Welcome to our next edition of Inside the Shell, the weekly Maryland football recruiting roundup.
News On Top Targets
Devin Leary, QB, Timber Creek (Erial, N.J.) (2018): We typically don’t comment extensively on out-of-state underclassmen this early in the process, but quarterback is a different animal since they tend to select colleges earlier than other recruits.
The Terps’ coaches have identified their foremost 2018 signal-caller targets -- Allan Walters (Peddle School/Hightstown, N.J.), Artur Sitkowski (Old Bridge, N.J.), Va Tech commit DeJuan Ellis (O’Connell/Arlington, Va.) -- but it seems like they have the best rapport with the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Jersey native Leary. Leary, who was thoroughly impressed with College Park, Md., during the July 30 cookout, has developed a strong relationship with UMD-area recruiter and position coach Walt Bell.
“When I visited Maryland, I really liked what Coach Bell was doing, especially with the offense,” Leary told Scout’s Brian Dohn earlier this week. “He’s my recruiter and QB coach, and I could relate to him well as a quarterback and as a person. I really want to go see a game and see what they can really do.”
Expect Leary to be in Maryland Stadium later this fall, perhaps for the Michigan State game Oct. 22.
The Terps look to be positioned well, but Leary is keeping a fairly open mind at this stage. Hometown Rutgers has made inroads here, Leary talking up the Chris Ash “takeover” in the Garden State. The Timber Creek product will undoubtedly attend a couple games in Piscataway, N.J., this year.
North Carolina, meanwhile, would become an instant player should the Heels’ staff, which has shown interest, ante up. Temple and Boston College are on Leary’s mind as well.
Let’s see what the gunslinger’s thinking after he treks through Maryland again next month.
Anthony McFarland, RB, DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.): McFarland officially released his top-five leaderboard Aug. 31, and the only real surprise was the inclusion of Florida. The DeMatha four-star, who is out for the season with an ankle injury, hasn’t really broached the Gators much, but the staff has remained in touch and McFarland’s intrigued by UF’s spread.
But McFarland isn’t expected to wind up in Gainesville, Fla. As Shell readers know, this is a Maryland-Miami battle, followed by some combination of Bama; Tennessee; and UF.
Look for the DMV back to see the Tide for the Iron Bowl Nov. 26, which should be his first official. But we don’t see McFarland in Tuscaloosa, Ala., for a variety of reasons. Bama head coach Nick Saban will undoubtedly back off the pursuit with the DeMatha runner injured, and the Tide’s offense just doesn’t fit the four-star’s style.
So, with Alabama presumably out of the picture, that leaves the hometown school and The U, both of which should be receiving officials during the winter. McFarland, who will probably attend a Terps’ game or two unofficially this fall, could wind up taking his College Park official in December, with the other DMV commits.
UMD head coach D.J. Durkin and area recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim love gathering the locals together, so they’ll surely invite McFarland to join pledges like Kasim Hill (St. John’s/Washington, D.C.), Cam Spence (St. John’s) and the rest for a joint visit. And they’ll certainly pair McFarland with his former DeMatha teammates-turned-Terps like D.J. Turner and LoLo Harrison, two freshmen who continue to hype the hometown movement.
But unless Durkin, the coaches and the commits can convince McFarland to end his recruitment during the official, the four-star should be following through with a Coral Gables, Fla., jaunt before the New Year. It’s unclear how ardently Canes head coach Mark Richt will pursue McFarland post-injury, but for the time being the offer still stands. And as long as it does, expect McFarland to thoroughly consider it. The Richt-McFarland bond runs deep, and it has the DMV runner seriously thinking about heading South for college.
After that final trip (we don’t anticipate the DeMatha product checking out Tennessee or Florida), expect McFarland to conclude his recruitment at the Under Armour All-American game in January. That’s a long way out, so McFarland’s situation could easily change in the months ahead, but at this juncture we’re cautiously optimistic about UMD’s position.
As we stated after McFarland’s injury, the Terps’ coaches’ continued support, coupled with the consistent overtures from the DMV recruits heading to Maryland, could pay dividends.
Vic Dimukeje, DL, Boys’ Latin (Baltimore, Md.): Scout’s Brian Dohn caught up with the three-star Dimukeje for another update earlier this week, and the Boys’ Latin product told him Wake Forest was now firmly in play. Which, quite honestly, is another indication coaches from Duke and Va Tech, two of his foremost suitors, have tempered their pursuit. Dimukeje said the Deacons’ staff “really wanted him” and have stressed early playing time, something the Blue Devils or Hokies can’t offer.
If we’re reading the situation correctly, then it would seem like Dimukeje could fall right into Maryland’s lap. Truth be told, the Terps’ staff, with defensive end targets Tyree Johnson (St. John’s/Washington, D.C.) and Chase Young (DeMatha/Hyattsville, Md.) committed elsewhere, need another defensive lineman, and Dimukeje is now priority No. 1.
“The coaches have been hitting me up and they want me to commit. I'm not really pressured, but I'm wanted,” Dimukeje told Dohn in regards to UMD. "It's like home for me and my family can come see me play every week. It's a great coaching staff, and I've been around the program a lot."
Dimukeje should be returning to College Park yet again Sept. 3 for the Terps’ home opener. It will be another opportunity for area recruiter Mike London and head coach D.J. Durkin to convince the Boys’ Latin product to stay local.
That said, the fact Dimukeje is continuing to delay his commitment is somewhat worrisome for Maryland purposes. We thought after it became clear the Blue Devils -- the perceived frontrunner due to the school’s academics and Durham, N.C.,’s close proximity to the Baltimore resident’s extended family – were no longer a primary suitor, Dimukeje would simply pop to UMD. But that has not been the case, the edge rusher insistent on embarking on a couple officials first.
It seems like Wake Forest is going to get a serious look, with the Deacons holding many of the same advantages Duke does (i.e. good education, near his family). Plus, Dimukeje already has current and ex-teammates -- Braden Atkinson and Dom Maggio -- headed to Winston Salem, N.C.
We’re leaving Dimukeje “hot” on the hot board for now, but we’re starting to question whether he, and others close to him, really want the edge rusher in College Park.
Jordan Anthony, OLB/BUCK, IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.): Our colleagues who cover Michigan spoke to the four-star Anthony earlier this week, and though the DMV linebacker didn’t have much new to report, the interview confirmed our suspicion: The Wolverines are standing out in a major way.
Anthony hasn’t been in Ann Arbor, Mich., since last year -- he missed the summer barbecue -- but he’s eager to return for an official after his senior season. The former Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) star extoled area recruiter Don Brown, the program head coach Jim Harbaugh is building, and the vibe surrounding the Wolverines in general.
But while Michigan may be the odds-on favorite, Maryland, Oklahoma and Penn State are hanging tough.
Anthony will be officially visiting PSU later this fall and then OU following his senior campaign. The Nittany Lions have had the four star’s eye for quite some time thanks to headman James Franklin and Co.’s overtures, and the Sooners’ staff has been pushing in earnest too.
The hometown Terps, meanwhile, could be as high as second on the totem pole at the moment. Most of Maryland’s defensive staff, in addition to head coach D.J. Durkin and area recruiter Chris Beatty, have been on Anthony, selling the DMV movement. Anthony, who was last in College Park back in June, has taken to their pitch and likes the idea of returning to the D.C. corridor for college.
Right now, however, Anthony has no scheduled return trip to UMD. But we do expect him to venture over to campus during his winter break later this year, giving the Maryland staff at least one more shot to win him over.
Clemson and LSU have been mentioned in conjunction with Anthony too, though he’s not projected to either program.
Our gut? Well, since Anthony isn’t announcing his college decision until the winter, there’s bound to be some ebbing and flowing. But we’re getting the sense this could be another Cam Sullivan-Brown (Pallotti/Laurel, Md.) situation. In other words, Anthony’s always going to give the Terps their due, but has his eyes focused elsewhere (in this case, the Big House).
Olakunle Fatukasi, ILB, Grand Street High (Brooklyn, N.Y.): The Rutgers commit Fatukasi has been eerily quiet ever since he and his parents took a surprise, impromptu trip to College Park in mid-August. At the time, we heard the Terps could be positioned to flip the New York product down the line. We were told the 6-1.5, 210-pounder enjoyed connecting with linebackers’ coach Matt Barnes, while the family as a whole liked the staff’s overall demeanor and the school’s academic reputation.
But without Fatukasi’s personal comments, it was difficult to gauge exactly where he stood with UMD and RU. So, we dug a bit deeper and contacted our colleagues who know Fatukasi well.
The linebacker still hasn’t uttered a word publicly about his status, but our fellow Scout writers let on “he’s solid to RU.” They told us even after the Maryland trip, the Grand Street prospect is inclined to stick with his original choice unless something goes awry.
We’ll see if that’s the case later this fall, but for now we’re moving Fatukasi to “cool” on the hot board. Unless Barnes and Co. can coax Fatukasi back to College Park for an official, the staff will probably have to locate its inside linebacker elsewhere.
Khalid Jones, Byrnes, (Duncan, S.C.) (2018): Scout’s Chad Simmons caught up with the three-star junior Jones, whom the Terps offered back in the spring when area recruiter Walt Bell trekked through Byrnes. The 6-1, 225-pounder has five offers to date -- Tennessee, Duke, UMD, Wake Forest and Charlotte -- but he figures to have plenty of ACC and SEC options before it’s all said and done.
Initial projections have Jones tabbed for a southern school such as UNC, South Carolina and the like, but he did have plenty of positive comments for the Terps. Jones, who is also in touch with UMD linebackers coach Matt Barnes, visited College Park in June and came away raving.
"The coaching staff is great and they showed me a great time when I was up there,” Jones told Simmons. “They are building this huge indoor facility that is going to be great, and one thing that stood out to me was how they showed me they are building a tunnel from the indoor facility to the game field that the players will run out of. That is going to be pretty awesome."
That’s fine, but it’s early in the process and Jones has no initial leaders. Plus, it’s never easy pulling recruits out of the Carolinas, particularly when the hometown schools and the SEC are involved. But if Bell can coax Jones back to College Park for another visit, perhaps the Terps will be positioned well down the road.
Harrison Hand, CB, Cherry Hill-West (Cherry Hill, N.J.): When last we reported on the three-star Jersey corner Hand, we surmised Virginia Tech, Maryland, Rutgers and maybe Syracuse would be firmly involved, with the Hokies and Terps perhaps holding the edge. This week, Scout’s Brian Dohn caught up with Hand’s mother, and she told him her son had his first official visit set up for Sept. 17 to VT and Rutgers tentatively for Oct. 8. Hand is still in the process of scheduling trips to College Park and possibly one or two other locales.
Although Hand’s mom didn’t offer much new information, the fact the Cherry Hill corner promptly set a Tech trip leads us to believe the Hokies could hold the edge. Hand has personally spoken highly of the Tech staff and the program’s defensive back reputation in the past.
Remember, Hand doesn’t necessarily want to stay in the north for college, so RU and Syracuse may be on the backburner.
The Terps, meanwhile, could be running second. Hand exchanges regular messages with both area recruiter Anthony Tucker and defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, the three-star lauding both. He’s said before he’s eager to see UMD for the first time.
But Hand might only be a “take” for head coach D.J. Durkin if the likes of Tariq Castro-Fields (discussed below) and Kenny Bennett (Simon Gratz/Philadelphia, Pa.) fall off, or there’s attrition from the currently committed crop. Hand may sense he’s not the Terps’ main priority at the moment, which is why he hasn’t set the official yet.
We’ll see if he follows through with an intended College Park foray down the line, but he might not make it out of Blacksburg, Va., uncommitted.
Tariq Castro-Fields, CB, Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.): Scout’s Brian Dohn must have been on a rampage last week, which we always appreciate, though at this time of year, with most prospects focused on their respective high school teams, there’s never a ton of pertinent news. Dohn ended up touching base with Castro-Fields anyway, and the four-star proceeded to say . . . absolutely nothing.
Well, OK, the Riverdale corner did give a couple news nuggets, most notably that he’d likely be delaying his official visits (save Alabama for the Iron Bowl) until after his final campaign. Castro-Fields said he’d use any free Saturdays this fall to embark on a few unofficials, with the likely destinations being nearby Maryland; Penn State; and maybe Va Tech.
Then, after the season ends in late November, Castro-Fields will begin setting officials to his main suitors. Those include, as Shell readers know, Bama; PSU; and Maryland first and foremost. Va Tech, North Carolina and Michigan State are also hanging around, though probably sitting behind the leaders for the time being.
But, as we know in recruiting, the longer a prospect drags things out, the more likely the situation could change. Who knows if Alabama will even have room for Castro-Fields by the time the winter rolls around? Who knows if a new suitor will rocket up the leaderboard? Who knows what schools will press or back off depending on Castro-Fields’ senior tape?
For now, Castro-Fields is in a holding pattern, and there probably won’t be much new to report until he begins embarking on those officials. Either way, the Terps should remain in the thick of things throughout, and our gut is it could come down to PSU and UMD before it’s all said and done.
He’s currently listed “warm” on the hot board.
New Offers Out
Mustapha Muhammad, TE, Ridge Point (Missouri City, Texas) (2018): Terps fans should be familiar with Ridge Point; former UMD-area recruiter Keenan McCardell trekked through the Texas power often. This time, though, Maryland assistant Aazaar Abdul-Rahim dipped into the Lone Star State and offered the junior Muhammad Sept. 1. The 6-4, 230-pounder is considered one of the best tight end prospects in the 2018 class, claiming offers from Texas, Alabama, TAMU, Ohio State, Clemson, Michigan, Florida, FSU, Georgia, Auburn, Baylor, Miami, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Ole Miss, Tennessee, TCU and more.
Needless to say, Abdul-Rahim and the Maryland staff have their work cut out for them. The borderline five star has already taken a liking to the in-state schools like TAMU and UT, while the nearby Big 12 and SEC programs have his eye too.
Muhammad is not someone we're projecting to visit College Park.
Tavyn Jackson, CB, James Rickards (Tallahassee, Fla.): Jackson actually claimed a Maryland offer back in the spring, but it was one of those Aazaar Abdul-Rahim “toss out a verbal and see if it sticks” offers. Evidently it didn’t stick, because the three-star Jackson ended up popping to South Carolina June 17. He subsequently lost contact with his UMD-area recruiter as Abdul-Rahim turned his attention elsewhere.
But Aug. 27 Jackson curiously claimed a Maryland offer once again -- for real this time. Apparently when Jackson hinted he could be looking around at other schools, it prompted Abdul-Rahim to jump back on him. And now that the two are back in touch, College Park looks like a legitimate visit spot down the line.
"My friend, Qwuantrezz Knight, goes there and I talked to him about it the other day," Jackson told Scout’s Corey Bender in regards to UMD. "It's a little distant from home, but they make it feel like home, and that's a plus; I love to feel at home with any school.
"I talked with (cornerbacks) coach (Aazaar) Abdul-Rahim, and he told me everything about the campus and how they need to get me up there. I'll most likely take an official there, depending on how coach (Will) Muschamp feels about it. I'm still going with the process and I know how recruiting changes, so anything can happen."
At the moment, however, Jackson’s a firm South Carolina pledge. But it’s possible the Gamecocks’ staff elects to part ways later this fall. USC head coach Will Muschamp said if commits start venturing to other locales, he’ll in turn begin pursuing other prospects at their respective spots. Which means Jackson could be out of luck if he follows through on intended trips to Oregon State, UMD and possibly others like IU and USF.
We’ll monitor the situation to see if there’s a falling out with South Carolina. If Jackson does indeed hit the open market, Maryland could be an attractive landing spot for him (provided there is room).
Minor On Board
The Terps tapped into their DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) pipeline once again Aug. 28, securing a commitment from four-star guard Marcus Minor. The 6-4, 285-pounder had been forecast to the hometown school for quite some time, although we did think he’d embark on at least a couple official visits before ending his recruitment.
But once Minor entered “team mode” at the end of August camp, he lost interest in the process and decided he’d rather focus his energy on his final high school season. The DeMatha product, who won’t be taking any officials other than his UMD one in December, knew he’d probably be heading to College Park, Md., anyway, so he opted not to delay the inevitable.
“Maryland has always stood out for me and it’s always a place that’s been on my mind and a place I enjoyed being,” said Minor, who is following in the footsteps of former teammate Terrance Davis, a 2016 UMD signee. “Every time I go up there I like it. but I really enjoy Maryland and the coaches there. Just talking to Coach [D.J.] Durkin, Coach [Dave] Borbely, some of my teammates going [to UMD] and hanging out with the other commits and recruits, it’s a great experience up there. I’m very comfortable there.”
The two main factors here were the aforementioned coaching staff and also the school’s journalism program. Even before the new Maryland regime was in place, Minor readily took to UMD because of the Philip Merrill School of Journalism. He wants to be a sports broadcaster and obviously was impressed with Maryland’s reputation in that field.
The coaches, though, are who sold Minor on the Terps. The local guard visited College Park numerous times since last February, including for all three major prospect days. Minor couldn’t say enough above the staff’s energy and attitude, specifically pointing to Durkin; area recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim; and the line coach Borbely.
The chance to play near his family played into Minor’s commitment as well. Minor’s parents were on campus almost as often as their son, and they too readily took to the staff and the school’s educational benefits.
Interestingly enough, though, Minor was not influenced by the DMV movement or his former teammates now in College Park, the guard insisting he wouldn’t choose a school based on others’ decisions.
Minor chose UMD over Miami, which finished second, Auburn and Va Tech.
As far as Minor’s game is concerned, he’s an athletic lineman who excels at blocking in space, pulling around end and executing at the second level. Minor possesses a quick first step, comes off the ball low and hard, and has a strong initial punch.
He does a decent job opening holes in the run game, using his long arms to neutralize defenders and keeping his feet moving after contact. In pass pro, meanwhile, Minor sets up well and plays with solid balance. He typically keeps opposing linemen out of his body, while possessing the necessary footwork/reaction time to adjust to quick-twitch rushers.
Now, Minor can be stood up on occasion, so he has to work on staying low consistently. He also needs to develop more overall power, and his hand placement could be more precise too.
Furthermore, Minor has to keep working on his pass protection technique. Sometimes he’ll get caught lunging, which can compromise his power, or his steps can become jumbled.
Even so, Minor’s another solid addition to Maryland’s offensive line. He plays tackle at DeMatha but projects as an interior lineman at UMD.
You can read more about Minor HERE.
You can read what his coach had to say about him HERE.
You can read more analysis of Minor HERE.
2018 Contact Period
College coaches could begin contacting 2018 recruits as of midnight Sept. 1, and while this means little in the grand scheme of things, it gives some idea who respective teams are prioritizing. Naturally, the Terps’ assistants reached out to their DMV targets in earnest, but they also sent early-morning texts to elite out-of-state recruits as well.
Some of the prospects who received messages from UMD included:
QB Devin Leary (Timber Creek/Sicklerville, N.J.)
QB Artur Sitkowski (Old Bridge, N.J.)
QB Allan Walter (Peddle School/Hightstown, N.J.)
RB Ricky Slade (Hylton/Woodbridge, Va.)
RB Asa Martin (IMG Academy/Bradenton, Fla.)
RB Devon Lawrence (Wake Forest, N.C.)
RB Iverson Clement (Rancocas Valley/Mount Holly, N.J.)
WR Daniel George (Oxon Hill, Md.)
WR Darryle Simmons (St. Joseph’s/Philadelphia, Pa.)
WR Xavier Williams (Chaminade-Madonna/Hollywood, Fla.)
WR Warren Thompson (Armwood/Seffner, Fla.)
WR Tyree Henry (St. Frances/Baltimore, Md.)
WR Randy Fields (St. Frances)
WR Brian Hightower (IMG Academy)
WR Tre Turner (Northwest Guilford/Greensboro, N.C.)
WR Demarcus Gregory (Byrnes/Duncan, S.C.)
TE Thomas Booker (Gilman/Baltimore, Md.)
TE Zack Kuntz (Camp Hill, Pa.)
OL Rasheed Walker (North Point/Waldorf, Md.)
OL Jaelyn Duncan (Northern/Owings, Md.)
OL Curtis Dunlap (IMG Academy)
DT Evan Gregory (DeMatha/Hyattsville, Md.)
DT Austin Fontaine (DeMatha)
DT Taron Vincent (IMG Academy)
DT P.J. Mustipher (McDonogh/Owings Mills, Md.)
DE John Morgan (DeMatha)
DE Malik Vann (Fairfield, Ohio)
DE Micah Parsons (Central Dauphin/Harrisburg, Pa.)
LB Rocky Shelton (Aquinas/Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.)
LB Teradja Mitchell (Bishop Sullivan/Virginia Beach, Va.)
LB Billy Joseph (Northwestern/Miami, Fla.)
LB Khalid Jones (Byrnes)
DB Asante Samuel (Aquinas)
DB Al Blades (Aquinas)
DB Sevyn Banks (First Academy/Orlando, Fla.)
DB Isheem Young (IMG Academy)
DB Myles Sims (Westlake/Atlanta, Ga.)
DB Derrik Allen (Lassiter/Marietta, Ga.)
ATH A.J. Lytton (Wise/Upper Marlboro, Md.)
Off The Board
Reese Leitao, TE, Jenks (Okla.): Leitao placed Maryland among his top-four suitors after visiting College Park July 30, but we never felt he’d be playing his college ball on the East Coast. Even after talking up Terps’ area recruiter Walt Bell, the offensive coordinator’s spread offense, and noting his familiarity with Maryland from having lived in northern Virginia for several years, it seemed like his heart was closer to home.
Thus, on Aug. 27, Leitao popped to nearby Nebraska, citing the coaching staff’s ardent push; the campus environment; and the school’s proximity to Jenks. Leitao chose the Huskers over Oklahoma State, which finished a close second, and PSU and UMD.