In Maryland, 2015 was all about DMV-to-UMD. But 2016, and possibly beyond, mine as well be FLA-to-UMD. Under head coach D.J. Durkin, the Terps have secured five consecutive commitments from Florida-area recruits, while making inroads into the talent-rich state’s 2017 crop as well.
Three of UMD’s most recent junior offers went out to a Sunshine State powerhouse that college programs throughout the country routinely trek through, St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). On Jan. 27, Terps’ area recruiter Chris Beatty stopped by Aquinas to extend verbals to receiver Michael Harley, receiver Joshua Palmer and offensive tackle Cody Bowes.
“I was excited when I got the offer. I’m really glad I have it, especially since it’s in the Big Ten,” said the 5-foot-10, 170-pound Harley, who claims early scholarships from UMD; Illinois; Miami; Mississippi State; NC State; Cincinnati; South Carolina; WVU; Syracuse; and others. “Coach Beatty, he came by our school and talked to our coaches, and we’ve talked online a little bit. He was saying to keep up the good work, we’ll be in contact and he’s going to keep trying to get guys out of Florida. [Beatty] seems like a pretty cool guy.”
The 6-4, 270-pound Bowes had a similar reaction.
“I know it’s a really good opportunity at Maryland, and I’m definitely looking at them,” said Bowes, who has verbals from Ohio State; UNC; NC State; Syracuse; Tennessee; Illinois, Wake; WVU; and more. “I’ve been talking to Coach Beatty for awhile on-line. He’s been telling me he’d love to have me up there, and he was saying how the staff finally had a chance to evaluate my junior film and wanted to offer me. He wants to keep building up that relationship, and I said I was looking forward to it.”
The 6-3, 190-pound Palmer, a Canadian native, chimed in as well:
"I was surprised by the offer because I hadn't really heard from Maryland, but I was very happy," said Palmer, who now holds offers from UMD; Syracuse; Michigan; Illinois and Temple. "I haven't looked too much into Maryland yet, but I really like what I've heard from some other players around here about the coaches and the program.
"Coach Beatty stopped by and we shook hands. He seems like a really nice guy, although I couldn't really talk to him."
None of the three recruits knew too much about Maryland yet, although the trio have seen games on TV before. Harley, however, was up in College Park, Md., a couple summers ago for UMD’s inaugural Big Show, Friday Night Lights camp.
“I remember I had a real good time up there,” Harley said. “The campus was nice, it was huge, and the facilities were real nice. I really enjoyed being up there, and the food was great too, I remember that (laughs). There was a bunch of guys from Florida up there and we all had a great time.”
Bowes, meanwhile, said he liked that Maryland competed in the Big Ten, is Under Armour affiliated and has a new staff.
“This summer, me, Mike and Josh are definitely getting up to Maryland for a visit,” Bowes said. “I’m going to see Maryland for sure. Like I said, it was a pretty big offer for me and I like Coach Beatty.”
Thus far, Bowes has visited Florida, FSU, Miami and UCF. Harley, for his part, has seen UMD, FSU, Miami and UCF. And Palmer has visited Michigan, which was his very first offer.
The former, Bowes, is heading to a junior day at Tennessee and Ohio State, with trips to Maryland and WVU also on the radar. Harley will hit junior days at WVU and Indiana, with a summer foray through College Park in the works. The latter recruit, Palmer, plans to trek through Illinois, Syracuse and UMD, while a return to Michigan is in the cards.
“Basically, right now, the offers from West Virginia, Miami, Maryland and South Carolina have caught my eye so far,” Harley said. “But it’s early yet. We’ll see how things go.”
“Ohio State and Tennessee are probably at the top for me right now,” Bowes added. “But Maryland is right there for me too.”
"Michigan was my first offer, so that has my eye. I really liked it when I visited," Palmer said. "But Maryland does now have my eye as well. I can't say I have one school that I definitely want to go to yet, but those are a couple that I like right now."
None of the recruits said they’d definitely like to stay in-state at powers like UF or FSU. Location is not counted as a primary factor, as the prospects are searching for the right fit in terms of playing time; scheme; player-coach relationships; and comfort level.
“But we would like to play together in college if possible,” Harley said.
“Yes, me and Mike are good friends, and we were talking about what it would be like to play together in college [Jan. 27] actually,” Bowes said. “We’re something like a package deal (laughs).”
Harley is coming off a junior campaign where he lined up at receiver, running back, quarterback and return man. He projects as a receiver in college.
“I had to wait my turn with all the seniors we had, but I had a great season,” Harley said. “I made something out of nothing.”
Palmer was actually in his first year at Aquinas after transferring down from a school in Ontario, Canada: Cedar Roch.
"I've been at St. Thomas for about six months now, but I think I had a good first season down here," the receiver said. "I like it a lot in Florida. It's been a good experience."
Bowes pointed out that Aquinas won the state title and he started every game at right tackle.
“The line as a whole was great this year,” Bowes said. “And I feel like I played pretty good at right tackle, just getting off the ball, protecting the quarterback and opening holes.”