Welcome to our next edition of Inside the Shell, the weekly Maryland football-recruiting roundup.
News On Top Targets
Javon Leake, RB, Page (Greensboro, N.C.): Scout's North Carolina analyst, Dan Callahan, caught up with the three-star Leake this week, and apparently Leake's even more open that originally thought. Leake let on he still had upwards of eight schools in play for his services and would narrow that list down to five by the end of the summer. Then, he plans to officially visit each of those final five before choosing one sometime later during the fall/winter.
Leake has been projected to North Carolina, and, indeed, the Page product said the Tar Heels remained a strong contender. UNC currently sits anywhere from first to third in the pecking order (probably first). Leake has been in Chapel Hill, N.C., on countless occasions, loves the staff and isn't fazed by the presence of two other 2017 UNC running back pledges.
"The [UNC] coaches told me all along they were taking three running backs," Leake told Callahan
Also in the game are South Carolina, Tennessee, Maryland, Louisville, Nebraska, NC State and Va Tech. Of those, Leake has already seen UMD, Tennessee and NC State, the three-star offering up high praise for the Terps.
"I've never been up there, so it was a great visit," Leake told Callahan in regards to UMD. "The coaching staff is really cool, showed me around the campus, [and] they showed me what Maryland is really about. I like where the program is going."
Next up, Leake is trying to hit Louisville and Va Tech. He could then take an official to Nebraska since it's too far for him to see unofficially.
The feeling here is UNC will continue to trend, so long as the Heels' staff doesn't land a third running back from elsewhere (think Tampa, Fla., running back Malik Davis, another principle target for both Maryland and North Carolina). Tennessee is probably sitting second for the time being, followed by either South Carolina or Maryland.
But with Leake holding off on committing, his recruitment is bound to ebb and flow. It's totally possible a school such as Nebraska or Louisville rises up the leaderboard, or schools like UNC and Tennessee fall off.
Leake is currently listed "warm" on the hot board.
Cameron Sullivan-Brown, WR, Pallotti (Laurel, Md.): Penn State’s July 16 Lasch Basch could put a dent in Maryland’s recruiting efforts, and one of the main “recruit casualties” of the annual Happy Valley prospect day figures to be Sullivan-Brown. The three-star receiver had the Nittany Lions and Terps tied atop his leaderboard heading into July 16, but afterwards he admitted PSU probably had the pole position. Sullivan-Brown gave off enough pro-Penn State vibes that our colleagues who cover the team promptly forecast the DMV prospect to State College, Pa.
The Pallotti recruit might journey through Duke (third in the running), UVA and Syracuse before announcing his college destination, but those trips would just delay the inevitable. Provided Sullivan-Brown sticks to his intended August decision timeline, he’ll be a Nittany Lion before the school year begins.
That is, unless the Maryland staff can make a last-minute charge. UMD-area recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim and position coach Chris Beatty have made deep inroads with Sullivan-Brown and his family, keeping the Terps first or second in the pecking order. Moreover, Sullivan-Brown, who loves the newfound energy in College Park, has always seemed taken by the idea of building the local program into a winner.
Perhaps, if Abdul-Rahim and Co. can convince Sullivan-Brown to return for Maryland’s July 30 cookout, the Terps can pull off the stunner. But, at this point, it looks like UMD is going to finish second for the receiver’s services.
Tyree Johnson, DE/BUCK, St. John’s (Washington, D.C.): The three-star Johnson released his top-12 leaderboard this week, although that was of little concern. The list consisted of Maryland, Tennessee, TAMU, UNC, Miami, Mizzou, Iowa, Pitt, Ole Miss, Va Tech and Rutgers, but Shell readers know only the first four are worth paying attention to.
Coming up, Johnson will be returning to Texas A&M July 23 for a second look at the Aggies. He is in regular communication with the staff and has former teammate-turned-Aggie Aaron Hansford on him. The feeling is this trip could push TAMU into the top two contenders for Johnson.
But maybe not No. 1.
The sense is, unless the Aggies’ coaches blow Johnson away, the hometown Terps will remain the frontrunners. The Maryland staff, with head coach D.J. Durkin, area recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim and defensive line coach Mike London running point, have done well with the three-star. They’ve sold him on DMV-to-UMD, building a legacy at the local university, and joining his St. John’s teammates/other DMV recruits in College Park. Speaking of Johnson’s teammates, both UMD pledges Kasim Hill and Cam Spence have been after the defensive end in earnest, coaxing him to campus on numerous occasions.
If all goes according to plan, Johnson should be a Terp by the end of the summer.
Note: Tennessee and UNC are the darkhorse candidates. Johnson has been through both Knoxville, Tenn., and Chapel Hill, N.C., and loved his stays at each. But Johnson has no plans to return to either as of now, meaning TAMU and possibly Maryland (for the July 30 cookout) will be his final trips.
Elijah Conliffe, DL, Hampton (Va.): Conliffe had been off our radar for quite some time, and for good reason. Several months ago he stopped mentioning Maryland in interviews -- aside from placing them on his top-11 favorites list -- despite overtures from assistant Mike London. But apparently the Terps remain somewhat in the game after Conliffe visited College Park, Md., July 15.
Following the foray, Conliffe acknowledged he liked what he saw out of new-look UMD (he visited last year under the former regime). He also said he has a close rapport with London, Conliffe mentioning he could readily develop under Maryland’s defensive line coach.
Thus, we placed Conliffe back on the hot board as “cool.” But, fact is, we don’t envision the versatile lineman winding up at UMD when it’s all said and done.
Scout’s Virginia analyst, Mike Clark, suggested the impromptu Maryland trip probably wouldn’t be enough to vault the Terps into Conliffe’s four main suitors. Per Clark, Penn State could be a prime destination spot. He’s been in State College several times and has a great relationship with the Nittany Lions’ coaches. (Interestingly enough, he did not attend the Lasch Basch July 16).
Others in play include new offeree Alabama (Conliffe almost committed to the Tide on the spot July 20), Ole Miss, Tennessee and USC, along with maybe WVU; Va Tech; Miami; and Michigan State. The Tide, Rebels, Vols and Gamecocks have all left distinct impressions, Conliffe intrigued by playing in the SEC.
We’ll keep Conliffe in mind in case he reports heavier Maryland interest and schedules an official visit. But, for the time being, we’re led to believe his focus is elsewhere.
Either way, expect Conliffe to take multiple officials before ending his recruitment later during the fall/winter.
George Ellis, DT, American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.): The Terps remain in play for the defensive tackle Ellis, but it doesn’t sound like they’re among his top-three contenders. The three-star Floridian, who has been in contact with UMD-area recruiter Chris Beatty, told our Wisconsin colleagues the Badgers had his eye, first and foremost, alongside Vandy and Mississippi State.
Those three programs have also offered Ellis’ cousin and teammate, elite linebacker James Houston, who is particularly high on Wisconsin. Which, really, is why Ellis likes the Badgers so much. (Ellis insists he and Houston are a package deal).
Look for Ellis to officially visit each of the Badgers, Commodores (he’s seen Vandy unofficially) and Bulldogs this fall. He has expressed some interest in checking out College Park too, but we’re skeptical such a trip will occur.
We’ll keep Ellis on the hot board until he publically eliminates Maryland, however. You never know what kind of strings Beatty can pull if the Terps’ staff truly covets the American Heritage product.
Malik Horton, BUCK, Langston Hughes (Fairburn, Ga.): In last week’s Shell, we suggested the BUCK target Horton could choose Colorado over Maryland July 30 if the Buffaloes’ staff went at him full throttle.
Well, apparently that looks to be the case. Horton admitted in an interview with our Scout colleagues who cover Colorado that the Buffaloes held the edge.
“I would just say the love I have seen from Colorado makes them stand out. By far they have shown the most love and communication,” Horton said. “They are always making edits and sending mail and everything. It is just really amazing. They put so much time into me so I really cherish that. That is amazing to me.”
Horton will be in Boulder, Colo., July 24, and there is a chance he could pop on campus. But more than likely the Langston Hughes prospect will follow through with his intended College Park trip July 30 for the cookout.
Horton has been in communication with UMD-area recruiter Mike London and teammate-turned-Terp Sean Nelson, who has been pushing Maryland via Twitter and in person. UMD’s Big Ten affiliation, academic reputation, London’s overarching pitch and the fact its fairly close to home (closer than Boulder, at least) all have Horton’s attention.
But while we do believe Horton could be a “take” for Maryland headman D.J. Durkin if the recruit truly wants in, the vibe is the UMD staff won’t be pushing as hard as Colorado’s. Rather than take a flyer on Horton, the Terps’ coaches -- who already have defensive linemen Cam Spence (St. John’s/Washington, D.C.) and Josh Kaindoh (IMG Academy) wrapped up -- might be shooting for a defensive line/BUCK class that consists of a combination of DMV prospects like Tyree Johnson (St. John’s/Washington, D.C.); Josh Paschal (Good Counsel/Olney, Md.); Lawtez Rogers (Roosevelt/Greenbelt, Md.); Jordan Anthony (IMG Academy/Bradenton, Fla.); Vic Dimukeje (Boys’ Latin/Baltimore, Md.); and Chase Young (DeMatha/Hyattsville, Md.).
John Morgan, OLB, DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) (2018): We typically aren’t concerned when underclassmen recruits react to visits other than Maryland, but Morgan’s July 16 trip to Penn State was worth noting. The DMV linebacker landed a coveted Nittany Lions offer following the July 15 camp, and afterwards Morgan promptly called PSU his new No. 1 suitor. Our Penn State analysts now believe the Nittany Lions should be considered the early favorites for the budding DeMatha junior.
That’s disconcerting for Maryland fans, especially since the Terps’ coaches were first to offer and left an immediate impression. Recall, after Morgan secured his UMD verbal at a College Park 7-on-7, he couldn’t say enough about head coach D.J. Durkin; area recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim; defensive line coach Mike London; and linebackers’ coach Matt Barnes. He talked up the DMV movement, the Under Armour connections, the coming facility upgrades and the environment on campus. Morgan even said his father loved their stay in College Park.
Given that, it’s entirely possible the Terps can win Morgan over down the line, but for now it sounds like Penn State has the pole position.
Note: Three more primetime 2018 DMV recruits and Maryland targets attended the Lasch Basch as well: DeMatha’s Austin Fontaine, McDonogh’s (Owings Mills, Md.) P.J. Mustipher and Northern (Owings, Md.) Jaelyn Duncan.
The defensive tackle Fontaine has PSU under prime consideration, but is also thinking long and hard about Ohio State (the initial frontrunner?), Alabama, UMD and other bigwigs. The defensive tackle Mustipher likes the Nittany Lions a good deal too, although Notre Dame, where his older brother, Sam, plays is the leader. As for the offensive tackle Duncan, he doesn’t have a PSU offer yet but could garner one in time. He has been forecast to Maryland at this stage, however.
Jordan Miner, S, Winegrass Ranch (Wesley Chapel, Fla.) (2018): This 2018 emerging safety visited Maryland July 18 at the behest of UMD-area recruiter Chris Beatty. Miner thoroughly enjoyed his stay and said he “definitely” has interest in the Terps moving forward. In fact, Miner, who holds offers from USF, UCF, Tulane, Bowling Green and Toledo, wants to return for a game later this fall.
“One of the graduate assistants, Eric White, he took me around campus, and it was real nice. It’s one of the best campuses I’ve seen so far,” said Miner, whose older brother plays at FAU. “Everything was brand new, and the new facilities they’re building look great. They should be ready by January 2017, so that’s real exciting.
“Then I met Coach Beatty and Coach Aazaar, but Coach D.J. [Durkin] wasn’t there. But Coach Aazaar was real nice and it’s obvious he knows what he’s doing. When I was there, he was actually on the field training [NFL cornerback and Baltimore native] Cyrus Jones, and it was cool to watch them work. Coach Aazaar seems like a great coach. And Coach Beatty, we’ve been talking for like two or three weeks now on Twitter, and he’s just a cool guy. It was great to meet him in person, and he made me feel real comfortable there.”
Miner, whose uncle lives in Germantown, Md., doesn’t have a UMD offer yet, but he should be securing one -- and many more -- in short order. Schools such as South Carolina, NC State could be anteing up next, while others throughout the SEC; ACC; and Big Ten will undoubtedly become involved too.
Considering that, Miner’s not going to be an easy pull when he inevitably blows up on the trail, but Beatty and Abdul-Rahim have certainly left an solid early impression. We’ll see if it pays off down the line.
You can read more about Miner HERE.
Kenny Bennett, CB, Simon Grasz (Philadelphia, Pa.): We thought the Philly corner Bennett might be coaxed into a summer decision, but apparently not. The 6-2 defensive back has steadily increased his profile and now holds several attractive options. So, he's content to go through the process, have his senior film evaluated, and then take officials later during the fall.
The four schools Bennett has pegged for official visits currently includes Maryland, Va Tech, Pitt and Temple. Others such as Penn State could enter the mix down the line.
But even though it might take a bit longer than anticipated, we still like Maryland's chances. Bennett loved his June College Park stay, talking up defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim and area recruiter Matt Barnes. Bennett liked the campus, the coming facility upgrades, the academics and the staff's overall demeanor.
Provided Bennett doesn't land a coveted PSU scholarship, or other major offers from the SEC or Big Ten, the Terps could have the edge. We'll continue projecting Bennett to Maryland until we hear otherwise.
Tariq Castro-Fields, CB, Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.): The three-star corner Castro-Fields attended Penn State’s Lasch Basch July 16, and word is the Nittany Lions are now sitting first or second in the pecking order. Castro-Fields was already high on PSU after previous State College forays, but July 16 he brought his mother along -- and apparently she loved the coaching staff and the environment in Happy Valley. To boot, Castro-Fields enjoyed reconnecting with the coaches and former teammate Zech McPhearson, who has been actively recruiting the Riverdale corner to PSU.
At this juncture, it sounds like Castro-Fields will be choosing between Penn State, Alabama, Maryland and Va Tech (UNC and Michigan State are in his top six, but he’s not going to either institution). The Nittany Lions and the Tide, who Castro-Fields visited in June and subsequently raved about, may be the frontrunners.
But we’re not counting UMD out yet. Castro-Fields has a rapport with the Terps’ staff, namely area recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, and has been in College Park numerous times. DMV-to-UMD and the chance to play near his mother, who likes Maryland a good bit too, are two more reasons the Riverdale corner could opt for the hometown school.
Next up, Castro-Fields is set to see Va Tech July 23 before shutting down his visits the rest of the summer. It’s possible he makes it back to Maryland one more time for the July 30 cookout, but it sounds like he’ll be content to go into training-camp mode after the Blacksburg, Va., trip.
Then, once the fall hits, look for Castro-Fields to embark on a couple official visits before deciding on a school. Alabama and PSU are surefire destinations, with a Maryland trip also in play if the corner deems it necessary.
New Offers Out
Terence Simon Jr., DE, Cathedral (Los Angeles, Calif.) (2019): The freshman Simon pulled his very first offer courtesy of Terps’ area-recruiter Anthony Tucker July 20. Simon stands just 5-11 right now, but projects as a top-level defensive lineman in the next year or two.
The Maryland staff did well to identify the California native early -- even before the West Coast schools.
Kalon Gervin, CB, Cass Tech (Detroit, Mich.) (2018): Michigan is Maryland assistant Dave Borbely’s territory, but the 2018 corner/receiver Gervin heard about his UMD offer July 15 from defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim. It was Gervin’s 22nd offer to date, joining a host of programs throughout the Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12, SEC and ACC.
In-state Michigan and Michigan State have had offers out for awhile now, and the feeling is both the Wolverines and Spartans have the inside track for Gervin’s services. Our Midwest analysts believe it’d be a minor upset if the 5-11, 170-pounder makes it out of the state of Michigan.
Off The Board
Deon Jackson, RB, Pace Academy (Atlanta, Ga.): Last week, we said the running back Jackson was heavily leaning towards Duke. Now, after yet another interview with our colleagues who cover the Blue Devils, Jackson’s commitment seems practically a formality. The three-star will be selecting a school in late July or early August, and unless Missouri, which he’s visiting July 23, wins him over at the last minute, Jackson’s heading to Durham, N.C.
The Pace Academy runner said Duke’s staff has made him priority No. 1 from Day One. He has an outstanding relationship with multiple staffers and loves head coach Dave Cutcliffe. Jackson also lauded his spring visit to Durham, talking up the budding football program; the campus; the school’s academic prestige; and more.
Jackson has been eager to check out Mizzou since it’s his lone SEC suitor, but it’s clear his mind’s on Duke. Maryland, Va Tech and maybe Louisville are likely sitting behind the latter two programs in the pecking order.
Jackson did enjoy his spring trip to College Park, and he had plenty of positive comments for UMD head coach D.J. Durkin; area recruiter Mike London; offensive coordinator Walt Bell; and running backs coach Anthony Tucker. He liked Bell’s spread offense; the coming facility upgrades, the Under Armour connections and the Terps’ Big Ten affiliation.
But Jackson’s heart has always been in the South, giving Duke (and maybe Mizzou) the upper hand.
Damon Williams, RB, Gadsden City (Gadsden, Ala.): Finally, we were able to remove the Alabama running back Williams from the hot board. There had been little to no Terps buzz surrounding the three-star back for months, but since Williams rarely, if ever, picks up his phone, there weren’t any reports on other programs either. Thus, we kept him in mind just in case UMD running backs coach Anthony Tucker could coax him East for a visit.
But, earlier this week, Scout’s John Garcia caught up with Williams at a 7-on-7, and the running back let on Tennessee; Michigan; Louisville; and Alabama (no offer yet) were at the forefront of his mind. The Vols, which Williams visited in the spring, look to be the favorites.
Connor Robbins, OT, Pedro Mendez (St. Augustine, Fla.): The offensive tackle Robbins claimed a Maryland offer back during the spring, but he never had regular communication with the UMD staff. However, each time we checked up on Robbins he said he had interest in visiting College Park. Earlier this week, though, he finally admitted the Terps were no longer in the game. Robbins told our Scout colleagues he was focused on his southern suitors like UCF, USF, Missouri, Georgia Southern, Appalachian State and a few others of that ilk.
We kept Robbins on the hot board because Maryland does need tackles. But, truth be told, while Robbins looks the part at 6-8, 330-pounds, he hasn’t shown enough athleticism and nimble footwork to warrant a ton of high-Division I looks.
Jabreel Stephens, BUCK, Armwood (Seffner, Fla.): Stephens, a three-star hybrid, secured a Maryland offer from UMD-area recruiter Chris Beatty back during the spring. At the time, it represented one of his more significant verbals, and Stephens said he wanted to visit College Park during the summer. Stephens called Beatty, who stopped by Armwood, a “cool dude,” and mentioned the Terps’ multiple defense fit the recruit’s skill-set well.
But Stephens has yet to venture North, and earlier this week he told Scout’s Corey Bender the main two schools he had in mind were Arizona and Louisville. Stephens has long favored the Wildcats, which represented one of his very first suitors, and he remains eager to officially visit Tempe, Ariz. The Cardinals’ coaches, meanwhile, have been in constant contact and have Stephens’ ear as well.
More than likely, Stephens is going to wind up at one of those two programs.
Curtis Harper, DT, McKeesport (Pa.): We’ve been letting readers know the defensive tackle Harper had been falling off for UMD, and July 16 the Pennsylvania plugger confirmed it. The two-star McKeesport prospect hadn't been in touch with Terps' area recruiter Dave Borbely or defensive line coach Mike London for quite some time as he was not a priority for the staff.
Sensing this, Harper, who visited College Park twice and previously dubbed the Terps a leader, publicly eliminated Maryland from consideration. He released a top-five leaderboard that didn't include UMD. He's now down to Syracuse, Boston College, Iowa State, Toledo and Wake Forest. Of those, the Orange figure to have the upper hand.
Brailyn Franklin, OLB, Battlefield (Haymarket, Va.): The Terps had slowly but surely been fading for the Virginia linebacker/BUCK Franklin. Initially, after Franklin’s March UMD offer and subsequent College Park visit, he called Maryland his No. 1 school -- right next to Virginia Tech. The Texas native, along with his father, lauded the Terps’ coaching staff; coming facility upgrades; academics; and general atmosphere.
Two months later, that remained true . . . until Franklin took another trip to Blacksburg. Franklin admitted post-spring Va Tech visit the Hokies now had the edge, followed closely by Maryland.
But a few weeks after that Franklin landed a game-changing offer from Penn State, the Nittany Lions immediately becoming the team to beat. And then, following Franklin’s July 16 foray through Happy Valley, it became even clearer PSU would be his probable destination.
Franklin will announce his college decision Aug. 2, and, barring a snag, he’ll be choosing Penn State.