (Briar Woods/Ashburn, Va.), OLB Darrell Taylor (Hopewell, Va.), DL Aaron Crawford (Stone Bridge/Ashburn, Va.), RB A.J. Turner (Centreville/Clifton, Va.), ATH Mike Majette (Woodbridge, Va.)

Note: Gage Shaffer (Frankfort/Ridgeley, W.Va.) was, for all intents and purposes, a Randy Edsall recruit, which is why he’s not listed above. Also, former running backs coach Andre Powell is not listed because he is no longer with the program.

Signing Day Superlatives

Best Overall Recruit: Quarvez Boulware
Best Offensive Recruit: Quarvez Boulware
Best Defensive Recruit: Adam McLean
Most Likely To Play Freshman Year: Darnell Savage
Most Upside: Adam McLean
Best Offensive Skill Playmaker: D.J. Moore
Best Defensive Skill Playmaker: Darnell Savage
Best Athlete/All-Around Playmaker: Ty Johnson
Fastest: Ty Johnson/Darnell Savage
Strongest: E.J. Donahue/Oseh-Lie Saine
Strongest (Pound for Pound): Isaiah Davis
Most Underrated Nationally: Darnell Savage
Biggest Sleeper: Oseh-Lie Saine
Biggest Hitter (Defense): Brett Zanotto
Biggest Hitter/Finisher (Offense): Quarvez Boulware
Fiercest Competitor: Gus Little
Most Sound Fundamentally: E.J. Donahue/Ellis McKennie
Most Cerebral: Mason Zimmerman
Best Quote: Adam McLean/Oseh-Lie Saine
Best Name: Gage Shaffer

Ranking The Recruits: 1-18

Here’s my take on how Maryland’s 2015 class stacks up against one another based on what I saw live and other analysts I spoke to. I also assigned my own personal “star” ratings to each.

1. Quarvez Boulware (4-star)
2. Darnell Savage (4-star)
3. D.J. Moore (4-star)
4. Ellis McKennie (3/4-star)
5. E.J. Donohue (3/4-star)
6. Adam McLean (3/4-star)
7. Gus Little (3-star)
8. Ty Johnson (3-star)
9. Jahrvis Davenport (3-star)
10. Oseh-Lie Saine (3-star)
11. Brett Zanotto (3-star)
12. Mbi Tanyi (3-star)
13. Keiron Howard (3-star)
14. Mason Zimmerman (3-star)
15. Isaiah Davis (2/3-star)
16. Gage Shaffer (2-star)
17. Nick Rubinowicz (2-star)
18. Will McClain (2-star)

Boulware’s On Board

OK, so it was a rather anticlimactic announcement, but landing a firm commitment from Friendship Collegiate Academy (Washington, D.C.) offensive guard/center Quarvez Boulware Feb. 3 is still a noteworthy Terps’ addition. The 6-2.5, 285-pound four-star made UMD aficionados sweat out official visits to Wake Forest Jan. 23 and Florida Jan. 30, but, as we said last week, those were little more than “paid vacations.”

Fact is, Boulware has been forecast to UMD since last summer -- or maybe even earlier – and he never gave us much reason to doubt his intentions leading up to his Signing Day-eve pledge.

I remember walking into former FCA head coach Aazzar Abdul-Rahim’s office more than three years ago, looking to interview the likes of Yannick Ngakoue and Derwin Gray. But after doing so, Abdul-Rahim pointed out an undeveloped freshman who’d been in his program for all but a couple weeks.

I recall telling Abdul-Rahim I really didn’t need to talk to freshmen at that moment, to which he responded: “Yeah, but this one’s got a Maryland offer already. Coach Locksley just came by to let me know.”

OK then.

Ever since that meeting, Boulware and Locksley have been building a bond that ultimately culminated in what the FCA interior lineman deemed a true “father-son relationship.”

A regular in College Park, Boulware may have averaged a visit per month during his high school career, attending games, junior days, camps and taking personal visits as well. His comfort level on campus and around the staff continued to grow, while it only helped matters that ex-teammates like Gray, Ngakoue, Cavon Walker and Jermaine Carter were already embedded in the program. Gray, in particular, played the role of pied piper, hyping the Terps each time he returned to FCA.

Boulware did look around once his offer list began to expand, programs such as Florida, Florida State, Alabama, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Miami and Auburn catching his eye. But FSU, Auburn and Bama never extended firm scholarships, while Locksley and Co. made College Park feel more like home than Boulware’s original home in the Carolinas (the chance to return to his Carolina roots was one of the main reasons he looked at UNC and Wake).

On top of that, Boulware’s grandparents, whom he lives with in D.C., loved the easy accessibility to their grandson’s games, and appreciated head coach Randy Edsall’s overtures regarding academics, discipline and the like.

Add it up, and it made for an easy call.

As far as his game is concerned, Boulware projects as either a center or guard at Maryland. He’s not tall enough and his arms aren’t long enough to play left tackle, but that shouldn’t limit the FCA product’s value. He has above-average athleticism, agility and footwork, which should prove valuable in a Maryland offense that likes to pull its guards.

Boulware can also get to the second level, locate backers in space and finish off his blocks. In pass protection, he sets up quickly, has a strong initial punch and shows the ability to guide rushers past the quarterback.

Boulware does need to work on shifting his weight and feet in pass pro, while making sure his strike/hand placement is on target. He has to maintain proper leverage across the board too, and if he’s going to be playing center, he’ll have to learn how to make line calls.


Prince Is A Buckeye/The O-Tackle Situation

Isaiah Prince (Roosevelt/Greenbelt, Md.) was easily the most disappointing loss of Maryland’s 2015 recruiting season, considering he was a prototypical left tackle, who would’ve locked down the blindside for the next few years. The Terps and area recruiter Mike Locksley went all-out for the local lineman -- recruiting him in earnest for three years through social media, school visits and in-home visits, while hosting Prince and his family for an official and countless personal trips -- but to no avail.

A regular in College Park, Prince bought into the Maryland program and Randy Edsall’s message, and even went as far as to say he trusted the staff to the point where he was sure they wouldn’t BS him. Moreover, he knew numerous current Terps from the DMV -- including a former teammate (Agaruwa Banks) -- had seen UMD in action several times at Byrd Stadium, and knew he could immediately contribute. On top of that, he was well aware of the strong local 2016 class the Terps had made inroads with, and the new indoor facility upgrades too.

But, the fact of the matter is, Maryland is not Ohio State.

Remember, for much of the recruiting process, Prince had OSU sitting fourth behind Bama, Maryland and Florida, but national championships change things.

Well, that, and a concerted effort from head coach Urban Meyer.

A charismatic recruiter, Meyer and Co. rolled out the red carpet for Prince during his January official visit, followed by in-home and in-school visits from the headman, Larry Johnson and Ed Warinner. The trio let Prince know he could possibly step in and start for three years in Columbus, Ohio, perhaps as the successor to Taylor Decker at left tackle.

Add in Ohio State’s rich tradition, rabid fanbase, great atmosphere and improving academics, and the Buckeyes had some major mojo working in their favor. (Prince also took a look at another regular championship contender, Alabama, but after the “strong arm” situation we addressed last week, the Tide were not thought to be a prime player).

So, despite pressure from some local coaches to stick with the hometown school, the four-star tackle opted to try his talents in Columbus. Which, given the above, is understandable. You can’t really fault the Terps for this one.

Still, Prince’s departure leaves Maryland with some question marks at the tackle spot. Besides Derwin Gray, no one else on the current roster projects as a prototypical blindside blocker. For that matter, neither do any of the other 2015 offensive line recruits, unless the likes of E.J. Donahue (Linganore/Frederick, Md.) or Will McClain (Middletown, Md.) show enough technical improvements to make up for any physical disadvantages.

Either way, there’s pressure on the Terps to land a couple tackle recruits in the 2016 crop, starting with another elite local, Jauan Williams (Carroll/Washington, D.C.), who is currently infatuated with the bluebloods.

Gilman’s (Baltimore, Md.) Devery Hamilton, Stafford’s (Fredericksburg, Va.) Josh Ball and Woodberry Forest’s (Woodberry, Va.) Clark Yarbrough are three more tackle recruits the Terps have relationships with and would undoubtedly help the program. Hamilton and Ball, in particular, seem to like College Park quite a bit, but it’s still early too early to project either one to wind up at Maryland – especially when both continue to add major offers.

Austrian Robinson’s A Rebel/The D-Line Situation

It’s a somewhat perplexing decision even when you look at it as an impartial observer. Let’s discount the fact that Maryland led for Trinity-Pawling (Pawling, N.Y.) defensive end Austrian Robinson for the last few months, and let’s discount for a moment the fact he could have played as a freshman or redshirt freshman at UMD.

Here’s what we know about Ole Miss:

1. The Rebels showed interest and did send two coaches to visit Robinson, but didn’t even extend a committable offer until late January/early February.
2. Ole Miss had at least four or five other defensive line targets rated ahead of Robinson in this class. They only went after him in earnest because said targets fell through.
3. Ole Miss will undoubtedly target more highly-coveted linemen in the 2016 class. There’s a reasonable chance Robinson will be recruited over.
4. The chances of Robinson earning significant playing time before he’s an upperclassman are probably slim.
5. Ole Miss offers a chance to play in the SEC, has a very good football tradition and a dazzling campus.

Apparently No. 5 outweighs Nos. 1-4, and was enough to convince Robinson to jump on the Rebels’ late offer Feb. 4.

Maryland obviously can’t match Mississippi in terms of tradition, but aside from that, the Terps had everything Robinson was looking for in a college. UMD offered early/immediate playing time, coveted him for a full year (the Terps were the first program to offer him in February 2014), sent staff members (Lyndon Johnson, Chad Wilt, Randy Edsall) up to New York a routine basis, had him down for multiple campus visits, and stayed in constant contact via social media for 11-plus months.

Robinson certainly appreciated the effort too, because he listed UMD as his clear front-runner since early fall. Both he and his mother were comfortable in College Park, and they both readily connected with the staff. The two thought Maryland would be a great opportunity in terms of being close to their Harlem, N.Y., home, while offering a solid education and a chance to play Big Ten ball.

The Terps resonated to the point where, even after taking an official visit to Miami and entertaining offers from Penn State and Ohio State (non-committable), Robinson kept the Terps up top.

But evidently the glitz and glamour of the SEC ultimately won him over. Johnson, Wilt and Co. did all they could with this one, and it just didn’t work out.

Like Prince, missing on Robinson (and other defensive line targets like Drew Bailey, Mose Hall, Robert Windsor, etc.) stings, because the Terps made it known how important it was to add depth up front. Even if Robinson eventually wound up as an offensive tackle, as our analysts suggested, he still could have aided UMD with his length and athleticism.

Right now, Quinton Jefferson is the only returning Terps defensive lineman with significant starting experience, and there’s little proven depth behind him.

Bringing in the likes of Adam McLean, Oseh Saine and a developmental recruit in Keiron Howard helps, but the Terps probably would’ve liked to have added at least one or two more bodies to shore up the defensive rotation and create more competition.

To address the need, it’s possible the staff goes after a late transfer (they already struck out on the JUCO route), but I’m not so sure I see it at this point.

It would also give Maryland a major boost if the staff can secure the likes of Ellison Jordan (Gilman) and maybe even a Terrell Hall (St. John’s/Washington, D.C.) in the 2016 class. These two are an example of elite locals UMD can’t afford to let slip away.

Davis Headed To Auburn

In hindsight, I might have kept Ryan Davis (Lakewood/St. Petersburg, Fla.) in play a little longer than I should have. That said, I did have reason to believe the four-star receiver had Terps on the brain right up until late January.

Area recruiter Mike Locksley made a strong impression on Davis, and when Locksley, Randy Edsall and Keenan McCardell visited him in December/January, we got the vibe the Sunshine State product had UMD smack dab among his top three suitors.

Davis even hinted it had crossed his mind to rebuff more significant offerees in favor of a program that had “been with me from the beginning.” Maryland, of course, had been after Davis since last winter, with Locksley identifying him early and then hosting him for a June camp and a September official.

But, in reality, it was probably wishful thinking to think this Florida stud would turn down a glamour program for a Maryland, a Missouri or a Kentucky. He probably would’ve wound up at Florida State if Jimbo Fisher let him in, while longtime favorite Florida and Auburn (after former UF coach Will Muschamp assumed the defensive coordinator spot) were obvious options as well.

And that’s exactly how it played out, with Davis eliminating Maryland in late January before opting for Auburn on Signing Day.

Terps Bring On Richardson

Right before Signing Day, the Terps added Terry Richardson to replace running backs coach Andre Powell, who is now at Pittsburgh. The move made sense considering Richardson has deep ties to Randy Edsall, serving as the headman’s assistant at UConn from 1999-2010.

When Edsall left for UMD following that latter season, Richardson transitioned over to Miami, where he spent the next three seasons. Last year, though, he decided to try his hand in the NFL, taking a job with the Jacksonville Jaguars. But after just one season in the pro ranks, Richardson chose to return to the college game, where he’ll serve under Edsall once more.

Richardson has a solid track record of producing quality running backs. At UConn, he helped bring along All-American backs Donald Brown and Jordan Todman and all-Big East runner Andre Dixon. Later, at Miami, he reared the likes of ACC Rookie of the Year Duke Johnson.

As far as recruiting is concerned, he’s done his best work in Florida, landing five-star running back Duke Johnson, four-star receiver Stacy Coley, three-star receiver Dwayne Difton, three-star receiver Ray Lewis III, three-star athlete James Nixon and three-star linebacker Brandon Stag, to name a few. Richardson also has some ties in Texas.

It remains to be seen how effective he’ll be in College Park, but more than likely he’ll be asked to hit the Sunshine State schools hard, much like Keenan McCardell did his first year at Maryland.

Some 2016 Recruiting Notes

I was able to catch up with St. John’s (Washington, D.C.) safety Aaron Hansford late last week following his Terps offer. The 6-2, 200-pounder already held early verbals from Duke and Pittsburgh (along with Toledo and ODU), but he admitted the Terps offer meant something to him. He noted how much of an honor it was to receive a hometown verbal -- following Randy Edsall and Mike Locksley’s visit to St. John’s at that -- and how he’d be seriously considering the Terps in the wake of the recent DMV movement.

He also knows former teammate and current Terp Will Ulmer and realizes staying home is an opportunity for friends and family to catch his games. The fact Maryland competes in the Big Ten and is a strong academic school doesn’t hurt its chances with Hansford either.

But don’t expect Hansford to pull a D.J. Turner (DeMatha/Hyattsville, Md.) and commit right away. Hansford wants to take a close look at both Duke and Pitt, while he’s receiving significant interest from bluebloods like Penn State and Ohio State as well. Both the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes would become instant contenders should either ante up.

Hansford will likely take multiple visits this offseason before deciding on a school sometime during the summer. (STORY).

I also caught up with new Bullis (Potomac, Md.) junior receiver Zack Hawkins, a 6-2, 185-pounder who looks the part. The former Bergen Catholic (Bergen, N.J.) wideout moved to the DMV area due to his father’s job change, and he ended up at Bullis in order to play with friend and fellow New Jerseyan, Dwayne Haskins.

Hawkins isn’t a four-star recruit and prime Terps target like the quarterback Haskins, but given his size, speed and upside potential, he could conceivably land numerous Division I offers following the spring evaluation period.

Hawkins has flown under the radar thus far, mainly because he was primarily a blocker in a run-heavy attack at Bergen. That won’t be the case at Bullis, where Haskins will throw 30 times a game.

Hawkins, who mentioned he’d “love” to hear more from Maryland following a January campus visit, also said both he and Haskins would like to attend college together -- if they had some of the same options available to them.

Now, the Terps don’t typically play that game (they still haven’t offered two of Haskins’ high-Division I teammates, Patrick Johnson and Cameron Brown), but maybe Chad Wilt and Co. will take a closer look at Hawkins this offseason. The emerging receiver has been to College Park before and knew Jersey area recruiter Keith Dudzinski while at Bergen, so the UMD staff is well aware of who he is.

He’s a prospect to monitor moving this coming camp season, for sure.

In other 2016 news, DeMatha receiver Tino Ellis released a top five list that included UMD, WVU, Virginia Tech, Rutgers and Wake Forest. He just visited Virginia Tech and West Virginia the last two weeks, naturally lauding each, and plans to be at Rutgers and Wake coming up.

Like many of the elite DMV talents the Terps are in position for (Dwayne Haskins, Terrance Davis, Trevon Diggs, Ellison Jordan, etc.), Ellis isn’t going to reveal his true intentions in an interview setting. Given that, I wouldn’t worry when the star wideout starts talking up the likes of WVU and Tech.

Of course, Ellis has been in College Park numerous times and will probably return at some point this winter/spring. And despite his comments about all five of his main suitors being “even,” we still think he’s Maryland’s to lose.

Meanwhile, Ellis’ teammate, Terrance Davis, just visited Penn State last weekend and is in the midst of a winter tour. The multi-offer Davis is a star gazer, so expect him to eat up the PSUs, Georgias, Florida States, Ohio States and Tennessees of the world, but he’s another recruit we eventually have pegged for College Park.

Look for area recruiter Mike Locksley and Co. to have Davis and his family up to Maryland for a visit at some point this winter/spring, helping to solidify those pro-Terps vibes.

Now, it will probably take Davis longer to make up his mind than some of Maryland’s other prime targets, but we think if Turner, Lorenzo Harrison, Ellis, Diggs and Haskins are all down with the DMV movement, Davis will join them.

Another top Terps target, Gilman’s Ellison Jordan, took in West Virginia last weekend following his trip to North Carolina the week prior. He’s set to see Wake Forest Feb. 7 and may hit a couple more campuses after that.

Jordan, like Davis, tends to see stars while out on the road. But, like Davis, we still think Maryland has the inside track for Jordan.

Expect Jordan to return to College Park for a personal visit with his family sometime soon. He has a longstanding rapport with the entire staff and always seems to thoroughly enjoy himself at UMD.

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