Not to be lost in the weekend hoopla, which included two four-star recruits committing to Maryland while on campus April 9, was the return of five-star running back Anthony McFarland (DeMatha/Hyattsville, Md.) to College Park, Md. The 5-foot-9, 190-pounder has visited the hometown school a handful of times the last couple months, and April 9 he decided to “just pop up.”
“That’s the kind of relationship I have with the coaches at Maryland now – I can just pop up there anytime I want and just go hang out whenever,” said McFarland, who claims more than 30 offers from programs throughout the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12. “[Maryland signee] D.J. Turner, my teammate, he picked me up and we just went up to hang out for like an hour or so. So it was good; I always have a good time at Maryland these days. I’m there all the time now.”
McFarland’s choice of words – “these days” and “now” -- are worth reading into. The DeMatha product admitted he didn’t necessarily connect with the former Maryland regime, but has easily taken to head coach D.J. Durkin and his young, energetic staff.
“I told everyone else, the school atmosphere is different now at Maryland. Going up there now and feeling the family atmosphere, I mean, I just never got that before from the old coaches,” McFarland said. “It was like things were separate and not close. But with Coach Durkin, it’s changed, and how the players get along with the coaches has changed. Like, I’m real close with Coach Durkin, and when I go up there, I can just start talking to him and joke with him in the hallways and stuff. When I do stuff like that, it’s a good sign.
“So Maryland has changed for me. I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t really high on Maryland at first. I liked it, but I honestly didn’t think I’d actually end up going there [for college]. But now they’re right there for me. When you think about the institution you’re going to be at the next four years, you have to be comfortable there. And I definitely feel comfortable at Maryland now. It’s the home school, it’s right down the street and it’s a great vibe there now.”
Besides Durkin, McFarland has a deep connection with area recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, while he’s getting to know the likes of offensive coordinator Walt Bell, running backs coach Anthony Tucker, receivers’ coach Chris Beatty and Director of Recruiting Marcus Berry. It’s Abdul-Rahim’s message, though, that’s really hit home.
“Coach Aazaar and I have a great relationship. He’s awesome,” McFarland said. “We talk every day basically, and not even about football. It’s about life and life after football, and, honestly, that’s what this recruitment’s all about – building a life after football. So that’s what great about Coach Aazaar, and then we also talk about how I can help bring something to Maryland that’s never been done before like winning Big Ten and national championships. We talk about how that’s possible if the local guys like myself stay home. And that’s something that’s really opened my eyes, staying home and building the hometown school into a champion.”
The DeMatha product went on to discuss his rapport with the rest of the staff. He said he exchanges messages with various Maryland coaches “all the time” and they basically all have the same mantra.
“It’s just like with Coach Aazaar. When I talk to Coach Tucker or Coach Bell or Coach Beatty, it’s just really cool,” McFarland said. “Again, it’s not just about football. It’s about life and anything I want to talk about. They’re all about creating that family atmosphere at Maryland, and I can really feel it there now.”
McFarland did not have a chance to view the Maryland scrimmage April 9, but he saw the first Terps’ scrimmage in late March. The five-star said he honed in on Bell and his up-tempo offense.
“I got a chance to see what the guys could do in the offense, and it was real good,” McFarland said. “Coach Bell’s a great coach, and he had one of the best offenses in the country at Arkansas State. But he doesn’t have the players now to run what he really wants to run, but once he gets those guys in there, it’s going to be electrifying. It’s a great scheme, a great system, and I feel like I could be a major playmaker in [the offense].”
McFarland had already seen the $150 million facility upgrade plans, the renovated player dorms and weight room, and the academic buildings during previous trips. He said all of the above will help the Terps attract recruits like himself.
“The facility has really caught my eye. If I commit there, [the upgrades] should be done by the time I get to campus, so that would be huge,” McFarland said. “It’s a wonderful facility, and I think it’s going to be the best in college football. It’s going to be one of the tops in the country, that’s for sure.”
To top it all off, McFarland witnessed Kasim Hill (St. John’s/Washington, D.C.) and Ayinde Eley (Good Counsel, Olney, Md.) pledge to the Terps April 9. The DeMatha product took note of four-star defensive tackle Cam Spence’s (IMG Academy/Bradenton, Fla.) commitment to Maryland April 8 as well.
“Seeing those guys commit, it opened my eyes some,” McFarland said. “I played with those guys like Cam and Kasim when I was younger, so to see them commit to Maryland was big. It has a lot to do with what I’m thinking right now, just seeing other big-time players commit to Maryland.”
While the Terps are firmly on McFarland’s mind, he’s not ready to release a favorites list just yet. He said he’ll form a leaderboard next month and then begin paring the list down during the summer and into the fall. McFarland figures to take all of his allotted officials before ending his recruitment sometime next year.
“No tops yet for me,” McFarland said. “But, like, Maryland, Miami, Florida, Alabama, Oklahoma, Clemson, South Carolina, USC, Tennessee, Georgia, those are some schools that have been talking to me a lot. Those are just some off the top of my head.”
McFarland has only visited Miami and UMD so far this offseason. He’ll be busy with camps the next couple weeks before taking a southern swing this May through the likes of South Carolina, Bama, UGA and Tennessee.
“And I’ll be back up at Maryland too,” McFarland said. “I’m always up there (laughs).”