Welcome to our next edition of Inside the Shell, the weekly Maryland football recruiting roundup.
Daily Doubles Comes To Fruition
Just like that, Maryland’s class of 2016 receiver class is all but set. In the span of two hours July 31, the Terps added their second wideout pledge, Evan Fairs (Foster/Richmond, Texas), followed shortly thereafter by Tino Ellis (DeMatha/Hyattsville, Md.), who committed during a live Comcast Sports Net television broadcast. That duo joins longtime pledge Darryl Turner (DeMatha), giving the Terps a dynamic slot with sub 4.4 40-yard dash speed (Turner); a well-built field-stretching receiver with strong hands and a nose for the football (Ellis); and a long, physical possession guy who presents a matchup problem for undersized corners (Fairs).
We weren’t positive when, exactly, the Texas receiver Fairs would pop, but were pretty sure it would occur soon after his 48-hour stay in College Park, Md. Fairs, joined by his father, ex-NFL linebacker Eric Fairs, called UMD “everything I thought it would be and more,” citing his comfort on campus; the personalities on the coaching staff; the program’s Big Ten affiliation; and the surrounding area as primary reasons he wanted to play his college ball 1,500 miles from home.
Fairs had a strong rapport with UMD area recruiter Keenan McCardell, the receiver trusting the former All Pro will help him develop and ease his transition to Big Ten ball. The Foster product believes he can excel as the “X” (outside) receiver in Maryland’s offense, and wants the challenge of competing against some of the best college corners around.
Moreover, UMD’s academics (Fairs wants to major in business), head coach Randy Edsall’s overall message to him, and the fact Maryland was Fairs’ most significant offer to date all helped push the Lone Star State prospect to commit.
Now, can he play? Well, Fairs certainly looks the part at 6-feet-4, 184 pounds. He has large, mitt-sized hands, long arms, and a penchant for pulling down poorly thrown passes. A smoother glider, Fairs takes elongated strides, allowing him to cover ground quicker than one might assume. Plus he’s got some burst to him too, especially after the catch. Fairs is also physical at the line, in the air, and, most importantly, in the red zone, his size and hands making him a potential target deep in enemy territory.
But obviously there are some concerns surrounding his game since Maryland was his only major Division I offer. The Foster head coach suggested Fairs’ limited one-day camp appearances and the fact Texas is “oversaturated” with receivers led to the oversights, but there are areas Fairs must improve. He isn’t the quickest wideout out there, and sometimes it takes him an extra tick or two to get into his route. His footwork has to become crisper and he must become more decisive with his patterns.
And while Fairs’ long strides allow him to cover ground, he’s not going to motor by defensive backs and stretch the field. On top of that, Fairs has to add bulk so he can fend off Big Ten corners and actively beat press coverage.
For our part, we think Fairs can be a factor after a year or two of learning the system and bulking up, perhaps as a third-down chain mover or red-zone specialist. He’s probably not going to rack up monster yardage totals, but his hands and size should make him an asset. Fairs reminds of former Terps’ receiver Isaiah Williams, with a bit less speed.
You can read his commitment article HERE. And you can read what his coach had to say about him HERE.
As for Ellis, his Terps’ pop was imminent for even longer than Fairs’. A presumed cog in the DMV-to-UMD movement, we’ve been projecting the 6-1, 185-pounder to Maryland since 2014.
It took him a few extra months as Ellis entertained overtures from Virginia Tech, Rutgers, WVU, Nebraska and Kentucky, but he ultimately wound up at the school that offered him as a freshman. Ellis and Maryland area recruiter Mike Locksley had developed a deep bond, and, in time, the DeMatha wideout connected with head coach Randy Edsall and receivers’ coach Keenan McCardell as well.
It only helped UMD’s chances when Ellis’ teammates, LoLo Harrison and D.J. Turner, in addition to four-star quarterback Dwayne Haskins (Bullis/Potomac, Md.), jumped on the Terps’ bandwagon prior to July 31. Ellis’ familiarity with the school, its academics, and the chance to play in front of family and friends all added to Maryland’s appeal. Not to mention his parents were sold on the school following two spring campus visits, allowing them to associate themselves with the staff and delve into the program’s inner-workings.
A sinewy, sure-handed receiver with speed to boot, Ellis could be an early contributor in Maryland’s offense. He’s a fairly refined, fluid route runner with solid initial burst and plenty of savvy for a high schooler. You can tell Ellis has been playing the position for a long time, because he knows how to disguise his patterns and beat corners with guile.
Ellis doesn’t have Torrey Smith wheels, but he’s fast enough to get behind most defensive backs and make plays up top, while possessing enough after-the-catch speed to pull away. Moreover, he’s active in the air, high-points the football and doesn’t shy away from contact. Ellis can also pull down balls in traffic, either up top or over the middle.
He’s already far along physically, but Ellis does have to continue adding strength to defeat bigger Big Ten defensive backs. It would also behoove him to spend more time working on his breaks when running more complicated patterns, becoming even quicker and precise. It should also be noted that Ellis is not a pure burner, so it’s questionable whether he’ll be a true home run hitter or not at the next level.
You can see Ellis talk about his Maryland pledge HERE. You can read his commitment article HERE. You can read what his coach had to say about him HERE.
With Ellis and Fairs on board, the Terps will no longer be pursuing some of their other receiver offerees. The Mountaineers’ pledge Marcus Simms (Sherwood/Sandy Spring, Md.) reemerged as a potential target the last few weeks, but he’s now off the radar and will likely enroll early at WVU.
Borderline four-star wideout Aaron Mathews (Clairton, Pa.) had Maryland among his top-four suitors, but he’s been projected to Pittsburgh for months and will undoubtedly wind up a Panther. Three-star Grant Holloway (Grassfield/Chesapeake, Va.) placed the Terps on his leaderboard as well, but UMD was on the outside looking in there. Holloway is probably bound for Virginia Tech or maybe Florida.
Finally, DeMatha’s Kellon Taylor was a popular name on the message board after he shined during a Terps’ 7-on-7 camp, but the Maryland staff never offered. The 6-4 receiver will find a home somewhere at the Division I level, though it’s unlikely to be in College Park.
The Ellis Impact/DMV-to-UMD Gaining Steam
Tino Ellis’ commitment alone probably wouldn’t be enough to spur a hometown movement, but the accumulation of high-profile local Maryland poppers is adding up and resonating throughout the DMV. With Dwayne Haskins serving as ring leader, the Terps are on the minds of running back Abdul Adams (Woodson/Washington, D.C.), guard Terrance Davis (DeMatha), defensive end Rahshaun Smith (IMG Academy/Bradenton, Fla.), defensive tackle Ellison Jordan (Gilman/Baltimore, Md.), linebacker Keith Simms (Landon/Bethesda, Md.) and cornerback Trevon Diggs (Avalon/Gaithersburg, Md.). There’s even been some rumblings that four-star guard Richard Merritt (Carroll/Washington, D.C.), who returned to UMD earlier this summer, could give the Terps another look later this year, as well as defensive end Terrell Hall (St. John’s/Washington, D.C.), who decommitted from Ohio State Aug. 3.
Granted, we’re not naïve enough to think every one of the above will wind up in College Park, but Maryland is either trending or one of the foremost contenders for a majority of the aforementioned recruits.
We personally believe the Terps have a very good chance (read: “hot” on the hot board) at flipping Adams from Michigan State; snagging Clemson-decommit Smith from LSU or Auburn; topping Alabama for Diggs; and jumping Oregon for Simms. Moreover, the Maryland staff has a solid shot (read: “warm” on the hot board) at landing Terrance Davis over Michigan, Bama, UCLA and Georgia; while there’s a chance (read: “cool” on the hot board) of flipping Ellison Jordan from Penn State and maybe even luring Terrell Hall away from Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma and other SEC programs. (Note: The Terps probably have a better shot at flipping Jordan than bringing in Hall).
And it’s possible the UMD staff could make more hay Aug. 8 when it hosts many of its current pledges and top targets for a small get-together.
A couple weeks back, LoLo Harrison and D.J. Turner let me know they were heading to College Park this weekend with the likes of Haskins, Parnell Motley, Keandre Jones, Mike Clark, Brian Plummer, Mike Viti, Silas Kelly and others. But here’s the kicker: The DeMatha duo also said they’d be bringing along some of their non-Terp friends too.
We’ve confirmed Simms will be in attendance; Davis should be joining Turner and Harrison in College Park; and Diggs should be trekking over with Haskins. It’s unclear whether Ellison Jordan or Terrell Hall will be able to make it as neither responded to inquiries, but we do know Shaq Smith won’t be there since he’s returned to IMG Academy, and our Woodson source said Abdul Adams will not be attending either.
Now, we’re not sure another bat signal will go off (Keith Simms might be the most likely to pop), but if the Aug. 8 visits materialize it would be another important step forward in the Terps’ quest to lock down the DMV.
Note: The class of 2016 recruits previously discussed aren’t the only ones who have taken notice of DMV-to-UMD. Prime 2017 targets like DeMatha’s Anthony McFarland, former-Gilman-now-IMG Academy’s Cam Spence; former-Good-Counsel-now-IMG Academy’s Jordan Anthony; Good Counsel’s (Olney, Md.) Joshua Paschal, Calvert Hall’s (Towson, Md.) Tyshon Fogg, Roosevelt’s (Greenbelt, Md.) Lawtez Rogers, DeMatha’s Chase Young; McDonogh’s Jordan McNair, and Bullis’ Damani Neal have Maryland in mind too.
Of the above, Maryland seems to have made the most inroads with the athlete McFarland, the defensive lineman Spence, the linebacker Anthony, the lineman Paschal, the defensive end Rogers, the defensive end Young, and the tackle McNair.
Various Terps Target Notes
Terrell Hall, DE, St. John’s (Washington, D.C.): Hall garnered major headlines this week when he announced Aug. 3 he was decommitting from Ohio State. The borderline five-star D.C. product is keeping the Buckeyes in play, but with Alabama coming hard and other suitors emerging Hall opted to reopen his recruitment.
Hall also said one of the main reasons he backed away from the Buckeyes was his desire to play defensive end or outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. He disputed the popular notion the presence of five-star OSU edge rusher pledges Nick Bosa and Jonathan Cooper led to his departure, insisting potential playing time concerns had little role in this decision.
Maybe so, but fact is Hall was downright infatuated with Bama. He visited Tuscaloosa, Ala., twice this summer, the Tide’s tradition; defense; and atmosphere resonating with the St. John’s end. Bama has a number of prime defensive line targets on its board, but apparently Hall’s upside has Saban pursuing in earnest.
Other schools Hall will reportedly be researching include recent offerees Florida and Oklahoma, in addition to Ole Miss; LSU; Texas A&M; UCLA; Notre Dame; Maryland; and Georgia.
As far as the hometown school is concerned, Hall didn’t bring UMD up on his own, but the feeling is the Terps are lurking around too. Maryland area recruiter Mike Locksley has never stopped pushing for the D.C. product, Hall reciprocating the interest with a trip to College Park June 27.
The St. John’s athlete has also taken note of the DMV-to-UMD movement, particularly the commitments of quarterback Dwayne Haskins; Tino Ellis; and the pro-Terps vibe surrounding five-star Baltimore native Rahshaun Smith. As more and more locals begin to talk up the hometown school, perhaps Hall can be swayed before Signing Day.
There’s still a ways to go in this recruitment, however, so much can change. We don’t expect Hall to settle on a college destination until next winter, after taking five official visits.
Rahshaun Smith, DE, IMG Academy: Our colleagues caught up with the defensive end Smith at IMG Academy's media day earlier this week, and the five-star gave a little more insight into his recruitment. He hadn't decommitted from Clemson yet, but it was quite clear during the interview he had other institutions on his mind anyway.
Smith said he's going to officially visit LSU Oct. 17 and Auburn Nov. 14, in addition to Clemson (no date yet), Miami (no date yet) and one other. UMD could very well snag that final official, although Smith has been in College Park so many times this offseason he pretty much knows the Terps inside and out.
Smith even told our analysts he had Maryland in mind, noting how the Terps were pushing for him. He said recruiter Mike Locksley has been on him hard and heavy, while he's heard constant overtures from Dwayne Haskins and other Terps' commits. Smith also noted Maryland's hiring of new Director of Player Personnel Cory Robinson, the Baltimore native's former coach at Calvert Hall (Towson, Md.) and St. Frances (Baltimore, Md.), as giving UMD a leg up as well.
Those comments sound encouraging from a Terps' perspective, although Smith said he's going to give all his primary contenders a fair shake. LSU and Auburn (he visited AU for this first time in July), in particular, seem to be standing out, with the Canes a possible possible darkhorse candidate.
But, based on what we've learned about Smith's recruitment, we do believe the Terps have a very good chance at flipping the IMG product this winter. Which is why he's been sitting "hot" on the hot board for more than a month now.
Naseir Upshur, TE, Imhotep (Philadelphia, Pa.): Someway, somehow the Terps are cropping up with the Philadelphia four-star. No, Maryland is not considered a leader, and, no, we haven’t seen any evidence he’ll actually wind up in College Park, but the tight end keeps UMD in the conversation from time to time.
He told Scout’s Brian Dohn late last week that Maryland remains on his leaderboard and he might even take a College Park official visit later this fall. That’s a stark contrast from what Upshur said previously (he didn’t even list the Terps as a primary suitor), so we’ll take it with a grain of salt. Even so, quarterback pledge Dwayne Haskins has left an impression with his friend Upshur, and area recruiter John Dunn continues to stay in touch too. Maybe, if the whole movement deal is fully realized, Upshur will take a closer look at UMD down the road.
Barring that, Upshur is more than likely going to a national power, with Florida State and Michigan the two most probable destinations. Many, including Dohn, believe the Philly prospect will be a Wolverine or Seminole by the time it’s all said and done. Arizona State, which Upshur has scheduled a September official visit to, is also in play, as is hometown Temple; Miami; USC; South Carolina; Oregon; Alabama; and Ole Miss.
Jay Rose, TE, Southington (Conn.): You may have noticed tight end Jay Rose has remained on the hot board, despite the transfer of Avery Edwards to Maryland and no visit from the Connecticut product. Well, I touched base with Rose earlier this week, and evidently UMD area recruiter Keith Dudzinski remains in contact. Furthermore, Rose said he and Dudzinski are still discussing a potential trip to College Park, perhaps for an official during the fall.
Now, we’ve heard this story before . . . for the last five months. Rose had said he’d be journeying down to Maryland for a winter junior day; a spring practice; the spring game; a personal campus visit; and various other occasions throughout the summer. So forgive us for being highly skeptical such a visit will actually occur.
Of course, if Rose does somehow follow through, the Terps would probably be in a solid spot to bring him in. Maryland is one of his largest offers (Wisconsin and West Virginia are no longer pursuing in earnest), and Rose has repeatedly spoken highly of the program and his relationship with Dudzinski.
At the same time, Rose, a converted quarterback, has suggested he’d like to sit under center at the next level. Boston College, Uconn and Syracuse are all giving him that opportunity, so that could push those institutions to the forefront. In fact, Rose’s most recent trip was to SU, and the sense right now is the Orange could be the leader in the clubhouse.
Rose might end his recruitment later during August, though there’s a chance he could wait to have senior film evaluated first. He’s currently listed as “cool” on the hot board.
Khaleke Hudson, ATH, McKeesport (Pa.): Well, here’s a blast from the past. We wrote Hudson off as a Terps possibility several months ago, but the three-star safety/running back is keeping UMD on his leaderboard. He released a final favorites list Aug. 3 consisting of Penn State, Wisconsin, UCLA, Va Tech, Nebraska, Illinois, Pitt, WVU and Maryland.
OK, reality check: The Terps are probably no higher than fifth or sixth on that list. Plus it’s questionable whether UMD area recruiter Greg Studrawa is even in contact with Hudson anymore. The McKeesport recruit wasn’t invited to the Big Show and hasn’t been on campus all summer either. In other words, Maryland’s inclusion is probably mere window dressing.
Penn State, which Hudson most recently visited, has been a favorite forever, and the fact he’s committing Aug. 8 likely indicates he wants to pop before the Nittany Lions fill the spot. Hometown Pitt, Va Tech and Wisconsin are also considered prime players, Hudson trekking to each campus this spring/summer.
He’s not going back on the hot board unless he somehow pops to Maryland Aug. 8.
Class Of 2017 Notes
A.J. Dillon, RB, Lawrence Academy (Groton, Mass.): Four-star running back A.J. Dillon took his second trip to College Park Aug. 3, giving him more insight into Maryland’s academics and the school itself. Dillon was previously on campus in March for a spring practice, so he was already familiar with Randy Edsall’s program; the facility upgrades; the current facilities; and everything Terps football. But since the 6-1, 230-pound bulldozer is an education-first recruit with an eye on a communications degree, he wanted to return for a look at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism.
The consensus after touring the school and speaking to an academic advisor?
“Maryland’s program is top-notch,” Dillon said. “There’s so many opportunities for internships there with it being right outside of D.C. and near Baltimore, and just the program in general is great overall.”
In addition, Dillon had a chance to see the rest of College Park with his recruiter, Keith Dudzinski. The Massachusetts product called UMD “really, really nice,” while he offered up plenty of praise for Maryland’s defensive coordinator too, noting their budding rapport.
Following the trip, Dillon, who will attempt to see a Terps game this fall, said Maryland is “definitely in my top five” for the moment.
Key phase is “for the moment.” We do think the Terps have made a solid initial impression here, but we won’t know Dillon’s story until his recruiting profile is fully realized. He currently holds offer from UMD, UVA, Uconn, BC, Syracuse and Temple, but Notre Dame; Michigan State; Penn State; and others of that ilk are showing interest. If the Irish or Nittany Lions get involved, it could be, ‘Sayonara, Mr. Dillon.’
Dillon checked out Duke, UNC and Wake Forest after Maryland, each Carolina school catching his eye as well. He had previously trekked to PSU, UND, Uconn, BC, MSU, SU, Temple, UMass and a couple more. (ARTICLE).
Chase Young, DE, DeMatha: The emerging DeMatha defensive end Young returned to College Park late last week for a closer look at Maryland. Afterwards, it’s obvious the Terps are firmly in play. Young -- who had a chance to tour the school, see the facility upgrades and meet the staff -- now has a developing rapport with area recruiter Mike Locksley and other UMD coaches, and plans to return for games/junior days in the future.
On top of that, the DeMatha edge rusher believes UMD is heading in the right direction, soon to become a Big Ten contender -- especially with many elite locals hopping on the Pride bandwagon. Indeed, Dwayne Haskins', D.J. Turner’s, LoLo Harrison’s and now Tino Ellis’ Maryland pledges are hitting home with Young, raising his interest from lukewarm to “[the Terps are] definitely in my top three.”
Naturally, Penn State, Tennessee, Florida and some other SEC and Big Ten stalwarts are on the brain too, but Maryland is in a good spot early.
Off The Board
Traveon Redd, S, Magna Vista (Ridgeway, Va.): We’d basically written Redd off a couple weeks ago when it became clear Maryland would no longer accept another safety pledge with three on board. But, just in case, we left him on the hot board since Redd continued to list the Terps among his foremost three contenders.
At the same time, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest were considered the far-and-away frontrunners, so it wasn’t a total shock when Redd popped to the Deacons July 31. Of course, many analysts predicted Redd would be a Commodore after he visited Nashville, Tenn., less than two weeks ago. But evidently the chance to play closer to home and start earlier during his college career trumped the academically renowned, SEC-affiliated Vandy.
Either way, Redd won’t be playing in College Park; he’s now officially off the hot board.
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