Welcome to our next edition of Inside the Shell, the weekly Maryland football recruiting roundup.
Davis On Board
As expected, the Terps added another key piece to their 2016 class when four-star guard Terrance Davis (DeMatha/Hyattsville, Md.) committed to the hometown school during the first quarter of the Under Armour All-American Game Jan. 2. The 6-foot-2, 315-pounder cited his belief in UMD head coach D.J. Durkin’s message and the headman’s demeanor as two of the primary reasons the recruit chose Maryland. Davis also jumped at the chance to play alongside teammates-turned-Terps LoLo Harrison, D.J. Turner and fellow All-American Tino Ellis. The school’s academics, the fact his mother could easily see his games and his overall comfort level on campus played a role too.
Davis ended up choosing the Terps over Michigan -- the Wolverines ceased pushing after it became apparent head coach Jim Harbaugh sought a tackle rather than a guard like Davis -- and Florida. At one time, Georgia, UCLA, Va Tech, WVU, Florida State, Alabama, Ohio State, Penn State, South Carolina, Arkansas, Pitt and Tennessee had offers out to Davis as well.
But Davis’ imminent pop, and the rationale behind it, has been rehashed on multiple occasions. Now the questions are: Can Davis play? And what’s the impact of his commitment?
In terms of the latter, when a prospect of the DeMatha guard’s status picks a school like Maryland, it speaks volumes. Regardless of what Davis actually imparts via Twitter or text, the fact he threw on a Terrapins hat in front of ESPN cameramen can only have a positive effect on UMD recruiting. Don’t think UA All-American Terps’ targets like Terrell Hall (St. John’s/Washington, D.C.), Aaron Hansford (St. John’s) and Jauan Williams (Carroll/Washington, D.C.) didn’t at least take notice of Davis’ decision.
The outside linebacker Hansford remains a longshot, favoring the likes of UCLA; Oregon; Michigan State; Oklahoma; and UNC, but the Terps have a heartbeat in the Hall and Williams sweepstakes. Neither the defensive end nor the offensive tackle are currently forecasted to Maryland -- Hall is favoring Alabama and FSU; Williams has FSU No. 1 and just picked up a Notre Dame offer -- but their eyes have been opened somewhat.
Furthermore, Davis spoke to the likes of receiver Nate Craig-Myers (Tampa Catholic/Tampa, Fla.), receiver Dredrick Snelson (Flanagan/Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) and the Bullis quarterback (Potomac, Md.) during the Under Armour practices. Davis said he wanted to give the Terps “one last shot” at Craig-Myers, while the DeMatha guard, and the rest of the DMV-to-UMD recruits for that matter, have been doing their best to convince the Bullis quarterback to stick around. (The signal caller’s recruitment is discussed further in the “Various Offensive Recruiting Notes” section below).
“[The Bullis quarterback] ain’t going nowhere,” Davis told Scout’s Bill Greene. “I got my big arms around him (laughs).”
Davis isn’t a pied piper a la the Bullis signal caller pre-Mike Locksley departure, but the DeMatha guard will at least attempt to spread pro-Terps’ vibes. We’ll know by February if his efforts pay off.
As for Davis’ game, the DeMatha product has a chance to start for three years in College Park, Md., and potentially achieve all-conference status. He’s not tall enough to play tackle, but his stout, wide base and violent hands should allow him to excel on the line’s interior.
Davis gets off the ball quickly, keeps his pads low, has a potent initial strike and keeps his feet moving after contact. He possesses an inherent nasty streak and has been known to finish off blocks -- sometimes with a pancake. Davis has the athleticism to block at the second level and pull around end too.
When pass blocking, Davis shows sound form (arms extended, back straight); has a solid kick-step; and shifts his weight well. He’s also light enough on his feet to readjust when quick-twitch edge rushers try to beat him around end.
Mainly, Davis needs to improve his all-around consistency and conditioning. Later during games, when he begins to tire, Davis’ fundamentals tend to wane. He begins losing the leverage battle, opposing ends standing him up or pushing him back. Moreover, we’d like to see Davis finish at the second level more often; develop a more rapid initial strike; and quicken up his feet in pass pro. He could do a better job picking off linebackers in space as well.
As Davis’ conditioning improves, however, many of his issues will be ironed out. Following a redshirt year, Davis should be vying for consistent playing time up front.
You can read more about Davis HERE.
You can read what his coach had to say about him HERE.
New Offers Out
Armunz Mathews, CB, North Florida Christian (Tallahassee, Fla.): The Chris Beatty addition started paying dividends less than a day after UMD headman D.J. Durkin hired him. Maryland’s new receivers’ coach accepted the job in College Park Jan. 3, and Jan. 4 he had an offer out to Mathews, whom Beatty pursued at his two most recent employers (Syracuse and UVA).
Mathews has been committed to South Florida since after his sophomore year, but when Beatty initiated contact, the corner had an adrenalin rush of sorts. The three-star immediately set up a Jan. 22 UMD official, and then expressed his excitement via Twitter before waxing hyperbole to yours truly.
While many of Maryland’s recent offerees knew little about UMD in general, Mathews had done his homework. He talked up Terps’ greats like Stefon Diggs and Will Likely, noted the team’s need for defensive backs, discussed the impact D.J. Durkin has already had, and called Maryland a “great opportunity” to play for a program on the rise.
Mathews wasn’t finished. He also spoke about his relationship with Beatty, declaring the receivers’ coach an “awesome recruiter.” Mathews said he appreciated how the UMD assistant stayed on him, even after the recruit was committed to USF.
Speaking of the Bulls, Mathews will be officially visiting South Florida Jan. 15, a week before Maryland. But his commitment status is highly uncertain.
“My situation got a little more complicated with Maryland coming along,” Mathews said. “I committed to USF a long time ago, and a lot has been going on since then. When I committed, I didn’t really pay attention to other schools. But now some of these other schools have been coming at me hard because they need corners, and I’m thinking maybe I need to take a look to see what’s out there.”
So far, the Terps are the only other suitor that’s “out there.” But, per Mathews, he has been hearing from South Carolina and California, two programs he designated as “dream schools.” (He also called UMD a “dream school” for what it’s worth). If either the Gamecocks or Bears anted up, Mathews said he’d likely choose one to visit Jan. 29. And if that hypothetical trip occurs, the Sunshine State native revealed he’d have a “difficult” choice to make between UMD, USC and Cal.
Our gut? Well, admittedly our “BS meter” did go off a little here. Excessive praise always tends to give us pause. At the same time, it doesn’t sound like Mathews will remain a USF pledge, nor are we projecting the Florida corner to land those coveted Cal and USC offers. Therefore, he could very well be Maryland’s to lose.
Two questions to ask before penciling Mathews into the 2016 class: 1) Is Mathews a definite “take” with some of the other corners on the Terps’ board? 2) Are his academics in order? (Mathews suggested that Cal and South Carolina could offer “after they review my transcripts,” which is sometimes a red-flag statement).
You can read more about Mathews HERE.
Laderrien Wilson, RB, Osceola (Kissimmee, Fla.): More Chris Beatty connections with this recruit as well. Soon after Wilson decommitted from UVA Jan. 7 (he didn’t connect with head coach Bronco Mendenhall), Maryland’s receivers’ coach contacted the three-star back and offered him. Wilson followed up by setting a Jan. 15 College Park official visit, hinting a commitment could be coming shortly thereafter.
Wilson also has Syracuse, Louisville or Georgia Tech in mind for officials, but said if his first trek through UMD goes well, “I could just commit then.” The Florida recruit wasn’t aware of what Maryland’s school or football program is about -- he’s yet to speak to head coach D.J. Durkin or other staff members -- but that Beatty relationship runs strong. Wilson has known Beatty for more than a year, the coach recruiting the runner to UVA last year.
“Coach Beatty said he thought my style would be a great fit at Maryland, and how they really need running backs,” Wilson said. “He said I’d have a chance to play early there. Then he was saying how the running backs with Maryland’s new offensive coordinator [Walt Bell] all rush for over 1,000 yards and do real well. So I’m really interested in going up there to meet the running backs coach, the offensive coordinator, the head coach and the rest of them.”
The Terps will likely only take one more running back in the 2016 class, however. Another Sunshine State Terps’ scholarship recently went out to Tyrek Tisdale (Oak Ridge/Orlando, Fla.), and he’s supposedly taking a January official visit too. On film, Tisdale could be a better overall prospect than Wilson, although it’s hard to tell.
We’ll find out soon enough which Florida back is a “take” for Durkin and Co. (Or, maybe both are if one could develop into a fullback).
You can read more about Wilson HERE.
Noah Barnes, TE, Auburn (Ala.): All the way back in June at the annual Big Show Camp -- with Randy Edsall firmly entrenched and D.J. Durkin someone most Maryland fans had never heard of -- this 6-5, 230-pound tight end trekked up to College Park on a whim. Barnes, who was born in Wisconsin and lived in Indiana for several years before his family moved to Alabama, said for whatever reason he had Terps’ affinity growing up. In fact, he has a Maryland flag hanging on his garage wall and has been known to wear Maryland Pride socks.
At the camp, Barnes called UMD a “dream school” and hinted he’d be giving the Terps strong consideration if an offer materialized. But Barnes never really heard from then-UMD tight ends coach John Dunn after the event; no scholarship was ever presented.
Granted, it wasn’t a surprising development considering Barnes didn’t exactly have a standout Big Show performance. Even now, he projects as more of a blocking tight end than a dynamic field stretcher.
Thus, Barnes quickly faded from our radars, and he ended up committing to Memphis later during the summer. But one of the schools Barnes held an offer from prior to his Memphis pop was Arkansas State. The tight end’s primary Howl recruiter? Walt Bell, who just happens to be the new offensive coordinator at Maryland.
Bell evidently convinced head coach D.J. Durkin to sign off on a Barnes offer, and now the assistant is hoping to flip his former tight-end target. Barnes and Bell know each other well, the latter convincing the recruit to officially visit Maryland Jan. 22.
Combine Barnes’ Bell connection with his previously-stated UMD affinity, and one doesn’t have to be Nostradamus to predict the outcome here.
“[The Maryland offer] was one I kind of always wanted. … Coach Bell has been recruiting me for awhile. When he was at Arkansas State I knew him pretty well,” Barnes said. “I went out to his recruiting weekend, and he actually really liked me then. So I got to meet him in person and start building a relationship from there. I really like him; he’s a really cool guy.
“And just from talking to Coach Lembo, I can tell he’s really intelligent, and I can’t wait to meet him. Same with Coach Durkin. He’s very energetic and sounds like a really good guy. I’m looking forward to meeting them all.”
But realize Barnes is publicly keeping Memphis in play. Since most of the Tigers’ coaches Barnes knew left for Virginia Tech with ex-headman Justin Fuente, the Alabama tight end is in the process of forming new relationships. He said his Jan. 15 official visit to Memphis -- his only other trip besides Maryland -- will be paramount in how he views the program.
At this time, Barnes refused to put a percentage on his flip chances. But we’re inclined to believe the odds are in UMD’s favor.
You can read more about Barnes HERE.
Keldric Preston, DE, (Robinson/Tampa, Fla.): Preston, a three-star from UMD receiver Jahrvis Davenport’s high school alma mater, has been committed to Wisconsin since July. But he is wavering (slightly) in the wake of defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s departure for LSU, leaving the door open for others to jump into the fray.
UMD assistants Chris Beatty, Mike London and Aazaar Abdul-Rahim have established communication and are attempting to cull out an official visit. Preston, who easily connected with each coach, said he’s thinking about taking them up on the offer, although no date has been set in stone.
The defensive end has also heard about Maryland from his former teammate, Davenport, who talked up the Terps while at Robinson over Christmas break. Preston said Davenport’s comments enlightened him about College Park, and at the very least piqued his interest. UMD’s Big Ten affiliation, academics and the fact head coach D.J. Durkin has a defensive background doesn’t hurt the outlook either.
Even so, Preston’s intention is to remain a Badger. He officially visited Dec. 11 and said he’s good to go with Paul Chryst’s program.
“Maryland is a great school and there’s a lot of similarities between Maryland and Wisconsin,” said Preston, who is also hearing from Tennessee; Miami; and USF but only plans to entertain a Maryland official. “It’s a Big Ten school, great academics, a lot of great coaches on staff … it’s a nice program. But it would take a lot to flip [from Wisconsin].”
You can read more about Preston HERE.
Nick McCloud (South Pointe/Rock Hill, S.C.): McCloud, another three-star, has an intriguing frame at 6-1, 180-pounds, although he hadn’t attracted that much FBS interest until recently. On Jan. 7, McCloud saw his recruitment reach another level when he landed his first Big Ten offer (Maryland) and first Pac-12 scholarship (UCLA).
Afterwards, the Carolina corner said his two most recent offers threw a kink into his recruitment. Instead of considering just three schools – NC State, Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt – now he had five to look at. And if South Carolina throws its name into the ring (a possibility), it would be a cool half-dozen.
McCloud told me each of the above programs are on an even plane, although it sounded like the Yellow Jackets could have inched out front. The three-star said the Tech coaches have been hard after him, convincing McCloud to “lock in” a Jan. 22 official visit. What’s more, the recruit has family in Georgia, making it a more appealing destination.
McCloud already officially visited NC State, but while he enjoyed his stay in Raleigh, it didn’t necessarily vault the Wolfpack ahead of the pack. So now McCloud will be researching the other four contenders during the next week, and then choose two to trek through.
Vanderbilt, a school he saw unofficially during the fall, is in play thanks to the coach overtures and the academics. UCLA’s in the game because McCloud’s consistently heard from a Bruins’ staff member, who has several direct connections to the prospect’s family. And South Carolina, should it offer, is the hometown school.
As for Maryland, McCloud only just heard from defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim. He knew little about the program other than the basics, admitting he had to do more research before opting to visit or not.
“Coach Aazaar, I talked to him and he asked where I was in the process, and I told him I wasn’t locked in on one school yet. Then he asked me if I was interested in Maryland, and I told him I’m interested in any school that wants to look at me,” McCloud said. “So then he offered me and now we’re going to be talking more. He told me to keep Maryland in mind. So that’s what I’ll do; I’ll talk to my parents and look more into them.
“But I liked [Abdul-Rahim]. He seemed like a good dude and someone I could relate to. I’d like to play early and I want to find a school with a good program for my major, business management,” continued McCloud, who mentioned conference affiliation isn’t a factor for him. “I know Maryland has really good academics and needs DBs, so that’s something I’ll consider when I [research] them.”
Tyler Watson, OL, Milton (Alpharetta, Ga.): The Terps have a pair of four-star guards and three tackles in tow in this year’s class, but apparently head coach D.J. Durkin wants at least one more long-limbed lineman. Maryland’s staff has been in pursuit of Jauan Williams (Carroll/Washington, D.C.), Grayson Stover (Hudson, Fla.) and Javon Kinlaw (Goose Creek, S.C.), and Jan. 2 they extended an offer to Wake Forest commit Tyler Watson. The 6-5, 265-pound Watson has been a Deacons’ pledge since September and said he’s firmly on board, but his most recent scholarship did make him think twice. Watson had a rapport with UMD offensive coordinator Walt Bell prior to the assistant’s arrival in College Park. Bell, then at Arkansas State, was one of the first coaches to extend Watson an offer, so the recruit and the former Howl staffer have known each other for awhile.
On top of that, the Terps represent an opportunity to compete for early playing time in the Big Ten. Before Bell and Co. anted up Jan. 2, Illinois was the only other Big Ten look Watson had, the rest of his verbals coming from mostly non-power-conference programs.
With that in mind, coupled with UMD’s academic reputation, Watson said he’d consider heading to UMD for an official visit. If so, he hinted at the possibility of a flip from Wake Forest.
But even if he loves his College Park foray, there is no guarantee Watson reneges on his Deacons’ pledge. Watson’s a loyal recruit, and Wake’s stood by him for months now. The small-school environment, the educational benefits and the close-knit staff are keeping the tackle’s mind on Wake too.
“Maryland being in the Big Ten is a big thing. Big Ten football is good football, and it’s obviously great academics, which is a big thing for me,” Watson said. “I have an offer from Illinois too, and they’re in the Big Ten, but that’s a little too far away. Maryland is a little closer for me. But, I mean, I’m not really sure right now [about Maryland]. I kind of like what I have going on at Wake.”
You can read more about Watson HERE.
Tre’ McKitty, TE, IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) (2017): The Terps took a break from dishing out senior offers, extending one to this emerging tight end from a Florida powerhouse. Maryland became the latest verbal for the 6-4, 220-pounder McKitty, who also claims scholarships from FSU; UF, Miami; Auburn; Kentucky; Mississippi State; Tennessee; Wake Forest; Cincinnati; FIU; USF; North Carolina; and others.
Even though he’s a junior, McKitty made an early commitment to the hometown Hurricanes last year. But he backed out in December and is now open to a multitude of his growing options.
Per Scout’s Corey Bender, McKitty, an IMG product who is actually from Florida originally, will remain in the south for college. He’s projected to an SEC suitor, or perhaps Florida State.
Nathan Proctor, OLB, Lackey (Indian Head, Md.) (2017): This offer was a longtime coming. The Terps have known about Proctor since his sophomore year, but for various reasons elected not to ante up (academic issues?). But the new Maryland staff under D.J. Durkin tossed out the verbal anyway, becoming the 17th program to do so. The four-star outside linebacker now has offers from UMD, Georgia, Florida, Miami, UNC, PSU, Pitt, Va Tech, Rutgers, Kentucky, Illinois, Temple and others.
Proctor had somewhat of a connection with ex-UMD-area recruiter Mike Locksley, but not overly so. From here on in, however, he will be hearing from defensive line coach Mike London primarily.
Awhile back, Preston had his eye on UNC and Penn State, two schools he visited in the fall. But we’ll see if the hometown offer, with the new regime in charge, can swing the local Maryland’s way.
Various Defensive Recruiting Notes
K.J. Sails, CB, East Bay (Gibsonton, Fla.): Sails received a Maryland offer before the dead period began Dec. 14, although at the time didn’t have much to say about the program. But UMD head coach D.J. Durkin has been hammering away, letting Sails know the Terps need corners and the East Bay product would have an opportunity to shine early during his career. On top of that there’s Maryland’s sports broadcast program (Sails’ prospective major), the Under Armour connection and a top-ranked men’s hoops team (he’s a big basketball fan.)
Add that to Sails’ good friend Armunz Mathews’ (North Florida Christian/Tallahassee, Fla.) interest in Maryland, and now the Floridians have turtles on the brain.
Sails and Mathews (his situation is discussed in the “New Offers Out” section above), who would like to play together in college, will be officially visiting College Park Jan. 22. The feeling on this end is that trip could convince Sails – along with Mathews – to choose Maryland.
That is, if the Terps can stave off Big Ten brethren Wisconsin and Nebraska, and maybe others like Cincinnati, for Sails’ services.
Sails, a former Iowa pledge, officially visited Madison, Wisc., in September and has Wisconsin back in play after originally choosing the Hawkeyes in November. But the Badgers only have room for one more corner and may be favoring other targets, meaning Sails might not be a “take” for the moment.
The Huskers, Sails’ most recent offeree, could pose a greater threat to Maryland. The Gibsonton native is pondering an official to Lincoln, Neb., Jan. 29, and Nebraska does need defensive backs to fill out its 2016 class.
Cincinnati, which Sails is visiting Jan. 15, is in play too. Arizona, Purdue and possibly ECU could join the fray if any of those offer, while standbys USF; West Virginia; and another straggler or two are hanging around as well.
“I’m still open to anything,” Sails said. “There’s a lot of schools coming at me. I’ve taken two officials [to Iowa and Wisconsin], I’ve got one to Cincinnati on [Jan. 15], and I’ve got to decide on the last two. I don’t know where I’m going yet.”
Expect Sails to commit on Signing Day.
You can read more about Sails HERE.
J.J. Givens, S, Atlee (Mechanicsville, Va.): Maryland already looked to be in the driver’s seat for the three-star safety Givens, but the Terps’ Jan. 3 addition of assistant Chris Beatty further solidified their standing. Beatty was the lead recruiter for Givens from 2014-15 (at UVA and Syracuse), the two forming a close bond the last year-plus. After Beatty left SU for Maryland, the Atlee prospect texted in it was a “really big” move.
Combine that Beatty-Givens rapport with the relationship the safety already had established with UMD defensive line coach Mike London, defensive coordinator Scott Shafer and defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim -- London, Shafer and Abdul-Rahim trekked through Atlee before the dead period -- and it sounds like Maryland’s entrenched in the pole position. What’s more, Givens has an affinity for College Park from having visited a couple times last year. He counted the university’s academics, surrounding environment and the “family feel” as positives as well.
“Maryland is definitely going to be a finalist for me,” Givens said before. “They’re very, very high on my list.”
Givens did pick up a coveted Miami offer after the New Year and will be visiting the Canes Jan. 15. But the Terps will benefit from receiving the Mechanicsville native’s final official Jan. 29, an enviable spot to be in.
Givens, who previously took OVs to Arizona State and South Carolina (the school he was formerly committed to), should be selecting his school shortly -- maybe even before he arrives in College Park.
In other words, it wouldn’t shock us if he pulled a Richard Merritt (committing sans official).
Daniel Thomas, S, Lee School (Montgomery, Ala.): The outlook for the safety Thomas winding up in College Park continues to get murkier.
Before the dead period, in early December, Thomas hinted the Terps had a puncher’s chance to secure his services during a Jan. 22 official visit. He had a strong relationship with UMD defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, wanted to try his talents in the Big Ten and spoke highly of Maryland’s Under Armour connection.
But since then Thomas’ tune has changed. A week or so later, he suggested South Carolina, and not Maryland, could be the team to beat. The Alabama safety set up a Jan. 15 official to Columbia, S.C., and said the prospects of playing SEC ball held primary appeal (he grew up in SEC country, after all).
Then, earlier this week, Thomas’ situation became even more complicated. The Lee School recruit landed an offer from the nation’s No. 1 team, Clemson, which Thomas dubbed “huge.” He’s currently chewing over the idea of checking out the Tigers Jan. 29 for his final official.
The latest developments don’t bode well for Maryland, but the Terps should have their shot to leave an impression Jan. 22. Maybe, buoyed by all the other UMD targets joining Thomas that weekend, the staff can coax out a commitment before the safety leaves campus.
Of course, the folks in Columbia have similar ideas. The Gamecocks’ staff will be pushing for a pop by Jan. 16, which we’re told is a possibility. And if Thomas makes it all the way to Clemson Jan. 29, well, one could surmise the Tigers would hold a decided edge.
Keith Simms, OLB, Landon (Bethesda, Md.): There’s not a ton to report here, Simms remaining characteristically mum as the dead period drags on. Several readers have inquired about the four-star backer’s status, but the most we could glean was he was still mulling over official visit dates for Maryland; North Carolina; and possibly Ole Miss.
Simms already embarked on OVs to Oregon in September and Virginia Tech in December, the Hokies ringing true for the moment. Tech headman Justin Fuente and longtime area-recruiter Bud Foster both left an impression, Simms believing he’d fit well in the defense.
But the Landon product isn’t ready to end his recruitment yet. North Carolina previously had Simms’ ear, and could regain it following a January official. Simms has a solid relationship with headman Larry Fedora and took to the Chapel Hill, N.C., atmosphere when he visited during the summer.
Ole Miss, meanwhile, tossed out a December offer, and it remains to be seen if Simms will entertain it. On one hand, it’s an opportunity to compete in the SEC. On the other, the Rebels were late to the game and hadn’t been in touch with Simms prior to late fall.
As for the hometown Terps, they may have sat atop the totem poll before Chad Wilt left College Park. Simms had a very close bond with his ex-UMD recruiter, and the assistant’s exit has left the four-star in a “reevaluation” stage ever since.
Now, the backer has chatted with new Maryland coach D.J. Durkin and the rest of the defensive staff. Simms even offered up praise for Durkin’s energy, player development and defensive scheme. But he’ll have to meet the coaches in person before drawing any firm conclusions. We do believe Simms will officially visit College Park, but until then it’s difficult to gauge exactly where Maryland stands.
Given Simms’ hometown affinity and desire to play alongside his DMV-to-UMD friends, the Terps could very well wind up No. 1. Or, Wilt’s departure might have relegated them to runner-up or “show” status, behind Va Tech and UNC.
Let’s see what transpires in January.
Chase Pine, OLB, Lafayette (Williamsburg, Va.): Scout’s Derek Young reported from the Semper Fi Bowl that this three-star Pitt commit could be flipping to the Terps at the end of January. Pine, who has been a Panthers’ pledge since June, has heard consistently from Maryland assistants Mike London and Scott Shafer during the last month. Both coaches recruited Pine at their former places of employment -- UVA and Syracuse, respectively -- and now they’re doing so in College Park.
Evidently London’s and Shafer’s respective overtures have piqued Pine’s interest to the point where the outside backer will be officially visiting UMD Jan. 29. The Lafayette product hasn’t been to Maryland before, but he’s impressed with head coach D.J. Durkin’s resume; likes the fact UMD compete in the Big Ten; and believes the staff could readily develop his game.
Pine is also taking an official to Va Tech Jan. 22, but the Terps will get last dibs, perhaps giving them the inside track. He’s already checked out Pitt and Iowa State, and while the Cyclones hold some appeal, Pine’s not expected to wind up in Ames, Ia. More than likely, Pine will either stick with Pitt -- he insisted on camera he was “100 percent Panthers,” for what it’s worth -- or flip to Maryland.
The latter scenario may only occur, however, if UMD’s highest-rated linebackers fall by the wayside. Currently, Durkin’s priorities are Keith Simms, Jaquan Yulee (Indian River/Chesapeake, Va.) and Aaron Hansford, and it’s unclear whether the headman will take more than one outside backer to pair with Maryland pledge KeAndre Jones (Good Counsel/Olney, Md.). Basically, Pine may be insurance in case Jones opts out or the Terps miss on Simms, Yulee and/or Hansford.
Aaron Hansford, OLB, St. John’s (Washington, D.C.): Of all the realistic Maryland targets at the Under Armour All-American game, the DMV linebacker Hansford is the least likely to attend school in College Park. In last week’s Shell, we put UMD fifth or sixth in the pecking order, behind the likes of UCLA; Oklahoma; Michigan State; North Carolina; and Oregon.
This week, we’re hearing Hansford has UCLA and Michigan State out in front of the pack and could be heading to Los Angeles, Calif., or East Lansing, Mich., on Signing Day. Of those, the vibe is the Bruins hold the edge because their staff is giving Hansford a chance to play receiver, which is vastly appealing to the St. John’s recruit. Hansford will be officially visiting UCLA Jan. 15, so that trip could seal him to the Bruins.
The local linebacker already saw East Lansing officially and couldn’t say enough about his 48-hour stay. More importantly, Hanford has a deep rapport with the staff, ensuring the Spartans remain in prime position for the recruit’s services throughout.
Terps’ head coach D.J. Durkin and UMD-area recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim did well to work into Hansford’s top six, a moral victory of sorts considering the three-star barely mentioned Maryland before the new staff took over. And it’s still possible the Terps move up the leaderboard, but, if so, it’ll be because Hansford’s other suitors (Oklahoma, MSU, Oregon, UCLA) elect to go in a different direction.
Note: Penn State has been mentioned in conjunction with Hansford lately, mainly because the Nittany Lions are now offering the D.C. native at receiver. It’s possible Hansford gives PSU a late look if UCLA falls by the wayside.
Jaquan Yulee, OLB, Indian River (Chesapeake, Va.): This four-star linebacker just surfaced on Maryland’s radar Jan. 7 after he decommitted from Alabama. Yulee popped to the Tide back in June sans officials, but a month before Signing Day he decided he would like to venture out.
The universities he’s thinking about trekking to? Maryland, Michigan, MSU, Florida, Va Tech, UNC and maybe others.
It’s unclear exactly which way Yulee is leaning, but this is another recruit UMD’s Virginia recruiting aces had been all over before arriving in College Park. Both Mike London and Chris Beatty attempted to lure Yulee to UVA, making a potent pitch by foraying through Indian River and hosting the linebacker for a few visits.
Will that rapport be enough to secure a Maryland official visit? We should know in the very near future. Stay tuned.
Various Offensive Recruiting Notes
The Bullis Quarterback, QB, Bullis (Potomac, Md.): While Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin has been able to appease most of the Terps’ core DMV recruits, the four-star Bullis quarterback is in flux. This week, we were told the signal caller’s chances of signing with UMD had dipped below 50 percent.
Word is the quarterback and his family aren’t so much discontented with UMD, but rather they’re hearing the siren song of the SEC. Specifically, the tune emanating out of Baton Rouge, La.
During the Under Armour All-American practices, the Bullis product said he’d consider journeying down to LSU to hear out head coach Les Miles. The fact the Tigers have a glut of gunslingers in tow doesn’t seem to faze the ultra-competitive Bullis quarterback, who believes his work ethic and talent will eventually win out. So, the New Jersey native will probably check out the school first-hand, with a flip potentially culminating shortly thereafter.
Yes, the Bullis prospect is on Maryland’s commitment list, and publicly he’s said all the right things about Durkin and the direction he’s taking the program. The quarterback has continued advocating for UMD and hasn’t let on to his fellow Terps’ pledges he’s wavering.
But our connects have let on the signal caller has not exchanged regular messages with Maryland offensive coordinator Walt Bell, which isn’t a particularly positive sign. Nor has the four-star set up a post-dead period meeting or official visit to College Park, both in-person encounters “up in the air,” according to to our contacts.
Perhaps Durkin and Bell can stem the tide after Jan. 14, but this situation isn’t looking promising for Terps’ fans. It is recruiting, however, so the quarterback could do a complete 180 next week.
Either way, we’ll continue to monitor his recruitment and reach out to our various sources.
Update: I checked in with our Ohio State sources the morning of Jan. 8 and was told the Buckeyes are now a key player again in the Bullis quarterback race. Our contact informed me that Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer, who had his eyes on other signal callers and dropped the Bullis prospect down his board, had missed on his foremost targets. Therefore, he's back on the four-star Maryland pledge and could be positioned to land him. It's now questionable whether the Bullis quarterback will head to LSU at all; he could flip to OSU, where he's already officially visited.
Tyrek Tisdale, RB, Oak Ridge (Orlando, Fla.): With Wes Brown out and just three running backs projected on Maryland’s 2016 roster, the Terps will attempt to add a third runner to the incoming class. The three-star Tisdale, a 6-1, 200-pounder in the Wes Brown mold, could be that guy (or it could be Laderrien Wilson, who is discussed in the “New Offers Out” section above). Tisdale added a Maryland offer in late December and is set to officially visit College Park Jan. 29. The only other school he’s vetting at this time is UMass, which he’s trekking to Jan. 22.
A one-time Florida pledge, Tisdale decommitted back in October, perhaps at the behest of the Gators’ staff. Tisdale also took a September official visit to Oregon State, expressing interest in attending college out West, but the Beavers have since filled their running back spots. The same goes for many of Tisdale’s other elite suitors, meaning most of his offers are no longer committable.
Maryland, therefore, has suddenly become quite an attractive option.
“Maryland is a real good school, it’s good academics and it’s a school I’m becoming more familiar with,” Tisdale said. “I think with the staff they’re putting together they’re going to compete for a Big Ten championship soon. I really like what they have going on there. They look like a good school, and I’m glad I have the opportunity to go up for a visit and see what they’re all about.”
Tisdale has had contact with UMD head coach D.J. Durkin and assistants Mike London; Scott Shafer; and Chris Beatty. The Oak Ridge prospect knew Beatty and Shafer from their days at Syracuse, the Orange actively recruiting the running back to New York. Indeed, Tisdale gave his props to the staff Durkin’s been putting together (he had not had contact with running backs coach Anthony Tucker prior to our interview), and the recruit especially liked when the coaches said he could see the field as a freshman.
Further aiding the staff’s chances at landing Tisdale? The Terps are after several of the running back’s friends. K.J. Sails (East Bay/Gibsonton, Fla.), Nate Craig-Myers (Tampa Catholic/Tampa, Fla.) and Jayvaugh Myers (Pasco/Dade City, Fla.) could all be joining Tisdale in College Park Jan. 29.
“Me and K.J., we were actually together over the New Year’s weekend and we were like, ‘We can all take that visit together, see how it goes, and see how we might fit together as teammates at Maryland,’” Tisdale said. “It definitely helps going up with other people. So we’ll see what happens after that.”
What happens after that is presumably a Maryland pop. Even though Tisdale lauded UMass and his longstanding connection with the staff -- all the while insisting the Minutemen’s independent conference affiliation didn’t matter – the vibe is the Terps have the upper hand.
Provided Durkin accepts Tisdale’s pledge (again, see the Laderrien Wilson situation), the running back might be faxing in his UMD Letter of Intent in February.
You can read more about Tisdale HERE.
Dredrick Snelson, WR, Flanagan (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.): This recruit was trending in Maryland’s direction prior to the Under Armour All-American Game, and now it’s looking like the Terps could very well flip the Minnesota pledge.
Last week, we let readers know Snelson would be officially visiting UCF Jan. 15, UMD Jan. 22 and Wisconsin Jan. 29 -- with the Terps and Badgers holding a decided edge. But Snelson announced Jan. 2 that he’d no longer be trekking to Madison, Wisc., and would instead take just the former two January officials.
So, if followed to its logical conclusion, Snelson could be a Terp later this month or on Signing Day.
The Florida wideout has readily taken to UMD assistant Aazaar Abdul-Rahim and head coach D.J. Durkin, while he knows he could play soon after arriving on campus. Plus, Snelson acknowledged he’d like to attend the same school as his good friends and fellow Minnesota commits Elisha and Elijah Daniels (Cardinal Gibbons/Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.), who are both considered strong Terps’ flip candidates. It’s no coincidence both Daniels twins are visiting Maryland the same day as Snelson.
Now, Snelson has gone on record that he’s firmly committed to Minnesota, but he told me otherwise when pressed. Unless the Gophers -- which have already hosted Snelson and the Danielses for officials -- can lock Snelson and Co. in during the January open period, the wideout (and the two defensive backs) may be College Park bound.
Xavier Lane, WR, Carver (Montgomery, Ala.): When the Terps offered the Alabama three-star Lane Dec. 14, his January was booked with official visits to Western Kentucky Jan. 15; Troy Jan. 22; and Toledo Jan. 30. But Lane admitted he’d be cancelling one of those three trips in favor of Maryland, which represented his lone power-five offer.
And Lane did just that earlier this week. Instead of heading to Troy, he’ll be taking in College Park Jan. 22, along with a slew of other Terps’ targets: Dredrick Snelson, Daniel Thomas (Lee/Montgomery, Ala.), Elijah Daniels, Elisah Daniels, Jeawon Taylor (Park Crossing/Montgomery, Ala.) and possibly others.
Lane, for his part, didn’t want to place Maryland ahead of Western Kentucky and Toledo in the pecking order quite yet. But it’s fairly clear UMD has his ear, with assistant Aazaar Abdul-Rahim serving as lead recruiter. Lane doesn’t know much about UMD aside from the Under Armour connection, but the chance to shine early during his career and compete in the Big Ten was enough to garner his attention.
“[Maryland] was a big offer for me. It’s my first major offer. I called up Coach Aazaar and he told me he’d love to have me up there, and I told him I definitely would be giving [Maryland] a look,” Lane said before.
Lane, whose father, Terrance Simmons, spent two years in the NFL, said he’d likely announce his destination on Signing Day. If head coach D.J. Durkin will accept his pledge (UMD can only take maybe two more receivers in this class), the tealeaves read “Terps.”
Benaiah Franklin, WR/RB, Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.): The Terps offered this Purdue pledge right before Christmas, and Franklin was absolutely thrilled. He previously had a relationship with UMD offensive coordinator Walt Bell, who recruited Franklin at Arkansas State, the recruit calling the coach, “a really great guy, really passionate.” After the two conversed, Franklin said he’d be embarking on a College Park official Jan. 22 before opting to flip or stick with Purdue.
Indications suggested a flip given the Bell connection and the fact the Terps would have the last word Jan. 22. Franklin already took his West Lafayette, Ind., official and hosted the Boilermakers’ coaches, so the Purdue staff’s remaining pitches would be limited to mere phone calls and texts/direct messages.
But Maryland’s momentum came to a screeching halt earlier this week. Franklin, doing a 180, said he was “pretty sure” he wouldn’t be taking anymore trips. He said he’d been in touch with the Purdue coaches and was “pretty locked in” with the Boilermakers’ program. (There’s also the possibility Franklin wasn’t a “take” for the Terps and would’ve only become a legitimate target had higher-rated wideouts fallen off UMD’s board).
We’ll keep Franklin on the hot board as “cool” in case he changes his mind, but it sounds like he’s content with Purdue for now.
Maryland coach D.J. Durkin and his staffers are casting a wide net, and there are numerous prospects on their radar who don’t hold offers yet. It’s conceivable, after further evaluation, said recruits could snag Terps’ scholarships in the near future, however.
Some of the more recent players the UMD staff has connected with include cornerback Henry Miller (Gateway/Kissimmee, Fla.), cornerback Carlos Becker (Osceola/Kissimmee, Fla.) and slot receiver Steven Smothers (Franklin/Reisterstown, Md.).
-- The three-star Miller officially visited Pitt Dec. 11 and committed to the Panthers a week later, choosing them over N.C. State. He seems fairly content with his decision, giving no outward signs he’ll be venturing out this January. We’ll see if a Maryland offer changes Miller’s mind.
-- Becker, a four-star corner, has had contact with Maryland assistant Chris Beatty, but we’re not sure even UMD’s ace recruiter can pull this one off. Becker is supposed to officially visit FSU Jan. 15, OSU Jan. 22 and Ole Miss Jan. 29, and previously embarked on an OV to N.C. State. Most believe this is a Seminoles-Wolfpack battle, with the Buckeyes battling for position.
We won’t count UMD out if the Terps do offer, but it’s probably an uphill battle.
-- The primetime local Smothers, whom I rated 4.5 stars, lacked a Maryland look during the Randy Edsall and Mike Locksley eras. Word was he’d have to attend prep school to meet NCAA Clearinghouse standards, and the Terps were unwilling to go that route. But apparently new UMD head coach D.J. Durkin could be willing to entertain the dynamic DMV talent, who at one time listed Maryland near the top of his personal leaderboard.
Last week, Smothers exchanged messages with Terps’ receivers’ coach Chris Beatty, the assistant reforming his bond with the recruit. But even if Beatty opts to offer, Smothers may not entertain the pitch. The Franklin product is firmly committed to West Virginia and “absolutely loves” the Mountaineers. Smothers suggested a January trip to Wisconsin could materialize, but said more than likely he’d be sticking with his long-stated No. 1, WVU.
The Chris Beatty Influence
Head coach D.J. Durkin made yet another power move Jan. 3, adding primetime recruiter Chris Beatty to his staff as receivers’ coach. Beatty, who served under Terps’ defensive line coach Mike London at UVA last year, had just accepted a job at Syracuse, but bolted for the Big Ten less than a month later.
“That’s a huge, huge move for Maryland,” according to UVA’s Scout analyst, Jacquie Franciulli. “As a coach and recruiter, that’s huge. While a lot of the kids who signed with UVA last year did like Mike London, many of them committed directly to, and because of, Chris Beatty. [Beatty] was responsible for nine of UVA’s 23 commitments last year. He was the point man.”
The 42-year-old Beatty grew up in Centreville, Va., attended Chantilly High School (Chantilly, Va.) and has deep ties throughout the state. His forte is the Tidewater/Virginia Beach area, although he’s recruited in Northern Virginia and parts of Southern Maryland too. Beatty also has plenty of connections in South Florida and, really, all the renowned high schools throughout the Sunshine State. Per Franciulli, Beatty went toe-to-toe with the Florida elites, UF and FSU, for the state’s foremost talents.
“Beatty’s reputation with kids is terrific,” Franciulli said. “He’s very good at maintaining relationships. No one Beatty has recruited has every forgotten him. He literally attack recruiting and stays on kids, even if they’re committed [to other schools].”
Beatty is considered an easily relatable, “fun” personality on the recruiting trail. He gets to know respective recruits personally, making sure to keep in contact via social media.
Plus, Beatty’s reputation and resume speak for themselves, resonating with recruits. He’s helped developed NFL mainstays such as Percy Harvin, Tavon Austin, Steadman Bailey and Jordan Matthews, to name a few. Franciulli explained that a couple underperforming Wahoos’ skill players ended up thriving after a year learning from Beatty.
As a coach, Beatty “doesn’t mess around” and is “very focused,” according to Franciulli. She said the receivers’ coach makes his players assume accountability, demanding they pay attention to detail.
“He can be strict, but the kids listen to him because he knows how to talk to them in a way that his style hits home,” Franciulli said. “The players all respect him, because they know he’s going to get the best out of them.”
Pair Beatty’s expertise with Mike London’s, and now the Terps have two of the most potent Virginia-area recruiters in the nation. A state once considered a “dead zone” for Maryland purposes has almost overnight become fertile ground. The Terps should be able to land multiple highly-rated talents in 2017 and possibly beyond -- provided Beatty and London remain on staff.
The Anthony Tucker Influence
Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin dipped back into Arkansas State to hire offensive coordinator Walt Bell’s buddy Jan. 5. The 36-year-old California native Anthony Tucker will assume running backs coach duties in College Park after three season with the Howl.
Tucker, who played wideout at Fresno State before embarking on a four-year NFL career, switched to running backs coach in Jonesboro, Ark., since the Howl already had a receivers’ coach in place.
Nevertheless, Arkansas State’s running game steadily improved each year under Tucker’s watch, according to Scout’s Mark Ferguson. Last year, the Howl’s three-pronged attack combined for 2,588 rushing yards, a season after compiling 1,800 yards.
“Anthony’s a hard worker who gets after it,” Ferguson said. “He’s pretty low key; he only dials it up when he needs to. He’s not going to yell for the sake of yelling. You may not notice him in a crowd, because he doesn’t have a huge personality like a lot of coaches are prone to. But he quietly does his job and gets the most out of his players. He was well liked while he was [at Arkansas State].”
On the recruiting trail, Tucker mainly mined Alabama and parts of Tennessee. He also has some connections in California, his home state.
Tucker doesn’t bring the same recruiting mojo that Walt Bell does, but “[Tucker] hits the trail and will be active,” according to Ferguson. At Maryland, he’ll probably be responsible for Terps’ running back targets, while teaming with UMD assistant Aazaar Abdul-Rahim in Bama and Tennessee.
The Joe Wickline Influence
Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin’s final hire came Jan. 7, the headman opting for a grizzled veteran to fill his offensive line opening. The 57-year-old Joe Wickline, a Saint Petersburg, Fla., native served under Charlie Strong at Texas the last two seasons, the O-line coach a major reason why the Longhorns averaged 5.1 yards per carry and rolled up 2,700 rushing yards in 2015. (Strong parted ways with Wickline after this season, but it wasn’t performance related).
Before heading to Texas, Wickline spent eight years at Oklahoma State and was considered one of the best line coaches in the nation. In fact, when Strong tried to hire him away, the Cowboys filed a lawsuit in an attempt to keep Wickline around.
“That just shows how valued he was,” said Scout.com’s Texas analyst William Wilkerson, who also mentioned that Wickline had a stint in the WWE as a pro wrestler. “He’s one of the best pure Xs and Os line coaches in the country. He’s one hell of a coach, and in my opinion he might just be the best.”
In practice, Wilkerson described Wickline as a “no-nonsense, no-BS” type, typical of most O-line coaches bred on old-school Junction Boys football.
“He’s cut and dry, all business and has no time for BS,” Wilkerson said. “And to a lot of O-linemen, that’s just fine. You want that kind of toughness in a coach and in your offensive linemen. But nowadays there are some prima donnas out there, and they’d butt heads with Wickline. His personality did get him in some trouble with players. But that’s just how it goes sometimes. He’s not always going to see eye-to-eye with players, but the ones who stick with him turn out to be pretty darn good.”
Evidently Wickline uses the same approach on the recruiting trail. Many assistants will alter their personalities when talking to prospects, taking on a more “approachable” demeanor. But not Wickline.
“From what I understand he doesn’t switch character. He is who he is all the time,” Wilkerson said. “He’s real. You either like him or you don’t, and that’s what makes him successful. But it can hurt him too, because not all recruits like that straight, no-nonsense, tough-love stuff. It works when recruiting most O-linemen, but not all.”
Wilkerson pointed to two Longhorns starters in particular who came to Texas, and thrived, under Wickline’s watch. Four-star left tackle Connor Williams, the No. 1 O-lineman in Texas last year, ate up Wickline’s pitch -- and later his teaching methods. Same goes for guard Pat Vahe, another Lone Star State product who readily took to Wickline’s personality.
“Basically, Wickline didn’t really recruit a certain area at Texas – he just generally focused on O-linemen and Charlie Strong gave him free reign to go after whoever he wanted,” Wilkerson said. “Strong trusted Wickline’s judgment and didn’t interfere. So Wickline ended up recruiting all over Texas, but he was free to go out and get kids from all over the country. And he was pretty darn good at it.”
Expect Wickline to do much of the same at Maryland. Durkin will likely ask him to be a coach first and foremost, but also help identify and recruit the Terps’ foremost line targets. We’d predict Wickline will return to his bread and butter, Texas, but it’s possible he traverses through various locales throughout Big 12 and Big Ten country in search of talent.
The Matt Barnes Influence
Terps’ headman D.J. Durkin decided to hire a young up-and-comer who grew up in the Old Line State Jan. 6. Matt Barnes, who will coach linebackers, is a 29-year-old Frederick County native, Urbana High (Ijamsville, Md.) graduate and Salisbury University alum. He began his coaching career as a defensive analyst at Florida and later held the same role at Michigan, following Durkin to Ann Arbor, Mich., last year.
I spoke to a couple Scout.com beat writers who cover the Wolverines, but they did not have much, if any, knowledge of Barnes. Thus, we won’t be able to delve into his personality or recruiting abilities until he gets to work in College Park.
But the sense is Barnes will be tasked with covering ex-UMD offensive line coach Greg Studrawa’s old stomping grounds: Frederick County and Carroll County. Barnes, taking advantage of his Salisbury connections, will probably scan the Eastern Shore and parts of Delaware too. In addition, Barnes will likely be asked to evaluate and help recruit Maryland’s future linebacker targets.
How successful he’ll be remains to be seen, but it’s a savvy hire on Durkin’s part. Not only is Barnes another UMD coach with local ties, but he should relate well to kids given his age -- and he’s probably hungry to prove himself too.