Welcome to our next edition of Inside the Shell, the weekly Maryland football recruiting roundup.
The Aazaar Abdul-Rahim Influence
In a savvy, popular move, D.J. Durkin brought in former Friendship Collegiate Academy (Washington, D.C.) head coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, who was most recently the assistant director of player personnel at Alabama. Although he’s been away from D.C. the last two years, Abdul-Rahim’s District ties run deep. He knows almost every coach in the DMV and remains connected to numerous local upperclassmen recruits and their families.
Now, it’s true Abdul-Rahim ruffled some feathers during his FCA tenure, actively recruiting other programs’ standouts to his Minnesota Avenue charter school. But aside from a few begrudging stragglers, Abdul-Rahim’s return was viewed as an overwhelming positive. Numerous powerbrokers from D.C. eagerly reached out to welcome the former area coach and trainer home.
So, with Abdul-Rahim in as defensive backs coach, we can expect him to attack the DMV much like ex-UMD D.C. recruiter Mike Locksley, who is expected to leave College Park, Md., barring unforeseen circumstances. We’re not predicting a DMV-to-UMD lockdown, but Abdul-Rahim should have the Terps involved with many top local talents.
We’ll see which prospects crop up between now and February, but for now take note of senior targets such as defensive end Terrell Hall (St. John’s/Washington, D.C.), guard Richard Merritt (Carroll/Washington, D.C.), outside linebacker Aaron Hansford (St. John's), receiver Trevon Diggs (Avalon/Gaithersburg, Md.) and defensive tackle Adam McLean. In addition, Abdul-Rahim has connections to several current UMD commits and potential defensive back targets in the DMV.
Do we expect all of the aforementioned four-stars to sign with the Terps? Well, at least two of them are trending towards the Terps . . . in a major way. The other three expressed excitement over Abdul-Rahim’s return, but they do not figure to simply drop their foremost suitors in favor of UMD.
With Hall, he released his latest favorites list in late November. But the hometown school was nowhere to be found. Instead, the list included: Florida, Florida State, TAMU, Georgia, Arizona State, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Alabama, Michigan State and Oklahoma.
Less than two weeks later, however, the four-star has changed his tune -- somewhat. Abdul-Rahim stopped by St. John’s Dec. 7, but Hall wasn’t in school and the two didn’t meet. Even so, the sense is the coach does have Hall’s ear to an extent.
Hall, who heard regularly from Abdul-Rahim when the coach was at Alabama, is at least considering hearing D.J. Durkin and the Maryland staff out. He didn’t say whether or not he’d be visiting College Park, but even if he does, it won’t be for an official -- more than likely.
Fact is, for the Terps to even have a shot at getting a visit, much more would have to break their way than one coach addition. Hall has had consistent contact with staffs from Florida (Sept. 26 official), Florida State (Dec. 11 official), Alabama (Jan. 22 official) and Ole Miss (Jan. 29 official). Also involved are UCLA, Arizona State and Georgia (the fact former Alabama assistant Kirby Smart is the new head coach holds weight with Hall), all of which are attempting to secure Hall’s final official.
Hall’s been starry-eyed for months now, and we’re inclined to believe he will wind up at an SEC stalwart.
But Hall’s WCAC rival, Merritt, has been warming up to Maryland since early October, in the wake of ex-headman Randy Edsall’s release. Merritt and ex-UMD interim Mike Locksley had known each other for years, and the prospect made it no secret he’d be looking closer at the local university.
Of course, Locksley’s likely leaving Maryland, but, regardless, the news didn’t seem to bother Merritt that much. When the Terps brought Aazaar Abdul-Rahim aboard, no recruit outside of maybe Adam McLean was more excited. Merritt may have had a strong bond with Locksley, but he knows Abdul-Rahim just as well, the latter having coached the burly lineman for two years at FCA. The pair have remained in communication the last couple seasons, Abdul-Rahim checking in with Merritt just to see how he was doing.
Merritt reconnected with Abdul-Rahim Dec. 7 at Carroll, the two setting up a Dec. 11 College Park official visit seconds thereafter. The four-star guard hinted the upcoming trip, which will be his first opportunity to meet new head coach D.J. Durkin, could go a long way in eventually securing his signature on a Maryland Letter of Intent.
Merritt does have Virginia Tech, Florida and Auburn on the brain too, and he will be trekking to at least two of those three after the New Year. But we’re not sure the Gators will accept his pledge, while the Eagles and Hokies aren’t exactly high on Merritt’s personal totem poll.
Provided Durkin is ready to take Merritt in, the D.C. product should be a Terp by Signing Day.
You can see my interview with Merritt HERE.
The teammate of Terrell Hall, Hansford, was even less interested in UMD than the four-star edge rusher heading into December. But Abdul-Rahim initiated contact earlier this week and is now in touch with Hansford and his parents. It's possible UMD's defensive backs coach could convince Hansofrd to visit College Park later in January, perhaps unofficially just to see what D.J. Durkin's program is about.
But the Terps have ground to make up, to say the least. Hansford released his top-10 list Dec. 10, and some of the other finalists include Oklahoma, Michigan State, Ohio State, UNC, PSU, UCLA, Notre Dame, Duke and Oregon. Hansford has officially visited Oregon, MSU and UND, and of those many believe he's favoring the Spartans and Irish. Notre Dame may not be ready to accept Hansford at this point, however, leaving Michigan State as a potential leader.
The Sooners, Tar Heels and Buckeyes (if they'll take him) also have Hansford's ear and could be graced with an official visit after the New Year. We'll see if Abdul-Rahim can work UMD into the equation.
As for Diggs, he reiterated his firm commitment to Alabama last week. He visited Tuscaloosa, Ala., in late November, and after a long sitdown with Nick Saban the headman is reportedly set to honor Diggs’ scholarship . . . for now, at least. We’ll see if that holds true, but at the moment the Avalon recruit is 100-percent Tide.
Diggs does have ties to Abdul-Rahim, however, and we do believe the four-star receiver will at least listen to the new Maryland staffer’s pitch.
While the Diggs-Abdul-Rahim rapport isn’t as strong as the Diggs-Locksley one, it’s clear the Diggs family does respect the former D.C. coach. After all, one of the primary reasons Diggs chose Alabama in the first place was his relationship with Abdul-Rahim.
Even so, it will be tough to flip Diggs from Alabama. But we’ll keep him on the hot board in case Nick Saban encourages a change or Abdul-Rahim can gain more traction.
The fifth major piece Abdul-Rahim is involved with, Adam McLean, is discussed in the “December 4-6 Visitors” section below. In short, McLean seems eager to re-up with the Terps following his Dec. 5 College Park visit, his one-on-one with D.J. Durkin and the Abdul-Rahim addition.
Terps Pledges With Abdul-Rahim Ties
The above uncommitted recruits aren’t the only ones the Abdul-Rahim hire helps (for UMD purposes). The defensive backs coach also knows all three Terps’ commits from DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.): LoLo Harrison, D.J. Turner and Tino Ellis. That trio remained steadfastly committed to Maryland after the D.J. Durkin hire anyway, but Abdul-Rahim’s presence should cement them in. We are expecting all three to sign with Maryland, barring a sudden change of heart (i.e. a “name” suitor goes hard after Ellis or Harrison and coaxes a visit out of them).
Defensive Back Targets Rahim Is Connected To
The Terps need corners and safeties, so, naturally, their new defensive backs coach has been hitting the trail in search of potential targets. Thus far, we’ve been able to uncover at least four DMV seniors Aazaar Abdul-Rahim has initiated contact with, two of whom hold Maryland offers: Greg Ross (Potomac/Oxon Hill, Md.), Patrice Rene (Episcopal/Alexandria, Va.), Kareem Felder (Franklin/Reisterstown, Md.) and Damon Hayes (Wise/Upper Marlboro, Md.).
The safety/corner Rene, the highest rated of the above quartet, has been committed to Rutgers since August. Although ex-headman Kyle Flood is out, new RU coach Chris Ash has been all over Rene and could be positioned to secure the corner/safety’s signature. Rene will be officially visiting Rutgers in late January, the Scarlet Knights perhaps getting last dibs on the four-star.
North Carolina, which Rene is visiting Jan. 16, has been heavily involved too. Rene’s been in close contact with the staff and is eager to check out Chapel Hill, N.C.
But Rene, a Canadian native, might be more apt to choose a school closer to his Ontario home. Which is why Wisconsin, his stated No. 2, has his ear. Rene has already officialed to Madison, Wis., and hosted head coach Paul Chryst in-home. Word is, if Rene decommits, he’ll flip to the Badgers.
Rene also took an official to Boston College, but BC is on the backburner at this time. Nebraska and Ohio State are clanking around as well, Rene considering taking his final trip to Lincoln, Neb., or Columbus, Ohio (if the Buckeyes will have him).
Given the above, we’re not sure Abdul-Rahim and new Maryland defensive line coach and Virginia-area recruiter Mike London can make inroads here. Both did stop by Episcopal Dec. 10, however, so Rene -- who has been in College Park about four times -- is aware of their interest. We’ll continue to monitor the situation just in case, but most believe he's RU bound.
The corner/safety Ross is yet another longtime pledge Maryland’s staff is attempting to flip. Ross popped to UNC back in May and hasn’t entertained other suitors since then. He’s officially visited Chapel Hill, hosted head coach Larry Fedora for an in-home and said he’s “all Tar Heels.”
That said, Ross did know Abdul-Rahim quite well a couple years back, the defensive back attending several of the coach’s training sessions. Abdul-Rahim then reconnected with Ross Dec. 9, although the Potomac corner/safety said it was merely to exchange pleasantries. The UNC pledge said he would hear Abdul-Rahim out if he began recruiting him in earnest, but also acknowledged it would be tough to back away from the Heels.
As for Felder, he’s an Ohio State pledge who is supposedly officially visiting Columbus Dec. 11 to finalize his recruitment. But if Buckeyes’ head coach Urban Meyer’s interest begins to wane -- we’ve seen this happen to DMV-to-OSU recruits on multiple occasions -- well, maybe Felder would entertain the local school. The Franklin prospect used to train with Abdul-Rahim during his underclassmen years, and was thrilled when the former-D.C. coach joined the UMD staff.
Felder did not receive a Maryland scholarship previously, but we could easily see him adding one if he chooses to officially visit UMD in January.
Last but not least, the under-the-radar corner Damon Hayes. A Rutgers pledge, Hayes thought about decommitting when Kyle Flood got the boot. But new coach Chris Ash made his pitch and now Hayes is inclined to remain a Scarlet Knight.
That said, Hayes will give his other suitors the time of day, including Boston College, which he’s officially visiting Jan. 13, and Wake Forest, which he’ll trek to after the New Year. BC, whose staff has been after Hayes in earnest, already has one ex-DMV defensive back in John Johnson, perhaps giving the Eagles a leg up with Hayes.
But Abdul-Rahim stopped by Wise Dec. 9 to express interest. Head coach D.J. Durkin hasn’t offered yet, but if he does, Hayes said he would seriously consider his hometown school. Hayes had been pining for a Maryland look ever since he returned to Wise after spending a year in Texas. He was all about DMV-to-UMD and representing his home state at the college level.
Hayes did have some communication with former-UMD area recruiter Mike Locksley, but the Terps didn’t give more than a cursory look. That could change with Abdul-Rahim in tow.
Of the four defensive backs Abdul-Rahim met last week, Hayes seems the most likely to consider Maryland. Let’s see what transpires after the dead period.
You can read more about Hayes HERE.
Potential Boomerangs Connected To Abdul-Rahim
The previously-discussed recruits (Richard Merritt, Adam McLean, Terrell Hall, Trevon Diggs, Greg Ross, Patrice Rene, Damon Hayes and Kareem Felder) are firmly on Maryland’s radar, but there are other names percolating about with Abdul-Rahim ties.
Former Friendship Collegiate standouts Daejuan Funderburk, a safety at West Virginia, and Chigozie Onyekwere, a cornerback enrolled at a junior college, have reached out to their former coach. Both could be interested in returning home -- if interest is reciprocal. Neither received more than cursory Terps’ interest back in high school, and we’re unsure new head coach D.J. Durkin would be willing to bring them on either.
Other Potential Abdul-Rahim Targets?
While at Carroll to interview Richard Merritt, I checked in with his teammates, senior tackle Jauan Williams and junior cornerback Deon Jones, as well. Both met Aazaar Abdul-Rahim at their school Dec. 7, although only Jones is considered a primary Terps’ target.
Williams was once a Maryland priority, but he’s been fading from consideration the last two seasons due to subpar play and other issues. As former UMD-area recruiter Mike Locksley’s pursuit waned, so did Williams’ hometown interest. But after talking to Abdul-Rahim, Williams told me he had Maryland back on the radar and would consider staying local.
That’s all well and good, but we don’t envision D.J. Durkin and Co. going after him unless the Terps miss on all their remaining offensive line targets.
Williams is officially visiting Florida State Dec. 11 and could be checking out Florida and LSU after Jan. 1. He has not scheduled a foray through College Park, and we don’t expect him to.
You can see my interview with Williams HERE.
Meanwhile, the 2017 cornerback Jones stayed consistent, reiterating what he’d said during previous interviews. He’s keeping Maryland near and dear, right alongside longtime suitors Clemson, Florida, Virginia Tech and Florida State. Other SEC programs are also in play, and should vault up Jones’ favorites list once their new regimes reengage him.
Previously, Jones was all about ex-UMD interim Mike Locksley, the four-star corner insisting his Terps’ interest was predicated on his former area-recruiter’s presence. But Jones was placated after meeting Abdul-Rahim Dec. 7. Jones noted Abdul-Rahim’s reputation for training DMV defensive backs, including starting Florida corner Jalen Tabor, who is Jones’ friend. The Carroll prospect also mentioned how he worked with Abdul-Rahim as a youngster, and believes the coach is “a real good guy.”
Jones, who lauded the UMD atmosphere after attending two Byrd Stadium games this fall, will be returning to College Park for a junior day. He should be keeping the nearby university front and center throughout his recruitment.
Of course, Clemson has been a Jones favorite since his freshman year, when the Tigers became the first program to offer. Jones has been in Death Valley several times and always lights up when CU is broached.
You can see my interview with Jones HERE.
December 4-6 Visitors
Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin may have pushed back a dozen Dec. 4 official visits what with his staff undetermined, but that didn’t stop several notable recruits from foraying through College Park last weekend. A couple locals were simply curious to meet the new headman, while a pair of out-of-state prospects came up for officials.
Rahshaun Smith, DE, IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.): The four-star defensive end Smith embarked on the fourth of his five allotted officials. Smith didn’t directly respond to media inquiries this week, but his camp let us know he readily took to head coach D.J. Durkin.
The Baltimore native Smith, having been on campus numerous times previously, already had a feel for College Park; the forthcoming facility upgrades; and the university’s ins and outs. This official, therefore, was mainly about getting to know Durkin and learning his philosophy.
Evidently the new headman’s energy and plans for building Maryland into a perennial winner hit home. Durkin also reportedly let Smith know he’d be prominently featured in his attacking defense, surrounded by other DMV-to-UMD stalwarts the coach hopes to bring aboard. (Durkin further endeared himself to Smith when the coach flew down to IMG Dec. 9 for another in-person meeting).
Moreover, Smith once again reconnected with Director of Player Personnel Cory Robinson, his former high school coach and trainer. Now that Robinson has a spot on Maryland’s staff, it increases the likelihood of Smith following him to College Park.
But Smith’s final official to Clemson looms Dec. 11. The Tigers, the team the defensive end originally committed to, have been trending for some time what with their on-field success (No. 1 in the nation); the staff’s developed relationship with Smith; the recruit’s rapport with the players; and the Death Valley vibe. Many Clemson recruiting writers believe Smith will commit to CU during his upcoming trip.
That may be the case, but we do know Smith would like to return home and play in front of his family. Could that factor, combined with Cory Robinson’s retention, potentially push UMD over the hump? We’ll soon know.
Note: Oregon, LSU and Auburn are also involved with Smith, but all three are trailing Clemson and Maryland. Expect Smith to end his recruitment in the next couple weeks before enrolling in January.
Khalil Ladler, CB, IMG Academy: The three-star cornerback Ladler didn’t respond to phone calls and texts following his official, but Scout’s Corey Bender interviewed him on camera Dec. 9. Bender let us know Ladler spent the majority of his two-day stay with his teammate, Rahshaun Smith, and his former coach, Director of Player Personnel Cory Robinson. Apparently Ladler liked College Park; had a good time bonding with the current Terps; and enjoyed interacting with Robinson and head coach D.J. Durkin. Ladler was also made aware the Terps need cornerbacks, so the opportunity for early playing time holds appeal as well.
Three days after the trip, Ladler had yet another opportunity to connect with Durkin Dec. 9, when the coach trekked down to IMG. Bender didn’t ask Ladler about the latter in-person meeting, but the cornerback “graciously” texted in that he appreciated Durkin’s gesture.
But of the two IMG products who officialed to UMD, we’re less confident about Ladler landing at Maryland. He’s been committed to Virginia Tech for several months now, and though ex-head coach Frank Beamer is out, the IMG Academy prospect’s area recruiter, Torrian Gray, will stick around. Moreover, defensive coordinator Bud Foster is staying too, giving Ladler more incentive to stick with his original pledge.
We’ll know more about Ladler’s situation later in January.
Terrance Davis, OG, DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.): Davis is officially visiting Maryland Dec. 11, but he was curious enough about D.J. Durkin to head over to Gossett Team House Dec. 4 before the OV. The 6-foot-2, 300-pound four-star actually had several brief interactions with Durkin prior to their meeting, Davis taking note of the new UMD headman when the DeMatha guard visited Ann Arbor, Mich. But this was their first formal chat -- and Davis came away highly impressed.
“The energy was definitely what hit me [about Durkin],” Davis said. “He was really fiery. He mainly said the same thing as [Edsall and Locksley], but the fire and energy were legit. That was really impressive to me and caught my eye. I mean, he wants to turn around the mentality of the entire program and have them believing they can win big.”
Afterwards, Davis said the 45-minute chat “helped” Maryland, the hometown school remaining under chief consideration. Davis admitted he would prefer if Mike Locksley stayed on board, but said his ex-UMD-area recruiter’s imminent departure wouldn’t diminish his pro-Maryland feelings. He believes the Terps are heading in the right direction under Durkin and can develop into a Big Ten title contender.
Further aiding Maryland’s chances with Davis was the Aazaar Abdul-Rahim hiring. The former Alabama assistant knows the DeMatha guard well from having coached in D.C. previously.
But Davis, who will monitor who Durkin brings in as offensive line coach, hasn’t been elevated to “hot” on the hot board quite yet. Michigan, which Davis officially visited Nov. 28, is in prime position given the recruit’s relationship with area-recruiter Tim Drevno and head coach Jim Harbaugh. He also loves the Ann Arbor area, the school’s tradition/academics and the current Wolverines.
Georgia is a top contender as well, although Davis is rescheduling his Athens, Ga., official until after new head coach Kirby Smart installs his staff. Davis -- who hosted coaches from the Wolverines, Bulldogs, Gators and Terps last week -- will check out UCLA (Jan. 15) and Alabama (Jan. 22) too.
Expect him to commit at the Under Armour All-American game or on Signing Day.
You can read more about Davis HERE.
Keith Simms, LB, Landon (Bethesda, Md.): The four-star linebacker target Simms took an impromptu unofficial to UMD Dec. 5 in order to gauge head coach D.J. Durkin and hear his proposals for the Maryland program. Simms had gone mum during the last month or so as he hashed through the various coaching carousels, but we caught up with him in the wake of his latest College Park jaunt.
Simms said Durkin imparted several comments/ideas that resonated, namely his plans for the Maryland defense and the opportunity for early playing time. The four-star also appreciated Durkin’s energy, passion and meticulous, detailed strategy to vault Maryland into the Big Ten’s upper-tier.
Simms, though, has to reassess the Terps with his former UMD-area recruiter, Chad Wilt’s, situation rather precarious. The Landon prospect had a deep rapport with Wilt, the pair having known each other for more than two years. While it’s possible Simms could connect with new Maryland defensive line coach Mike London and defensive coordinator Scott Shafer, the likelihood of the Bethesda native winding up in College Park diminishes if Wilt exits. (Wilt is still under consideration for UMD linebackers coach).
We’ll see if the situation changes after the New Year, Simms spending the dead period (Dec. 14-Jan. 13) researching UMD’s new staff.
In the meantime, Simms will be looking into his other options. Virginia Tech has made a hard charge, and the DMV recruit is set to officially visit Blacksburg, Va., Dec. 11. Hokies’ defensive coordinator Bud Foster stopped by Landon to personally make his pitch, and it’s clear Simms respects his reputation and player development.
North Carolina, which Simms is in the process of finalizing an official visit to, is squarely in the mix too. He’s been on campus twice before and likes the vibe and the defensive staff. At one time, UNC was considered the frontrunner thanks to the Tar Heels’ coaches’ ardent pursuit, but Simms backed off that notion during our interview.
Oregon, which the backer officially visited in September, made the short-list, although the Ducks are probably sitting fourth in the pecking order. Simms had a great time in Eugene, Ore., but the distance will probably preclude him from heading West for college.
For now, Simms is claiming no definite standouts. He will wait until after officially visiting College Park, Chapel Hill and Blacksburg before concluding his recruitment in mid-January.
You can see my interview with Simms HERE.
Adam McLean, DT: The former Maryland defensive tackle and current Terps’ commit McLean had been waffling on his pledge. He took an official visit to Auburn a month ago and was set to see other locales as well. Moreover, McLean was not pleased when he learned of former-UMD interim coach Mike Locksley’s imminent departure.
But after stopping by Maryland Dec. 5 to meet new head coach D.J. Durkin, followed by the headman’s subsequent in-home visit Dec. 7, the former Under Armour All-American is back on the Pride bandwagon.
McLean, who easily bonded with Durkin, lauded the coach’s vision, while the recruit’s parents also took to the headman’s overtures. The ex-Quince Orchard (North Potomac, Md.) star believes Durkin will put him in position to succeed, helping develop him into a top-flight defensive tackle.
“Coach Durkin, most of our conversations weren’t even about football. It was about how I could become a better football player, a better person and a better family man,” McLean said. “He values the same things I value and my parents value. So that was really good to hear. Also, he’s selling the chance to come in and start. He said he didn’t see why I couldn’t come in and play right away. So now I’m straight. I’m good to go and ready to get back at it at Maryland.”
If that weren’t enough, McLean was certainly appeased when Durkin hired his former coach at Friendship Collegiate, Aazaar Abdul-Rahim. Given the Durkin-Abdul-Rahim dynamic, we’re inclined to believe McLean won’t hem and hall moving forward. He should be returning to College Park this spring.
“I really am excited about what’s going on at Maryland,” said McLean, who insisted his academic situation has been resolved. “They’re trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together, and from what I can tell the puzzle is looking good.”
Note: McLean also commented on Dwayne Haskins and KeAndre Jones, two Maryland commitments who are visiting other schools. McLean said he speaks to both four-stars “every day” and predicted each would be signing with the Terps. We’ll see if McLean proves prophetic; take it for what it’s worth.
You can ready more about McLean HERE.
More 2016 Recruiting Notes
Dwayne Haskins, QB, Bullis (Potomac, Md.): Instead of taking an official visit to Maryland Dec. 11 before the month-long dead period, Terps’ quarterback pledge Dwayne Haskins is heading to Columbus, Ohio.
Talk about coming full circle.
Ohio State, recall, was once Haskins’ “dream school,” an overwhelming favorite for the better part of two years. He only came around to UMD after the Buckeyes backed away and signed other highly-touted quarterback recruits.
Months later, OSU still has said signal callers, in addition to 2016 three-star pledge Tristen Wallace (DeSoto, Texas). But apparently head coach Urban Meyer has reengaged Haskins anyway.
And Haskins is listening.
But don’t panic yet, Terps’ fans. We typically take testimony from “friends of recruits” with a grain of salt, but Haskins has been telling other locals he’s staying committed to UMD. He’s also informed a couple DMV coaches and parents he’s sticking with Maryland as well.
A more convincing “tell” is that Haskins quickly connected with Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin, who spoke to the Haskinses via phone and met Dwayne Haskins at Bullis Dec. 8. While Haskins wants to see who UMD’s offensive coordinator is, and be assured he’ll fit the new system (Haskins is a spread quarterback), the gunslinger respected Durkin’s pitch. Haskins believes he can still lead a DMV-to-UMD movement and thrive in College Park, regardless of former coach and recruiter Mike Locksley’s status.
That sounds encouraging, but fact remains Haskins is officially visiting other campuses. Ohio State’s coaches may or may not convince him (Haskins does not fit OSU’s style, for what it’s worth), but Alabama’s just might. The Tide have been harping on Haskins for several weeks now and could cull out a January visit. LSU might also enter the fray after the New Year as Haskins has been hearing regularly from the Tigers’ offensive staff.
Stay tuned. This one could drag out until right around Signing Day.
Parnell Motley, CB, Woodson (Washington, D.C.): We’ve been hinting the Maryland cornerback commit Motley could decommit and flip to another suitor in the wake of ex-Maryland interim Mike Locksley’s likely ouster. And such a scenario could come to fruition as soon as Dec. 13.
Motley is reneging on a UMD official Dec. 11 and instead heading to Norman, Okla., to check out the Sooners. Oklahoma recently landed Motley’s teammate, Abdul Adams, and now the cornerback may be inclined to join the running back at OU. Motley has reconnected with the Oklahoma staff, who have let him know his scholarship is indeed committable.
If Oklahoma does not work out, or if Motley opts to look elsewhere, Wisconsin is also in pursuit. A Madison official could materialize in early January if Motley doesn’t pop to the Sooners this month.
Michigan State and Florida are showing some interest too, though it’s questionable whether either will extend firm offers.
At this rate, it does not sound like Motley will be signing with Maryland. Not that the Terps aren’t making an effort here. New defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, who knew Motley from his days at Friendship Collegiate, has made an in-person pitch, as has head coach D.J. Durkin.
The duo may not be able to get Motley on campus Dec. 11, but it’s possible they’ve done enough to delay a flip. After the recruiting dead period ends Jan. 13, Motley could take his Maryland official and give the new staff a puncher’s chance to secure his services.
Grayson Stover, OT, Hudson (Fla.): We removed Stover from the hot board when it became clear ex-interim head coach Mike Locksley, the Florida tackle’s primary recruiter, probably wouldn’t be retained. Hudson admitted he had a better relationship with Locksley than any other coach, letting on the Terps’ former offensive coordinator had been after him longer and more frequently than his other suitors.
But Stover didn’t have Maryland sitting No. 1 on his favorites list just because of Locksley. During an unofficial visit last summer, Stover heaped praise on College Park; the school’s academics; and the potential job opportunities Washington, D.C., presented.
Obviously all of those factors still pertain to UMD, which is why Stover hasn’t eliminated the Terps. On top of that, he met Maryland’s new head coach, D.J. Durkin, Dec. 9, the headman stopping by Hudson. Stover admitted Durkin’s visit meant a lot and showed the Terps still wanted him in the program. (Another reason we removed Stover from the hot board is we thought Durkin might have a higher-rated target in mind, perhaps a recruit from the Midwest).
“It always means a lot when the head coach comes to personally see you … Coach Durkin came down and explained exactly what he wants to do at Maryland,” Stover said. “I liked everything he had to say. … Maryland is definitely a school I’m still considering now.”
Stover wants to know who UMD’s offensive line coach will be before making a definitive call on Durkin’s program, but at the very least he has the Terps back among his foremost contenders. He’s set to officially visit College Park in January; we should know more after that.
Before that trip, though, Stover will take an Illinois official Dec. 11. The Illini staff has been making a potent push, visiting the Sunshine State tackle in-home and maintaining daily communication.
Stover has already taken fall officials to Vanderbilt and Indiana, the recruit lauding both. Vanderbilt’s academics have Stover’s attention, while Indiana is in the thick of things thanks to Hoosiers coach Greg Frey and their offensive line.
Stover is also considering in-state USF, which he will officially visit in January. He’s been to several USF games and likes the atmosphere in South Florida.
At this point, Stover is claiming no standouts. He’ll probably choose his destination in mid- to late-January.
You can read more about Stover HERE.
Elijah Johnson, OG, DeMatha: When DeMatha head coach Elijah Brooks ventured over to College Park to meet head coach D.J. Durkin, the Stags’ headman let his UMD counterpart know about Stags’ senior guard Elijah Johnson. Johnson committed to Rutgers back in June, but the Scarlet Knights’ shaky coaching change has the DeMatha product concerned.
Now, technically Johnson holds a Maryland offer, but former UMD head coach Randy Edsall and ex-interim Mike Locksley elected not to pursue. Thus, Johnson put the hometown school on the backburner and settled on RU.
But Johnson has always had strong affinity for UMD, eager to join teammates-turned-Terps LoLo Harrison; Tino Ellis; and D.J. Turner in College Park and suit up for the hometown school. Now, it’s possible he could have another opportunity to realize that vision.
After meeting with Brooks, Durkin has been monitoring Johnson and might offer a late scholarship. Johnson is not be the Terps’ No. 1 choice -- Terrance Davis and Richard Merritt are the foremost priorities -- but the head coach is intrigued.
For the time being, we’ve placed Johnson back on the hot board as “cool.”
The Scott Shafer Influence
Maryland coach D.J. Durkin made former Syracuse headman Scott Shafer his defensive coordinator Dec. 8, giving the Terps not only another successful coach, but a solid recruiter as well. An Ohio native, Shafer has ties to his home state, Illinois and also southern Florida. He has recruited in Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and other areas throughout the Northeast and Midwest too.
Recruiting at Syracuse is much more difficult than it is at an SEC program, but, even so, Shafer -- who was a defensive coordinator at Syracuse from 2009-12 and head coach from 2013 to Nov. 2015 -- pulled his share of touted prospects the last couple years. He won a battle for La Salle (Philadelphia, Pa.) linebacker/end Zaire Franklin, who was coveted by both Pitt and Penn State; snagged four-star receiver K.J. Williams from Liberty (Bethlehem, Pa.); pulled noted three-star cornerback Cordell Hudson out of Largo (Fla.) and three-star receiver Steve Ishmael from North Miami Beach (Fla.); and landed defensive end Jake Pickard (Millburn, N.J.), who had Michigan and Wisconsin after him.
Shafer is known as a genuine family man, who works to establish relationships with the recruit; his family; and his coaches. He gets in early, at the ground level, and builds from there.
Shafer’s considered a straightforward, honest coach, who offers honest opinions on where a particular prospect stands. He doesn’t believe so much in “negative recruiting;” rather, he’s about selling his own school and developing an inherent trust level.
“When Shafer left Syracuse, a lot of recruits and their parents were very upset,” according to our Syracuse beat writer, Mike McAllister. “And that’s because they viewed him as a father figure and someone they could trust. He’s a fiery, intense and competitive guy, but he’s also very genuine and able to relate to kids.”
Shafer’s character, coupled with an exciting defensive scheme -- a 4-3/multiple base predicated on pressure, exotic blitzes and man-to-man press coverage -- figures to appeal to UMD’s future defensive targets. The jury is out on how effective Shafer will be recruiting against the Big Ten stalwarts, but at first blush this looks like a promising hire.
The Mike London Influence
The Terps have been trying to establish a presence in Virginia for years, but aside from a mid-level recruit here and there, they’ve failed to resonate with the state’s upper-tier. Even Maryland’s latest area-recruiter, Chad Wilt, who was well-regarded in the 757, couldn’t make much of a dent.
Enter Mike London, the former UVA coach (2010-15) D.J. Durkin added to his staff Dec. 8. Maryland’s new defensive line coach, who will replace Wilt, has basically had Virginia’s talent hotbeds on lockdown (along with Virginia Tech) since becoming the Wahoos’ headman.
A Virginia Beach native, London has deep, long-established ties to the area. London knows the high schools inside and out, while he’s good friends with many of the local coaches. He is often informed of up-and-coming stud recruits before they reach ninth grade, giving him a leg up when they do eventually come of age.
But even more than his roots, it’s London’s overarching message that hits home. The ex-Wahoos’ coach believes in character development just as much as player development. At UVA, he prepared student-athletes for a potential pro-football career, life in the working world, and life as a father/husband/business leader/employer.
That philosophy, coupled with London’s inherent energy and passion, appealed to recruits and their parents. Scout’s UVA reporter, Jacquie Franciulli, recalled camp speeches where prospects and their families came away saying, “I want to play for that guy.” She then highlighted a highly-rated talent who ended up committing to UVA during an official visit, despite a devastating Virginia loss. The recruit did so because he could tell how genuine and player-centric London was during his postgame speech.
Moreover, London shows he cares about recruits and their parents. Franciulli remembered one prospect whose mother had cancer, and London checked in every day to see how her therapy was going.
“He’s very aware what’s going on with families,” said Franciulli, who noted that London was regarded as a ‘deal closer’ for his ability to cull out commitments during official visits. “That’s why a lot of kids come in saying, ‘He’s going to be like a father to me.’”
Finally, Franciulli mentioned how London’s hands-on coaching style left an impression on defensive recruits. An intense, detail-oriented coach, London was known to put his hand down and demonstrate proper defensive-end technique. When potential defensive targets witnessed this, they were thrilled about the opportunity to work with him.
“He’s extremely high-energy. He’s aggressive – attack, attack, attack,” Franciulli said. “He wants guys to get after it, and you can usually hear him yelling across the field. He will pump his team up.”
Now, as far as UVA commits London may be able to flip, Franciulli couldn’t identify anyone this year. She checked with Virginia’s main pledges, and most said they’re on board with new coach Bronco Mendenhall. Franciulli acknowledged a couple less-touted recruits could potentially waver, but she wasn’t sure Maryland would want them anyway.
But Franciulli said London should be able to work some magic in the 2017 class, specifically pointing to talent-heavy Ocean Lakes High (Virginia Beach, Va.). Elite receiver Tahj Capehart is someone who had plenty of Mike London affinity prior to the coach’s departure, so that’s one name to monitor moving forward.
More On D.J. Durkin
A little more than a week ago, we wrote how some DMV coaches were disappointed ex-interim coach Mike Locksley had not not installed as Maryland’s next headman. They didn’t have anything negative to say about D.J. Durkin per se. Mostly, they were either indifferent to the hire or unaware of the former Michigan defensive coordinator’s resume.
Fast forward about 10 days, and it’s basically been a 180 around these parts. The same coaches who were miffed at the Durkin selection are now singing his praises.
And no wonder.
Durkin, making good on his introductory press-conference remarks, has blitzed the DMV much like his Michigan defenses ran roughshod over opposing quarterbacks. He has personally trekked through all of Maryland’s and D.C.’s talent-rich high schools to introduce himself and impart his message. So far, he’s been to private-school mainstays such as Gilman (Baltimore, Md.), DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.), McDonogh (Owings Mills, Md.), Calvert Hall (Towson, Md.), Good Counsel (Olney, Md.), Carroll (Washington, D.C.), Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.), St. John’s (Washington, D.C.), McNamara (Forestville, Md.), Bullis (Potomac, Md.), Landon (Bethesda, Md.), Georgetown Prep (North Bethesda, Md.), Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.), Mount St. Joe’s (Baltimore, Md.) and more. Durkin has also hit the public schools, including: Wise (Upper Marlboro, Md.), Friendship Collegiate (Washington, D.C.), Woodson (Washington, D.C.), Wilson (Washington, D.C.), Douglass (Forestville, Md.), Roosevelt (Greenbelt, Md.), Suitland (District Heights, Md.), DuVal (Lanham, Md.), Oxon Hill (Md.), Damascus (Md.), Quince Orchard (North Potomac, Md.), Franklin (Reisterstown, Md.) and potentially others. The publics, in particular, are worth noting since Maryland’s previous regime did not actively foray through for previously-discusses reasons (see: red-flag high schools).
Durkin’s guerrilla recruiting efforts are already paying off, with many of the DMV’s foremost recruits expressing their support (detailed in other sections throughout this Shell). Maybe more importantly, the local coaches, from the more prominent ones to the up-and-comers, seem to like Durkin’s drive; personality; and vision. Durkin has vowed to make Maryland’s backyard his central base, despite having to recruit against the likes of James Franklin (PSU); Larry Johnson (Ohio State) and potentially Mike Locksley. He might not be able to out-recruit that trio for all the Terps’ main targets, but at the very least Durkin’s giving himself a puncher’s chance.
Look for the local support to grow even more after Signing Day, when Durkin will be able to speak at events; host recruits for junior days; and invite entire teams up to campus.
December 11 Official Visitors
A recruiting dead period sets in Dec. 14 and doesn’t open again until Jan. 13. Which means Dec. 11-13 is the last time Maryland coach D.J. Durkin can host the Terps’ 2016 commits and various other targets. Durkin pushed back a dozen Dec. 4 officials since he didn’t have a staff in place, but with Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, Cory Robinson Schott Shafer and Mike London on board -- and the rest about to lock in -- the headman is ready to sell his program.
Coming in to College Park are the following 2016 commits, along with uncommitted targets Terrance Davis and Richard Merritt:
LoLo Harrison, RB, DeMatha: On board with UMD after Aazaar Abdul-Rahim hire and meeting D.J. Durkin.
Jake Funk, RB, Damascus (Md.): Firmly committed to Maryland.
Tino Ellis, WR, DeMatha: On board with UMD after Aazaar Abdul-Rahim hire and meeting with D.J. Durkin.
D.J. Turner, WR, DeMatha: On board with UMD after Aazaar Abdul-Rahim hire and meeting with D.J. Durkin.
Richard Merritt, OG, Carroll: Could commit to Maryland on Signing Day now that Aazaar Abdul-Rahim is on board.
Terrance Davis, OG, DeMatha: Has Maryland under prime consideration after Aazaar Abdul-Rahim hire and meeting with D.J. Durkin.
KeAndre Jones, LB, Good Counsel (Olney, Md.): Firmly committed to Maryland after in-home visit with D.J. Durkin. May venture out to a couple other locales in January, including Ohio State, but is leaning towards signing with UMD.
Devin Butler, S, Douglass (Upper Marlboro, Md.): Is committed for now, but wavering a bit in the wake of ex-UMD-area recruiter Mike Locksley’s probable departure.
Travon Stott, CB, Good Counsel: Firmly committed to Maryland.
Note: Wide receiver commit Evan Fairs (Foster/Richmond, Texas), safety commit Mike Viti (Camp Hill, Pa.) and cornerback pledge Tyrone Hill (Bosco/Ramsey, N.J.) all said they’d be officially visiting in January (likely Jan. 22). Fairs could reopen his recruitment if/when his UMD-area recruiter, Keenan McCardell, leaves Maryland. But Fairs does not have any other FBS offers besides Maryland, so it’s conceivable he could ride with UMD regardless. Hill, meanwhile, has been steadfast in his commitment and will likely remain a UMD pledge even when area recruiter Keith Dudzinski departs. Ditto for Viti, who is set regardless of the coaching situation.
Meanwhile, greyshirt tackle Alex Hall (Louisville, Ohio) said he's ready for College Park, but he acknowledged he hasn't had any contact with the new staff. Which leads us to believe head coach D.J. Durkin might be backing off here with other offensive line targets on Maryland's board.
Two more out-of-state line commits, Michael Clark (Downingtown East/Exton, Pa.) and Terek Zingale (Nordonia/Macedonia, Ohio), are entrenched with the Terps, but may hold off on visiting until January. They said to get the full "official visit experience" they'd like to meet Maryland's new offensive line coach, who hadn't been hired as of this writing. Clark said he could potentially make the drive down I-83 at the last second Dec. 11, but he was unsure of his plans Dec. 10.
A few in-state pledges won't be at UMD Dec. 11 either. Defensive lineman Joey Fisher (Clear Spring, Md.) and safety Silas Kelly (South Carroll) are ready to be Terps, but have to play in the BTC All-State game Dec. 12. Therefore, they'll be taking their officials in January.
Kelly's teammate, tackle Brian Plummer, will also be holding off on visiting. He said he's spoken to coach D.J. Durkin and, like Clark and Zingale, wants to wait until the headman hires a new offensive line coach before trekking down to College Park.