Maryland secured a commitment from four-star defensive tackle Cam Spence (IMG Academy/Bradenton, Fla.) April 8, and afterwards we spoke to his former defensive coordinator at Gilman (Baltimore, Md.), Henry Russell, to gain more insight into the 6-foot-5, 290-pounder. Our question-and-answer session with Russell is below:
Terrapin Times: Coach, I know you haven’t seen Cam since his sophomore year, but you watched him develop for two years and have a pretty good idea what he brings to the table. What kind of player is Maryland getting here?
Henry Russell: Cam is just unbelievable. He’s big, naturally just strong and very athletic for his size. He’s a very impressive kid with tremendous upside, and I think he’s going to keep getting better and better and become a very, very good college player – and maybe move onto the next level after that.
Cam brings a lot of good stuff to Maryland, and he’s a great pickup for the Terps. Looking at the league they play in [the Big Ten], teams they play against on a yearly basis like Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, those area teams that want to run the football and control the line of scrimmage. For Maryland to get a kid that has the size and strength to match up with the top kids in the country, which those schools [UM, MSU, OSU] will have, that’s something you need to have on your defense. So Cam is a great addition for the Terps.
TT: Technically speaking, one thing I noticed his sophomore year when I saw Cam, is he kept a low base and really fired off the ball consistently, which you don’t always see with a lot of bigger defensive linemen.
HR: Yeah, Cam’s leg strength is unbelievable. He’s got tree trunks for legs. What makes him special is he has those tree trunks for legs, but he has unbelievable feet – like a skill guy. When you combine those two things, it’s pretty special, and it allows him to control the line of scrimmage. He gets great penetration, can take on two blockers and can free the other defenders up.
A player like that is tough to replace. You don’t find many kids like that across the country.
TT: Gilman is known for producing linemen on both sides of the ball. How does Cam stack up against some of the better guys Gilman has produced? How is he compared to last year’s D-line stud, Ellison Jordan?
HR: You know, I think Cam’s right up there. It’ll be interesting to see what he does this year, his senior year. Normally players have their biggest year their senior year, so Cam’s got a whole year ahead of him to really produce. But Cam’s got the ability to be as any of the guys we’ve had here, if not better. I haven’t coached him in a year, so it’s kind of hard to say that, but Cam can be that good.
And I think Cam and Ellison are totally different players. It’s totally different what you’re looking to get out of them. But to play them in tandem like we were able to do for a year, it was the best of both worlds. So they’re different players, but they’re both unique and dynamic.
TT: The several years I’ve known Cam, I’ve always been impressed with his maturity and demeanor. It almost seems like he’s older than he is. Is that the demeanor he took around his teammates and you guys?
HR: I think Cam is very friendly and a great teammate. He’s a guy who loves his teammates and gives everything to his team. Anytime you have a kid like that who totally buys into your program and your team, it certainly helps make that locker room even stronger than it was in the past. He’s a great addition to any locker room.
TT: Was Cam someone you guys identified right away in the youth leagues, seventh, eighth grade? Was he someone you saw and immediately were like, OK, this guy can be a player?
HR: Absolutely. Cam was identified right away; he had special God-given abilities. To be that big and athletic at such a young age, we thought he had the potential to be pretty special. We thought, if this kid works a little bit he can be pretty good, and if he works a lot he could be outstanding. He’s the type of kid anyone would want to be part of their program.
TT: Coach, I saw you out there at Maryland for a couple spring practices. Cam couldn’t say enough about the new staff there. What did you think of the UMD coaches and the vibe over there?
HR: I’ve met Coach [D.J.] Durkin several times over the years, and I think he’s a great motivator and energetic and cares about his team. We were a fan of his. I think he wants to push his guys extremely hard and believes in competition. He’s brought a whole new energy to the program. That’s exciting to see as a local high school coach, and he’s assembled a great staff.
Coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim is a friend and I think he’ll do a great job there and we’re excited he’s on the staff. Coach [Mike] London is a guy we’ve known for a long time, and he’s a great person. Coach [Walt] Bell, he’s recruited our area in the past at North Carolina, and he’s a great guy too. And I thought it was impressive they picked up a quality defensive coordinator in a hurry in Coach [Andy] Buh. So we’re excited what Coach Durkin is doing down there.
TT: Speaking of energy and excitement, I wanted to ask you your thoughts on DMV-to-UMD and how strong it is among the local kids now. It was a concept that was talked about under Randy Edsall, but it seems like it’s really taken hold now. Are you sensing more excitement with the kids?
HR: Yeah. It definitely seems to be concrete. When you have the top players in the area committing there this early, we haven’t really seen that in the past. Something is definitely different. It’s a long way until Signing Day, but they’re off to a great start down there at Maryland.
TT: When you were up there talking to the staff, did you see Cam? He was up there for like five straight days over spring break.
HR: I didn’t see Cam this spring, but I saw him over Christmas. He always likes to stop by and say hi. He’s just a wonderful kid, he has a huge heart and he’s like a big teddy bear. He’s the type of guy where you just want to be around him. He makes you feel good about yourself and other kids feel good too.