Welcome to our next edition of Inside the Shell, the weekly Maryland football recruiting roundup.
December 11-13 Official Visitors
Maryland coach D.J. Durkin once again pushed back several intended official visits since he hadn’t hired any offensive assistants by Dec. 11. But the Terps did have five local pledges and one more DMV target in for officials anyway. Right before the dead recruiting period (Dec. 14-Jan. 13) began, running back Lolo Harrison (DeMatha/Hyattsville, Md.); running back Jake Funk (Damascus, Md.); receiver D.J. Turner (DeMatha); uncommitted guard Terrance Davis (DeMatha); linebacker KeAndre Jones (Good Counsel/Olney, Md.); and corner Travon Stott (Good Counsel) all spent 48 hours in College Park, Md.
First, let’s address Davis, the lone uncommitted official visitor:
-- The DeMatha product Davis has now been on campus twice in the last two weeks, first for an unofficial Dec. 4 and then his OV six days later. The vibe, following Davis’ increased exposure to D.J. Durkin and the other UMD commits, is the Terps are positioned to pounce.
Davis has readily taken to Durkin’s energy and enthusiasm, and he held similar sentiments after chatting up defensive line coach Mike London (he recruited Davis at UVA); defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim (he recruited Davis at Alabama); and defensive coordinator Scott Shafer (he recruited Davis at Syracuse). But the tip of the cap goes to running back LoLo Harrison and receiver D.J. Turner. Davis’ two Stags’ brethren have been hyping the hometown school for half a year, to the point where the guard laughs whenever his teammates’ names are broached. Harrison, Davis’ cousin, routinely drops lines such as, “So when you’re a Terp” or, “When you’re blocking for me in College Park next year,” leaving Davis with a wry smile on his face.
During the official, Davis not only reconnected with Harrison, Turner and Durkin, but he also bonded with his UMD player host, Quarvez Boulware, and various other Terps; the rest of the Maryland commits; and the staffers. He said he basically felt like he was part of the program, each of the above welcoming him in like a brother.
Moreover, Davis enjoyed hanging out in the dorms, eating at STK Steakhouse, chilling at Dave & Buster’s, and simply being in College Park.
Davis still wants to meet Maryland’s new offensive staff, but following the official he admitted the Terps had pulled even with Michigan atop his leaderboard. Now, Maryland’s coaches should be ready to go toe-to-toe with the Wolverines’ down the stretch.
But don’t project Davis to College Park just yet; Michigan won’t be easy to top. UM head coach Jim Harbaugh and recruiter Tim Drevno have Davis’ ear, the assistant going in-home with the recruit just to make sure. Plus, Davis’ Nov. 27 Ann Arbor, Mich., official still resonates, the football atmosphere; tradition; and welcoming environment ringing true.
Of course, Davis has three officials left after the New Year as well, so we won’t know exactly where he stands until those are completed. Davis will be heading to Georgia in January (rescheduled for an undetermined date until head coach Kirby Smart has his staff in place), Florida (date undetermined) and Alabama Jan. 22 before announcing his future destination around Signing Day.
The Bulldogs could make some noise given Davis’ affinity for Smart when the coach was at Bama. Florida also has a shot to move up what with head coach Jim McElwain’s persistent efforts and the atmosphere surrounding the Gators’ program. Davis is high on the Tide too, but we’re unsure Bama will accept his commitment, especially with Aazaar Abdul-Rahim no longer in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
UCLA, which was running fifth in the pecking order to begin with, has fallen by the wayside. The DeMatha guard admitted he didn’t want to play his college ball 3,000 miles from home.
Based off Davis’ latest comments, we’re inclined to believe this will be a Maryland-Michigan race, with Georgia sitting third. Stay tuned.
You can see my interview with Davis HERE.
-- Besides Davis, the five pledges chimed in post-visit, each insisting they were locked; loaded; and ready to join the Maryland movement. Lorenzo Harrison, Jake Funk, D.J. Turner and Travon Stott all said the recruiting process has, for all intents and purposes, come to an end. They’re not entertaining other suitors or embarking on more visits, the quartet set to sign with Maryland in February.
“We’re all locked in,” Harrison said. “No one is changing their commitment – at least not anyone who was there [Dec. 11-13]. Everyone is saying they’re on board and ready to be a Terp.”
Harrison included the linebacker KeAndre Jones in that statement, but that’s an interesting case. Yes, Jones did tell his fellow UMD pledges he wasn’t about to waver on his commitment. And, yes, Jones let on that he loved head coach D.J. Durkin and his philosophy, not to mention defensive coordinator Scott Shafer.
But, at the same time, Jones couldn’t guarantee he wouldn’t consider venturing out to other locales. It remains possible the Good Counsel four-star will trek up to Columbus, Ohio, and down to Tallahassee, Fla., after the New Year. Those trips could merely be “paid vacations,” as Jones’ teammates and coaches have suggested, but you never know what can happen when the likes of Urban Meyer sings his siren song.
On this end, we’re admittedly leery. I stopped by Good Counsel earlier this week for a one-on-one with Jones, but was told the four-star wasn’t granting interviews because of “his situation.” Read into that what you will.
You can read what the official visitors had to say HERE.
Two Recruits Who Reneged
Two more recruits were supposed to be officially visiting College Park Dec. 11-13, and even confirmed their intentions as late as Dec. 10. But neither Tino Ellis (DeMatha) nor Richard Merritt (Carroll/Washington, D.C.) showed up, instead rescheduling for after the New Year.
-- Even though he did not trip to UMD Dec. 11 -- he had a family situation -- Merritt projects to end up at Maryland eventually. Provided the local guard doesn’t have a change of heart, or his recruitment hits a snag (it is recruiting, after all, so you never know), the four-star should be a Terp by Signing Day.
Merritt practically called Maryland the team to beat following his in-person meeting with his former-coach-turned-UMD-staffer Aazaar Abdul-Rahim. The Carroll guard is relishing the opportunity to reconnect with the ex-Friendship Collegiate (Washington, D.C.) headman, as Merritt considers Abdul-Rahim a father figure.
But, like Terrance Davis, Merritt wants to have a sitdown with the Maryland offensive coordinator and line coach before making any definitive statements. He’s yet to have a formal chat with head coach D.J. Durkin either, although that’s probably a mere formality at this point.
That said, Merritt will entertain a couple other contenders after the New Year, with Florida; Auburn; and Va Tech on the radar. Merritt is in the process of finalizing officials to at least two of the three (he’s tentative about Tech). But, as I wrote last week, the Gators may not accept his pledge, while Merritt didn’t seem particularly enthused about the Eagles and Hokies.
Look for Merritt to announce his college destination on Signing Day, but he could let the Maryland coaches know his intentions prior to February.
-- When the DeMatha receiver Ellis chose not to officially visit UMD with his teammates, it caused some concern in Terps’ Nation. But I spoke to Ellis Dec. 12, and he said his absence was due to a family/transportation issues (he lives in Baltimore). Ellis also said he didn’t mind waiting for his College Park OV, giving him a chance to interact the new offensive staff, which wasn’t in place Dec. 12.
But, what of Virginia Tech?
Ellis let on previously the Hokies had reengaged him after ex-UMD interim and recruiter Mike Locksley didn’t ascend to headman. The DeMatha receiver said new coach Justin Fuente and assistant Zohn Burden were making a potent push. Soon thereafter, rumors surfaced Ellis would contemplate officially visiting Blacksburg, Va., after the New Year.
True, Ellis shot down said rumors Dec. 12, telling me he was fully committed to Maryland. But on this end we’re somewhat skeptical. We’ll see if he’s singing the same tune following the dead period.
For now, at least, it seems like Ellis is set to be a Terp.
Notes: Besides Tino Ellis, the other Maryland commits who will officially visit in January are receiver Evan Fairs (Foster/Richmond, Texas); tackle Michael Clark (Downingtown East/Exton, Pa.); tackle Terek Zingale (Nordonia/Macedonia, Ohio); tackle Brian Plummer (South Carroll/Sykesville, Md.); defensive lineman Joey Fisher (Clear Spring, Md.); safety Silas Kelly (South Carroll); safety Devin Butler (Douglass/Upper Marlboro, Md.); and cornerback Tyrone Hill (Don Bosco/Ramsey, N.J.).
All have indicated they want to sign with Maryland this February, but we’ll see which ones the new UMD staff will take and which ones they “suggest” begin looking elsewhere.
-- Quarterback pledge Dwayne Haskins (Bullis/Potomac, Md.) and cornerback Parnell Motley (Woodson/Washington, D.C.) are discussed in the “Terps Commits Who Visited Elsewhere” section below. Each are tentatively set to officially visit UMD in January.
-- Greyshirt tackle commit Alex Hall (Louisville, Ohio) has not had any contact with the Maryland staff, and it’s looking like head coach D.J. Durkin has pulled his offer. More than likely, Hall will be relegated to the FCS level, or perhaps forced to attend prep school/junior college before trying his hand in the FBS. He has been removed from the hot board.
-- Meanwhile, the Texas receiver Evan Fairs finally landed his second major offer from Illinois Dec. 12. The sense is the Texas wideout will listen to the Illini’s pitch before closing out his recruitment. He confirmed he’ll be officially visiting Champaign, Ill., at some point in January to see what the school’s all about.
Even so, Fairs has remained steadfast in his Maryland commitment, despite UMD-area recruiter Keenan McCardell’s shaky job status. He is scheduled to officially visit College Park in January, perhaps firming up his pledge then.
Maybe Fairs’ Illinois jaunt won’t amount to much, but once the Lone Star State product realizes McCardell won’t be back at Maryland, it wouldn’t shock us if he decommitted. The Terps, for their part, are preparing for such a scenario, handing out new receiver offers this week (see “New Offers Out” section below).
-- There’s something, shall we say, “fishy,” going on with Devin Butler. Each time we’ve checked in with him and his coach, we’ve been told the safety pledge is set to sign with Maryland in February. But we’ve heard from several Prince George’s County coaches and connects Butler’s not as firm as he’s letting on. (There have been rumors that he’d rather run track than play football, rumors that he’d rather be a receiver than a safety, rumors that he wanted to visit other schools, and rumors that he was seeking another power-five offer). Fact is, there’s been smoke surrounding Butler for months, and when there’s this much smoke, there tends to be a fire.
The Maryland staff is well aware of this, which is probably why they extended several safety offers Dec. 14 (see “New Offers Out” section below).
December 12 Unofficial Visitors
In addition to the local official visitors who trekked through College Park, a couple primetime DMV recruits spent a few hours on campus as well. Defensive stalwarts Ellison Jordan (Gilman/Baltimore, Md.) and Aaron Hansford (St. John’s/Washington, D.C.) both heard from coach D.J. Durkin and assistant Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, and decided to check out new-look Maryland.
Ellison Jordan: The four-star Penn State commit Jordan dropped in to College Park unannounced Dec. 12, but yours truly spotted him hanging out with the Terps’ official visitors. We figured the hometown school, which finished second for Jordan’s services back in June, might be clanging around in the Gilman recruit’s mind, giving UMD fans a glimmer of hope.
Per Jordan, not so much:
“Basically Coach [Biff] Poggi asked me to come down and meet the new staff, so I decided to go over and see what they were about… It was fun, but like I said, it was just a little unofficial visit.”
Not that Jordan wasn’t complimentary of the Maryland program. During his brief stay, Jordan had an extensive talk with head coach D.J. Durkin, in addition to defensive line coach Mike London and defensive coordinator Scott Shafer. Jordan extolled Maryland’s star-studded, defensive-minded staff, calling the Terps’ future defenses under their guidance “dangerous.” The Gilman recruit also took to Durkin’s enthusiastic demeanor, while he’s known London since his sophomore year.
Furthermore, Jordan had a great time reengaging with some of his DMV friends like LoLo Harrison, KeAndre Jones and D.J. Turner. The Maryland commits were hyping UMD and the future defense under Durkin/Shafer, doing their part to coax out an eventual flip.
But, alas, Jordan said he won’t be officially visiting College Park and is set to sign with Penn State in February.
“I respect the Maryland program and I believe they’re going to turn things around and do great things under Coach Durkin,” Jordan said. “But I’m with Penn State and I’m excited to get my career started there.”
You can read more about Jordan HERE.
Aaron Hansford: Local outside linebacker/strong safety Aaron Hansford had contact with UMD defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim Dec. 7, and four days later the St. John’s prospect was in College Park for an unofficial. Hansford, who included Maryland on his top-10 favorites list Dec. 10 -- Oklahoma, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, UCLA, Notre Dame, Duke, Oregon and UNC were the others -- now has the Terps on the brain for the first time in months.
Unlike many other DMV recruits, Hansford never really bought into the Movement or UMD-area recruiter Mike Locksley’s overarching message. Rather, Hansford was more inclined to leave town, favoring the likes of Notre Dame; Michigan State; Duke; and Ohio State.
But Hansford’s known Abdul-Rahim for years, the coach acting as the linebacker’s trainer before serving as his area recruiter at Alabama the last couple seasons. Thus, Hansford opted to hear UMD head coach D.J. Durkin out Dec. 12.
The three-star and his father listened to Durkin’s vision for the Maryland program, and the Hansfords were reportedly stirred by his words. They appreciated Durkin’s emphasis on molding blue-collar, hardworking individuals, who bring both athletic prowess and high character to the table. The two also liked Durkin’s defensive mentality and Hansford’s suggested role (hybrid linebacker) in UMD’s unit.
Besides Durkin, the St. John’s prospect connected with defensive coordinator Scott Schafer and line coach Mike London too. The fact both have head-coaching experience and were known for their stout defenses at Syracuse and UVA, respectively, resonated with the D.C. product. On top of that, Hansford heeded the words of some of the Maryland commitments who were on campus, including KeAndre Jones; LoLo Harrison; and D.J. Turner.
Following the jaunt, Hansford is mulling over taking one of his final two officials to UMD in January. If so, his temperature rating could rise above “cool” on the hot board.
But it’s not going to be easy sledding ahead, even if Hansford does return to College Park. Hansford is particularly high on Michigan State, which he officially visited in September, and many believe the Spartans are sitting No. 1 in the pecking order. (It’s questionable whether headman Mark Dantonio will accept his pledge, however). Oklahoma, with its rise in national prominence, also has Hansford’s eye, along with North Carolina thanks to the staff’s overtures.
At one time, Hansford was forecast to Notre Dame (he officially visited South Bend, Ind., in September too), but the Irish may have placed him on the backburner. Same goes for Ohio State, headman Urban Meyer seemingly looking in a different direction. Oregon’s coaches did host Hansford for an official, but we don’t believe he’ll wind up on the West Coast.
For now, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly which programs are truly after him. But if enough of the St. John’s recruit’s foremost offerees aren’t interested in his services, well, maybe he’ll fall into Maryland’s lap.
Note: Maryland offensive tackle pledge Brian Plummer (South Carroll/Sykesville, Md.) also stopped by campus Dec. 12, although it was just for an unofficial to meet the new staff. Plummer, and many of the other 2016 UMD commits, will take their officials in January.
“It was great to meet Coach [D.J.] Durkin and the rest of the new coaches in person,” said Plummer, who is firmly on board with the Terps. “They’re all really great guys and I’m excited about them. Me and my parents had a great time up there just talking to the coaches and seeing the other recruits.”
Terps Targets/Commits Who Visited Elsewhere
Dwayne Haskins, QB, Bullis (Potomac, Md.): With Maryland’s offensive staff in limbo last week, the Terps’ four-star quarterback commit Haskins opted to head back to Columbus for the first time since the spring. Haskins didn’t grant interviews post-OSU official, but the feeling is the Buckeyes are firmly on the brain.
Even though Ohio State’s offense (spread option; run-intensive) doesn’t fit Haskins’ shotgun-spread, pocket-passer style, and even though the Buckeyes have several touted quarterbacks set to take the reins, the Bullis gunslinger liked what he heard from headman Urban Meyer.
The chance to play for a national title and perhaps develop into another Cardale Jones (before Jones hit a wall) holds prime appeal. And it didn’t hurt Ohio State’s chances when the Buckeyes’ former 2016 quarterback pledge, Tristen Wallace (DeSoto, Texas), flipped to Oregon Dec. 13, meaning Haskins would potentially become OSU’s lone incoming signal caller.
Now, Haskins will enter the “contemplation stage.” The four-star and his family are well aware the Bullis prospect wouldn’t necessarily be “the man” at Ohio State, so they’ll spend the dead recruiting period weighing the pros and cons of being a Buckeye. Plus, the Haskinses realize the repercussions of such a flip and what it would represent. Haskins was the leader of DMV-to-UMD, the pied piper of Maryland’s 2016 recruiting class. Dropping the hometown movement, along with the recruits he helped draw to College Park, would not play well publically. Also, the quarterback is aware he’ll have a chance to shine right away at UMD, perhaps the only suitor Haskins is pondering that will provide that opportunity.
Given the latter, Haskins, who is set to officially visit Maryland in January, could solidify his standing with the Terps once he meets the new offensive coordinator and is assured he’ll fit the scheme. He’s already hosted head coach D.J. Durkin on a couple occasions, seemingly taking a liking to him. Durkin has done his best to alleviate Haskins’ concerns about the program.
But the vibe right now is Haskins might be apt to make a change, either flipping to Ohio State or perhaps delving into another university. Alabama’s Nick Saban and LSU’s Les Miles have both been in touch, the gunslinger contemplating trips to Baton Rouge, La., and Tuscaloosa. Both SEC standouts would be better fits schematically than Ohio State, so it’s entirely possible Haskins gives them a long, hard look.
The lure of the SEC is strong, the conference’s tradition and national prowess enticing many elite talents. For Terps’ fans, be leery of the Tide and Tigers making a charge after the New Year. That is, if the Buckeyes don’t move on Haskins first.
Parnell Motley, CB, Woodson (Washington, D.C.): So we wait.
We were prepared to announce Parnell Motley’s Maryland decommitment and subsequent flip to Oklahoma after the three-star corner officially visited Norman, Okla., Dec. 11-13. Motley and his coach hinted at such a scenario, the recruit going so far as to say, “I kind of would like to get away from D.C., maybe experience something different.” On top of that, Motley’s former teammate, Abdul Adams (the running back is transferring back to Woodson this month), committed to Oklahoma and had been pushing Motley to join him.
And that’s how it should play out, per our Oklahoma Scout.com insiders. Our connects in Norman let on that Motley loved his stay at OU, from the coaches; to the players; to the program itself. He liked how different Norman was from D.C., and ate up the campus vibe as well.
But, afterwards, Motley was reportedly told he couldn’t commit just yet. OU, which has two 2016 cornerback pledges in tow, is being extremely picky with their final selection. Evidently the Sooners have brought in multiple prospective defensive backs, only to turn them away after their visits. Motley appeared to be the latest “victim,” although the OU writers have suggested the staff suddenly uncovered an opening for him (likely as a hybrid safety or maybe some sort of offensive role).
So now Motley's torn. Per his Woodson coach, Motley is "50-50" between taking his talents to Norman and playing a hybrid spot . . . or sticking with the hometown mainstay, which will allow him to play cornerback right away.
Either way, there should be a resolution to this by Dec. 18. Our Oklahoma guys have told us Motley has a Dec. 18 deadline to accept the Sooners' offer; if not, it's off the table.
Which Motley wouldn't be too upset about. Despite his comments about "wanting to get away," Motley's not totally averse to sticking around D.C. either. He has spoken to, and met with, head coach D.J. Durkin and “loves the guy,” according to the corner’s coach. The fact several of Motley's friends are heading to UMD and his family could easily see him play aids UMD's chances too.
For now, the D.C. recruit is on track to officially visit Maryland in January. If the trip occurs -- and Motley doesn’t pop to OU beforehand -- it might solidify his status. Motley may consider officials to Michigan State and Wisconsin, but we’re not sure either will come to fruition. After all, the Sooners almost rebuffed him, and it’s questionable whether the Spartans or Badgers would want him either.
Better for Motley to go with the bird in hand (Maryland). But this is one mercurial recruit, so it's hard to predict what his next move will be.
Keith Simms, LB, Landon (Bethesda, Md.): The Terps’ target Simms embarked on his second official visit to Virginia Tech Dec. 4, the Landon product thoroughly impressed with head coach Justin Fuente’s program. Simms didn’t grant extensive interviews this week, but he let on he easily connected with Fuente and believes in the direction the coach is taking Tech. Moreover, Simms has a solid relationship with his Hokies’ recruiter, Bud Foster, who has been after the linebacker for more than a year. Simms likes Foster’s defense and reputation, the linebacker assured he’ll be put in a position to succeed in Blacksburg.
Speaking of Blacksburg, Simms spoke highly of the campus and atmosphere around Tech as well. He enjoyed the current Hokies, meeting all the coaches and speaking to the academic advisors (remember, Simms is a high-academic recruit).
After the 48-hour stay, word is Simms has Tech sitting pretty, among his foremost two or three contenders. But next up are two crucial officials after the New Year: North Carolina and Maryland.
Before taking in Tech, we reported the Heels and Terps were in a dogfight for Simms’ services, but now the Bethesda prospect admitted he’d be doing some “reevaluating.” Simms’ UMD-area recruiter, Chad Wilt, is out, and it’s no secret the linebacker had a deep rapport with the assistant. The former defensive line coach’s presence was one of the principal reasons the Landon product had Maryland atop his leaderboard.
Granted, Simms isn’t giving the Terps the boot yet, insisting they’re remaining one of his three top options. Unless he changes his mind during the dead period, he should be trekking to College Park officially in January.
Simms, who took an unofficial to Maryland Dec. 4, loves that D.J. Durkin is a defensive-minded coach, to say nothing of the headman’s fire and energy. Simms is also comfortable in College Park, has taken to the hometown movement and believes Maryland is moving in the right direction.
Wilt’s departure throws a wrench into things, no doubt, but UMD has a puncher’s chance provided Simms does officially visit.
With UNC, Simms has been to Chapel Hill, N.C., a couple times, lauding the environment and campus. Simms also has a close relationship with head coach Larry Fedora and the other UNC coaches, the Tar Heels pursuing in earnest since the spring. It only helps North Carolina’s chances that it had a standout 2016 campaign, further enhancing the Tar Heels’ standing in Simms’ eyes.
The outside linebacker is considering Oregon too, which he officially visited in October, but the Ducks are likely running fourth due to distance concerns.
At the moment, Simms is proving a tough read as he takes a measured, deliberate approach down the stretch. We’re led to believe the Hokies, Heels and Terps are bunched together in Simms’ mind, the recruit unable to separate them until he takes his final trips.
Terrell Hall, DE, St. John’s (Washington, D.C.): The four-star edge rusher Hall is coming off his second official visit, to Florida State, which he took right before the dead period. Hall returned to D.C. singing the Seminoles’ praises, noting FSU’s winning tradition; the star-studded coaching staff; and the Tallahassee, Fla., environment. The St. John’s recruit spoke highly of both the player development and FSU’s defensive scheme too.
The word after the official? Hall’s high on the Noles, for sure, and has them anywhere from No. 1 to No. 3 on his leaderboard. We would not be shocked to see him suiting up for Florida State next year.
But Hall has three officials remaining after the New Year, including one to Alabama Jan. 22 and another to Ole Miss Jan. 29. Naturally, he has a number of suitors lining up and attempting to grab that final January OV. TAMU, Arizona State, UCLA and Maryland are all in contention as Hall’s Signing Day decision nears.
And don’t forget about Florida, which Hall officially visited Sept. 26. That Gainesville trip has the Gators in prime position, perhaps right alongside FSU.
As for the Terps, they have always resided on the outer fringes for Hall, resonating enough to garner a mention, but not to the point where they were under serious consideration. In fact, the local edge rusher never had UMD on any type of formal favorites list. But UMD’s Aazaar Abdul-Rahim’s presence has piqued Hall’s interest to the point where he may give Maryland a look.
Now, Hall listening to Abdul-Rahim and Co. is one thing. The Terps landing the four-star is another matter entirely -- and probably a longshot based off the defensive end’s comments (he admitted it would be “tough” for Maryland to become a player, even after speaking to Abdul-Rahim).
But, who knows, if head coach D.J. Durkin is able to solidify DMV-to-UMD, and subsequently host Hall for an official, maybe Maryland can pull off a Signing Day stunner.
We’re just not banking on it at this point. More than likely, Hall will opt for FSU or an SEC program such as Florida, Bama (if head coach Nick Saban will take him) or Ole Miss.
Rahshaun Smith, DE, IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.): See “The Cory Robinson Departure” below.
New Offers Out
It may be a dead recruiting period, but that didn’t stop the Terps from extending a slew of new 2016 offers this week as they attempt to add defensive backs and receivers to their current crop. Expect even more scholarships to go out later this month and into January, as there’s likely to be attrition from the current class.
Daniel Thomas, S, Lee School (Montgomery, Ala.): Maryland needs cornerbacks first and foremost, but the coaches are looking to add another safety what with Devin Butler’s, Mike Viti’s and Silas Kelly’s future statuses in question.
With that in mind, UMD defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim moved to offer the Alabama safety Daniel Thomas, a 6-0, 190-pound stat-book stuffer, who is coming off an 87-tackle-seven-pick-two-forced-fumble-three-fumble-recovery-blocked-kick-four-return-touchdown campaign.
Lane’s stellar senior season has opened the eyes of numerous potential suitors, with South Carolina, Georgia Tech and UMD jumping into the fray, and Florida; Auburn; Michigan; and UNC in touch. Considering he’s from SEC country, the Gamecocks’ scholarship caught Thomas’ eye, but he’s also thinking about the Terps.
Thomas wasn’t aware of Maryland’s inner-workings (other than Under Armour and the Big Ten), but the Alabama safety does have cousins in D.C. He last visited his relatives in 2011, and said he’ll return this January for a reunion of sorts. And when he’s in town, Thomas will trek over to nearby College Park for a Maryland official.
If such a trip does indeed materialize, Thomas could quickly rocket up the hot board. But before getting your hopes up, wait to see what transpires with his offer list. If the SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten come calling in earnest, Thomas could bypass College Park in favor of a southern school.
Thomas is already scheduled for a South Carolina official Jan. 29, and the sense is the Gamecocks could be the team to beat. He’ll also be heading to Middle Tennessee Jan. 15, although that trip’s tenuous if Thomas continues adding top-level suitors.
“I’m just waiting to see what develops and who offers,” Thomas said. “It’s a lot of different schools talking to me now. I have some good options on the table.”
You can read more about Thomas HERE.
Xavier Lane, WR, Carver (Montgomery, Ala.): This 6-4, 190-pound wideout fits the mold of the long, athletic types Maryland has been targeting of late. In fact, Lane reminds of current Terps’ pledge Evan Fairs, and could very well be the latter’s replacement if the Texas wideout heads elsewhere.
The Alabama product lacked a power-five scholarship prior to Dec. 14, so when Maryland defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim -- who recruited Montgomery, Ala., when he was on the Crimson Tide’s staff -- let Lane know the Terps sought his services, it immediately raised an eyebrow. Lane wasn’t familiar with the program beyond the Under Armour connection and the Big Ten affiliation, but will research Maryland thoroughly during the holidays.
Lane is now in the process of scheduling a January College Park official, and is pondering cancelling one of his previously-set trips (Troy Jan. 15, Western Kentucky Jan. 22 and Toledo Jan. 30) in favor of UMD. He has not heard from any other major programs, so UMD could very well be Lane’s most significant offer, making it rather difficult to turn down.
At the same time, we’re going to list him as “cool” on the hot board until the wideout sets his official in stone and indicates the Terps will indeed accept his commitment. With other targets available, and new ones emerging, it’s conceivable Maryland’s staff will “scattershot offer” several receivers, only taking the highest-rated on their board.
You can read more about Lane HERE.
Dontye Carriere-Williams, CB, St. Thomas Aquinas (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.): Maryland coach D.J. Durkin, who was in Florida recruiting in early December, extended an offer to this senior three-star corner right before the dead period began Dec. 14. Carriere-Williams said his latest power-five scholarship had his attention, pointing to UMD’s conference affiliation; defensive-back development (he specifically mentioned Will Likely); and, of course, Under Armour.
The Sunshine State corner also spoke briefly to Durkin, who knows the Aquinas head coach, and defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim. Afterwards, Carriere-Williams said he would definitely look deeper into Maryland and think about taking Durkin up on his official-visit offer. More than likely, he’ll be taking a College Park jaunt right after the dead period ends Jan. 13.
But don’t get too excited yet, Terps’ fans. The Aquinas product, who had been committed to Cincinnati since May before reneging Dec. 16, just took an official visit to Wisconsin Dec. 11. Not a day later, Carriere-Williams declared the Badgers his No. 1, all but admitting a Wisconsin pop was inevitable.
So we’ll list the Sunshine State recruit as “cool” on the hot board for now -- unless he follows through with a Maryland official visit and returns home beaming about the Terps.
Either way, expect Carriere-Williams to choose his school by mid-January after his final trip. Wisconsin and Maryland are the only programs he’s considering at this time.
You can read more about Carriere-Williams HERE.
Eric Burrell, S, McDonogh (Owings Mills, Md.): It took a year longer than anticipated, but the local safety Burrell finally pulled a hometown offer Dec. 14. But the four-star won’t simply jump on the coveted Maryland scholarship now that it’s on the table. Burrell has been a firm Wisconsin commit since popping to the Badgers shortly after his October official. He did entertain other suitors (most notably Nebraska, which he visited, and Duke) but has remained steadfast on his Badgers’ pledge. The Wisconsin staff visited Burrell in-home two weeks ago and seemingly has the safety wrapped up.
Moreover, Burrell may not be able flip to UMD even if he wanted to. Word is the Terps’ late offer may have been more symbolic than anything, an olive branch of sorts to appease a local power program.
Granted, a spot may open up as February nears, especially if UMD’s safety pledges decommit. If so, there’s a chance Maryland’s staff could pry Burrell loose from the Badgers’ grasp. Maryland defensive line coach Mike London and defensive coordinator Scott Shafer both made their pitch, enticing the McDonogh product to at least discuss the offer with his father. Both staffers have known Burrell for more than a year, London pursuing him at UVA and Shafer at Syracuse.
“Maryland is the hometown school,” Burrell said. “I mean, of course I’m going to look at it. I know a lot of guys going there and it’s a place I’m familiar with.”
We’ll know more following the dead period, but for now Burrell’s listed as “cool” on the hot board.
You can read more about Burrell HERE.
Jayvaughn Myers, CB, Pasco (Dade City, Fla.): On Dec. 15, the Terps became the latest offer for the four-star senior corner Myers, who recently added scholarships from South Carolina; USC; and Alabama. The Florida recruit decommitted from UF Nov. 30 and has spent the last couple weeks hashing through his various suitors and determining potential official visits. So far, Myers is scheduled to see Auburn Jan. 15 and then Ole Miss Jan. 29, leaving two possible open weekends (Jan. 22 and Feb. 4) before Signing Day.
Those vying for a date include USC, South Carolina, UF, FSU, UNC, USF and now UMD. Maybe Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin and defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim can convince Myers, the half-brother of five-star receiver and Terps’ target Nate Craig-Myers (Tampa Catholic/Tampa, Fla.), to visit, but we’re not counting on it. FSU, Auburn, Ole Miss and maybe UNC are the frontrunners.
J.J. Givens, S, Atlee (Mechanicsville, Va.): OK, so this isn’t a new offer per se since ex-UMD head coach Randy Edsall did extend an early verbal when Givens visited College Park last March. (For what it’s worth, the safety did love his stay and heaped praise on the Maryland program). But it’s new in the sense that it was Givens’ first contact with Maryland defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim and head coach D.J. Durkin. Abdul-Rahim, along with defensive line coach Mike London, stopped by Atlee earlier in December, and a week or so later the formal scholarship was presented.
It might be a little too late for the Terps to make much of a dent here, however. Before meeting Abdul-Rahim and London, his main point of contact at UMD was ex-assistant Chad Wilt. Givens really didn’t have much of a relationship with the former UVA coach London or the former Bama assistant Abdul-Rahim.
Furthermore, Givens, who decommitted from South Carolina Dec. 7, has already set up January officials for Ole Miss and Arizona State, two programs that have been on him hard and heavy. Clemson is involved too, and the Gamecocks are still in play and in line for an official, Givens giving their new staff a chance to win him over.
But let’s see if Abdul-Rahim, London and Durkin, all known for their recruiting prowess, can persuade Givens after the dead period ends. We do know this: Maryland is making a hard push for the Atlee safety.
Lyndell Wilson, OLB, Carver (Montgomery, Ala.): Maryland’s offer binge continued Dec. 16 with assistant Aazaar Abdul-Rahim reaching back into Alabama for this five-star linebacker. Abdul-Rahim may have some clout in Tide country, but it will take a colossal effort to entice Wilson this late in the game.
The five-star is primarily concentrating on hometown Alabama; Florida, where his teammate, Antonio Nelson, is committed; Georgia; and others in the SEC. The Tide and Gators are the clear frontrunners, with staffs from each going in-home with Wilson earlier this month. Wilson will likely take officials to both in January, and many believe he’ll choose one of the two.
But can Abdul-Rahim work his Alabama ties and coax out a College Park trip? We’ll know more come January.
Antonio Nelson, CB, Carver (Montgomery, Ala.): Speaking of Antonio Nelson, well, the Terps offered him at the same time as his teammate, Lyndell Wilson. But the three-star Nelson received a Florida offer Nov. 17, and a week later he pledged to the Gators. Nelson only held “mid-major” scholarships prior to UF anteing up, so it was no surprise he jumped at the SEC suitor.
Of course, one could wonder whether or not head coach Jim McElwain will honor the pledge, but for now it does seem like Nelson’s a “take.” The Gators have remained in communication since Nelson’s commitment and then went in-home with him earlier in December.
In all likelihood, the Alabama defensive back will be heading to Gainesville next year. But we’ll monitor the situation in case UMD defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, who recruited Nelson when the coach was with the Tide, can cull out a January official visit.
If so, it’s conceivable both Carver recruits Maryland is after come up to College Park. And if the Terps can somehow get Tony Nelson and Lyndell Wilson on campus, that’s a major victory in and of itself.
Jaewon Taylor, S, Park Crossing (Montgomery, Ala.): Yet another Alabaman with ties to Terps’ defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim. But Taylor committed to Florida in August and has only waffled slightly in the four-plus months since then (he visited Auburn unofficially in November).
Taylor’s journeyed down to Gainesville on several occasions this fall and seems sold on the Gators. UF recruiter Geoff Collins ensured that was the case last week, stopping by the Taylor household for a sitdown with the recruit and his family.
The other programs that pursued Taylor were Kentucky, Louisville, Missouri, UNC, Ole Miss, Memphis and the aforementioned Auburn Tigers.
Again, it won’t be easy for the Terps to shake things up here. Taylor won’t enter onto our radars unless he schedules a College Park official.
Vosean Joseph, OLB, Miami Norland (Miami, Fla.): Maybe the Terps’ coaches decided to pursue every one of Florida’s 2016 pledges. Joseph, a Gators’ commit since last February, picked up a Maryland scholarship Dec. 16, the 20th suitor for the three-star.
But perhaps UMD head coach D.J. Durkin and defensive coordinator Scott Shafer have somewhat of a chance with this recruit. Joseph’s been rather volatile this fall, embarking on a West Virginia official in November and entertaining overtures from the Mountaineers and others. Given that, one could surmise Joseph would consider heading north to College Park after the New Year.
There’s always a chance Joseph ventures out, but realize the Florida product has returned to The Swamp and subsequently hosted a UF staffer this month. Those in Gator country believe Joseph’s going to wind up in Gainesville before it’s all said and done.
The Cory Robinson Departure
When Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin tabbed Aazaar Abdul-Rahim as his defensive backs coach, it was probably only a matter of time before Director of Player Personnel Cory Robinson began looking elsewhere for a gig. Robison was hoping to be elevated to a position coach, but, unfortunately for the Terps, his forte was the same as Abdul-Rahim’s. Thus, the Baltimore native will try his hand at Toledo, a school he’s become familiar with the last several years.
While Maryland should be fine recruiting-wise with Abdul-Rahim’s, Mike London’s, Scott Schafer’s and Durkin’s previously-established connections, the Terps will likely miss out on a couple prime targets directly linked to Robinson.
In the senior class, four-star defensive end Rahshaun Smith (IMG Academy/Bradenton, Fla.) and three-star cornerback Khalil Ladler (IMG Academy) both officially visited UMD Dec. 4, and had Maryland first or second in the pecking order. Each prospect enjoyed being on campus, readily connected with the staff and players, and believed in the direction Maryland’s heading. But Robinson was their main man, the one who convinced them to take the trip in the first place.
The up-and-coming assistant has known Smith since grade school, training the defensive end at various stops at Calvert Hall (Towson, Md.); St. Frances (Baltimore, Md.); and IMG Academy (not to mention Robinson’s Next Level Nation workout group). Smith, who is also from Baltimore, may have a desire to return home for college, but the Robinson relationship represented the lynchpin that could’ve sealed the deal.
With that lynchpin unhooked, however, Smith will more than likely commit to Clemson, the prohibitive favorite. The IMG Academy product had been calling the Tigers his No. 1 even in the wake of his original decommitment, citing the Death Valley atmosphere; his strong rapport with the staff; and CU’s rise up the national ranks. Smith took his official visit to Clemson Dec. 11, and word out of South Carolina is this latest CU foray may have locked the edge rusher in.
Technically, Smith has LSU, Oregon, Auburn and Maryland in play, but CU is the clear frontrunner. Most expect him to pop to the Tigers later this month before enrolling in January.
As for Ladler, he had less connections to UMD than Smith did. Unlike his teammate, Ladler wasn’t from Baltimore; hadn’t been in College Park numerous times prior to Dec. 4; and had no true affinity for the area. The only reason he even looked at the Terps was his rapport with Robinson and ex-Maryland interim coach Mike Locksley.
But with Robinson off to Toledo and Locksley maybe heading elsewhere too, Ladler’s going to stick with his Virginia Tech pledge -- barring something unforeseen.
The Florida corner had been leaning towards the Hokies anyway after new coach Justin Fuente and defensive backs coach Torrian Gray made their pitch. Ladler’s all but shut down his recruitment, prepared to ink his name to a Tech Letter of Intent.
Beyond Smith and Ladler, it remains to be seen how Robinson’s exit will affect class of 2017 IMG recruits such as linebacker Jordan Anthony, defensive tackle Cam Spence and outside linebacker Josh Kaindoh, all Marylanders who had spoken highly of Maryland in the past. But while that trio did have some interactions with Robinson, their main recruiter was actually ex-UMD interim Mike Locksley.
Locksley pursued Anthony and Spence ardently at their former schools, Good Counsel and Gilman, respectively, and had a developing rapport with Kaindoh as well. Of those, Spence had been drifting towards Maryland the most. Anthony and Kaindoh were warming up to the hometown school too, although they were more open to other programs.
But for the Terps to even remain in the picture for that start-studded trio, head coach D.J. Durkin and defensive coordinator Scott Shafer (he has ties in Florida) will have to reestablish inroads. In effect, they’ll be starting from scratch if Locksley’s a goner.