Welcome to our next edition of Inside the Shell, the weekly Maryland football recruiting roundup.
Projecting The 2017 Class
The dead recruiting period comes to an end next week, which means the Maryland staff can resume hosting and contacting prospective targets. During the past couple weeks, though, a couple of the Terps’ primary recruits and top “backup options” opted for other institutions, limiting the UMD coaches’ options somewhat heading into mid-summer.
But, if there’s one thing we’ve learned under head coach D.J. Durkin, he and his staff won’t -- for the most part -- be backed into a corner or forced to “reach” for a recruit to fill a need. Expect the Terps’ coaches to identify and offer more potential targets, while continuing to recruit some of the prospects who committed elsewhere (i.e. Randall Haynie, Andrew Stueber, Terrell Jana, Olakunle Fatukasi, Stephon Zayas, etc.).
In the meantime, here’s a rundown of 2017 hot board and where Maryland stands:
Quarterbacks (Take 1)
Kasim Hill (St. John’s/Washington, D.C.)
Running Backs (Take 1-2)
Anthony McFarland (DeMatha/Hyattsville, Md.): WARM
Tayon Fleet-Dave (Potomac/Oxon Hill, Md.): WARM
Deon Jackson (Pace Academy/Atlanta, Ga.): WARM
Javon Leake (Page/Greensboro, N.C.): WARM
Malik Davis (Jesuit/Tampa, Fla.): COOL
Damon Williams (Gadsden City/Gadsden, Ala.): COOL
Receivers (Take 4)
M.J. Jarrell (Timber Creek/Orlando, Fla.)
Sean Nelson (Langston Hughes/Fairburn, Ga.)
Carlos Carriere (Alpharetta, Ga.)
Cam Sullivan-Brown (Pallotti/Laurel, Md.): WARM
Tahj Capehart (Bishop Sullivan Catholic/Virginia Beach, Va.): WARM
Tight Ends (Take 1-2)
Andrew Park (Lake Braddock/Burke, Va.)
Blake Williams (Canada Prep/St. Catharines, Ontario): WARM
Offensive Line (Take 3-4)
Jordan McNair (McDonogh/Owings Mills, Md.)
Marcus Minor (DeMatha/Hyattsville, Md.): WARM
Johnny Jordan (Gonzaga/Washington, D.C.): WARM
Desmond Holmes (Cardinal O’Hara/Springfield, Pa.): WARM
Gabe Houy (Upper St. Clair/Pittsburgh, Pa.): WARM
Carter Warren (Passaic County Tech/Wayne, N.J.): COOL
Connor Robbins (Pedro Menendez/St. Augustine, Fla.): COOL
Defensive Line (Take 4-5)
Josh Kaindoh (IMG Academy/Bradenton, Fla.)
Cam Spence (St. John’s/Washington, D.C.)
Tyree Johnson (St. John’s/Washington, D.C.): HOT
Vic Dimukeje (Boys’ Latin/Baltimore, Md.): HOT/WARM
Lawtez Rogers (Roosevelt/Greenbelt, Md.): HOT
Chase Young (DeMatha/Hyattsville, Md.): WARM
Josh Paschal (Good Counsel/Olney, Md.): WARM
Curtis Harper (McKeesport, Pa.): COOL
George Ellis (American Heritage/Plantation, Fla.): COOL
Deron Irving-Bey (Flint Southwestern/Flint, Mich.): COOL
BUCK (Take 3)
Ayinde Eley (Good Counsel/Olney, Md.)
Jordan Anthony (IMG Academy/Bradenton, Fla.): WARM
Michael Scott (North Florida Christian/Tallahassee, Fla.): WARM
Nathan Proctor (Lackey/Indian Head, Md.): WARM
Malik Horton (Langston Hughes/Fairburn, Ga.): WARM
Noah Curtis (American Heritage/Plantation, Fla.): COOL
Jabreel Stephens (Armwood/Seffner, Fla.): COOL
Chris Pierce (Smithfield, Va.): COOL
Brailyn Franklin (Battlefield/Haymarket, Va.): COOL
Joe Hunt (Cosby/Midlothian, Va.): COOL
Inside Linebackers (Take 1)
Marcus Bowman (Douglass/Upper Marlboro, Md.): WARM
Dillon Harris (Bloomfield, Conn.): WARM
Louis Acceus (St. Joseph Regional/Montvale, N.J.): WARM
Shanon Reid (Dunbar/Ft. Myers, Fla.): COOL
Safeties (Take 0-1)
Marquis Waters (Atlantic/Delray Beach, Fla.): WARM
Keontae Jones (Colerain/Cincinnati, Ohio): COOL
George Hunter (Atlantic/Delray Beach, Fla.): COOL
Cornerbacks (Take 4)
Fofie Bazzie (Quince Orchard/North Potomac, Md.)
Deon Jones (Potomac/Oxon Hill, Md.)
Tariq Castro-Fields (Riverdale Baptist/Upper Marlboro, Md.): WARM
Kenny Bennett (Simon Gratz/Philadelphia, Pa.): WARM
Special Teams (Take 1)
Jonathan Doerer (South Mecklenburg/Charlotte, N.C.): HOT
Predicting The 2017 Class
Recruiting changes by the day, and our opinion could very well differ by the time you finish reading this. But, for what it’s worth, here’s our way-too-early best guess for how the 2017 class will turn out for the Terps.
Quarterback: Kasim Hill
Running Back: Deon Jackson
Receiver: M.J. Jarrell, Sean Nelson, Carlos Carriere, Unidentified Receiver
Tight End: Andrew Park, Unidentified H-Back
Offensive Line: Jordan McNair, Marcus Minor, Unidentified Tackle
Defensive Line: Josh Kaindoh, Cam Spence, Lawtez Rogers, Tyree Johnson
BUCK: Ayinde Eley, Malik Horton, Jordan Anthony
Inside Linebackers: Dillon Harris
Safeties: Deon Jones
Cornerbacks: Fofie Bazzie, Deon Jones, Kenny Bennett, Unidentified Corner
Special Teams: Jonathan Doerer
Comparing Maryland To The Big Ten
Recruiting classes will look vastly different by the time Feb. 1, 2017, rolls around, but here’s a look at how the Terps stack up against the rest of the conference. So far, UMD has 11 commits with an average Scout star rating of 3.45. That puts Maryland third in the Big Ten, behind only Ohio State (4.14) and Penn State (3.5). Notable powers such as Michigan (3.35), Michigan State (3.15) and Wisconsin (3.10) currently sit behind the Terps.
Average Star Rating
1. OSU (4.14)
2. PSU (3.5)
3. UMD (3.45)
4. Michigan (3.39)
5. Nebraska (3.36)
6. Northwestern (3.20)
7. Minnesota (3.17)
8. MSU (3.15)
9. Wisconsin (3.10)
10. Iowa (3.07)
11. Illinois (3.00)
12. Rutgers (2.84)
13. Indiana (2.71)
14. Purdue (2.33)
Considering the Terps rank in the middle of the pack in terms of commitments, the above average star rating is quite an accomplishment for Durkin and Co. Rutgers, on the other hand, leads the way with 19 pledges, but the Scarlet Knights have loaded up on three-stars (12), while securing just a pair of four-stars for a 2.84 rating. Same goes for Northwestern (15 commits, 12 three-stars) and Iowa (14 commits, eight three-stars), two more programs with numerous mid-level poppers.
Of course, Michigan State, with 13 commits with an average star rating of 3.15, is in that latter category too. But, as the Spartans have proved, rankings don’t mean everything if you find the right players to fit your system.
Number Of Commitments
1. Rutgers (19)
2. Michigan (18)
3. Northwestern (15)
4. Ohio State (14)
5. Iowa (14)
6. MSU (13)
7. Nebraska (11)
8. Maryland (11)
9. Wisconsin (10)
10. Penn State (8)
11. Indiana (7)
12. Minnesota (6)
13. Illinois (6)
14. Purdue (6)
Of Ohio State’s 14 pledges, nine of them rank in the Scout 100, including a trio of five-star talents. The Buckeyes are by far and away the most attractive destination for elite recruits in the Big Ten, and, at this juncture, rank No. 1 in the country, ahead of Alabama and the rest of the SEC.
Michigan, meanwhile, sits second in the conference with 18 commits, but it’s somewhat surprising half the Wolverines’ class consists of three-stars. That could very well change in the months ahead, however, as UM will undoubtedly be in position to land and/or flip multiple four- and five-star recruits. If so, some of those three-stars could end up “decommitting” to make room. In other words, we fully expect head coach Jim Harbaugh to have Michigan right behind Ohio State in terms of average star rating before it’s all said and done.
Iowa, interestingly enough, is the only other Big Ten program besides OSU and UMD with multiple Top 100 prospects, although most of the Hawkeyes’ class consists of three-stars. When considering four- and five-stars together, however, there are just five programs where at least half of their respective classes consist of top-end talents: OSU, Michigan, Nebraska, Maryland and PSU.
1. Ohio State (13)
2. Michigan (9)
3. Maryland (6)
4. Nebraska (5)
5. Penn State (4)
6. Iowa (3)
7. Northwestern (3)
8. Rutgers (2)
9. Michigan State (2)
10. Wisconsin (1)
11. Minnesota (1)
12. Illinois (1)
13. Indiana (0)
14. Purdue (0)
Jones On Board; Will Fleet-Davis Follow?
The Maryland staff managed to keep another in-state talent home July 6 when four-star corner Deon Jones ended his recruitment before he originally intended and committed to the Terps. The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder had been trending towards UMD ever since he met head coach D.J. Durkin and reunited with area recruiter/position coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim back in February. Then, when some of the D.C. native’s prominent contenders such as Clemson, Florida, Florida State and Penn State, began tapering off following Jones’ average 40-yard-dash time at April’s Nike Opening (4.76 seconds), the hometown school became even more attractive.
“It’s just a different vibe at Maryland now with the new coaches, and the [hometown] Movement, it’s for real this time,” said Jones, who held offers from Va Tech, Pitt, UNC, UConn, West Virginia and Duke, and at one time was being courted by Clemson; Florida State; Florida; Penn State; Michigan State; Tennessee; and Michigan. “With Coach [D.J.] Durkin, Coach Aazaar [Abdul-Rahim] and the other guys, they’re doing something big at Maryland. They’re going to turn the program around just with the [recruits] they’re bringing in. It’s an exciting time at Maryland. I love it, man.
“Maryland has shown me the most love. They’ve showed me they really want me there.”
Abdul-Rahim did the heavy lifting with this one. Whenever I broached the secondary staffer’s name to Jones, the Potomac corner lit up, tossing out terms like “my guy” and “brother” in reference to the Terps’ defensive backs coach. Moreover, Jones lauded Abdul-Rahim’s attention to detail and coaching methods, the recruit pointing to in-person film sessions and practices the corner viewed. And it helped, of course, that Jones knew Abdul-Rahim from when the coach headed Friendship Collegiate (Washington, D.C.) and also trained aspiring corners and safeties in the area.
Jones, who offered equally high praise for Durkin, also talked up the DMV Movement and the other local recruits heading to UMD. The four-star said Cam Spence (St. John’s/Washington, D.C.), Kasim Hill (St. John’s) and others were constantly in his ear, pumping up the Terps.
The school’s coming facility upgrades and renovated player dorms caught Jones’ eye too, while the Potomac prospect had his share of compliments for strength coach Rick Court as well.
All things considered, Jones seemed infatuated enough with Maryland that he might have wound up in College Park, Md., regardless of the circumstances. But the fact some of his other main suitors fell off expedited the process. Jones opted not to follow through with proposed trips to Gainesville, Fla., Tallahassee, Fla., Clemson, S.C., and State College, Pa., all of which he wanted to visit before announcing his college decision.
The Terps, on the other hand, had been with Jones from the jump, hosting him multiple times and treating him like family. Thus, Jones elected to go with the staff he had the best relationship with.
As far as Jones’ game is concerned, he’s a big, physical defensive back with deceptive speed and quickness. He may not possess a stellar 40 time, but he covers plenty of ground and shows the ability to hang with wideouts in press or zone.
Jones is nimble, loose and takes the right steps. He easily flips his hips, transitions well and has a smooth backpedal in zone. The Potomac prospect also works to gain inside position and jam receivers at the line, not afraid to throw his weight around and knock opponents off their routes.
It follows that Jones is aggressive in the air, actively high-pointing the ball and challenging receivers down the field. He has big, strong hands too, so if he gets his hands on a wayward pass, he’s likely coming away with a pick.
It’s also worth noting that Jones is a solid tackler, which isn’t always the case for high school corners. In fact, with his above-average first-step acceleration, he excels at bee-lining forward to either take down a back or undercut a wideout’s pattern.
The main concern here is obviously how well Jones’ speed will translate to the next level. As a Big Ten corner, can Jones hang with the conference’s elite speedsters down the field? And if he does get beat, does Jones have enough recovery speed to prevent a big play?
If he proves capable, Jones projects as an upper-tier college corner. But, if not, well, perhaps Jones can transition to safety, which he’s already tried his hand at at Potomac.
You can read more about Jones HERE.
You can hear my analysis of Jones’ game HERE.
You can hear what his coach had to say HERE.
Note: Expect Jones to immediately join the recruiting effort for his teammate, running back Tayon Fleet-Davis. Fleet-Davis has UMD and Syracuse among his foremost two leaders, although the Orange may have a slight edge.
That said, when I spoke to Fleet-Davis after the Jones commitment, he admitted Maryland’s status had improved -- for what it’s worth, he called the improvement, “maybe a smidge” -- and he was “really excited” about Jones’ Terps pop. Plus, the running back has one more late-July visit to College Park with his family.
But Fleet-Davis will then return to Syracuse sometime in August, giving the Orange staff last dibs. The three-star will then be making his college decision shortly thereafter.
Our gut is the Orange still might have the inside track, but we’ll see what area-recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim and now Deon Jones can pull off in the next month.
You can hear what Fleet-Davis had to say HERE.
Off The Board
Jayden Comma, WR, Roswell (Ga.): Comma probably could have come off the hot board a month or so ago, after the Terps snagged their third receiver commit in M.J. Jarrell (Timber Creek/Orlando, Fla.). But I monitored him anyway, because he said he still had contact with the Maryland staff and wanted to visit College Park.
Well, not so much anymore. Comma said earlier this week he hadn’t heard a whole lot from receivers’ coach Chris Beatty and offensive coordinator Walt Bell, who offered the Georgian back in February, of late.
Thus, Comma seems focused on recent offeree West Virginia, along with Minnesota, Louisville and Cincinnati. In all likelihood he’s going to end up at one of those four programs, with the Mountaineers being the favorites provided Comma’s a “take” for the staff.
Kierston Johnson, LB, Robert E. Lee (Jacksonville, Fla.): The Florida linebacker Johnson committed to Syracuse July 3 -- sight unseen. Perhaps he succumbed to a squeeze play of sorts after speaking to the Orange staff, but, either way, he’s heading to New York for college.
Johnson said he had a great rapport with Tom Kaufman and felt like he’d fit in well. The Jacksonville native also has family in the area, which will help with his transition. He plans to visit Cuse for the first time later in July.
It’s unclear exactly how ardently the Maryland staff pursued. Johnson said he’d been in communication with UMD linebackers’ coach Matt Barnes, who offered in early April, but we didn’t get the sense Johnson was priority No. 1 on the Terps’ board.
Randall Haynie, CB, Cardinal Gibbons (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.): This one was a gut-punch of sorts. While Haynie isn't a game-changing recruit per se, he's a solid player and one we figured we could maybe pencil into Maryland's 2017 class. But July 2 the Gibbons corner popped to Vanderbilt a week after visiting Nashville, Tenn.
Haynie fell in love with the coaching staff during the Friday Night Lights camp and lauded the school's unmatched education and post-graduate opportunities. Afterwards, Haynie hinted Vandy had vaulted ahead of Maryland and Duke -- the corner surprisingly opted not to visit Durham, N.C., which was considered a prime destination spot -- in the pecking order.
The Terps, with area recruiter Chris Beatty running point and defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim in touch, did have the pole position following Haynie's mid-June trek to College Park. The Floridian couldn't say enough about head coach D.J. Durkin and the staff's energy, the academics and internship opportunities, the campus, and the coming facility upgrades. He also has two former teammates, Elisha and Elijah Daniels, at UMD, the twins pushing hard for Haynie to join them.
But, ultimately, it wasn't enough to trump the education Vandy offers. Beatty will probably continue recruiting Haynie, but given the emphasis the academic-oriented recruit places on education, the likelihood of him flipping is slim.