Welcome to our next edition of Inside the Shell, the weekly Maryland football-recruiting roundup.
Checking Out St. John’s (Washington, D.C.)
I’d been eager to see two of Maryland’s touted 2017 commits in action, so I stopped by St. John’s Sept. 3 for its match against Florida power American Heritage (Delray Beach, Fla.). But SJC made Heritage look pedestrian in a 42-9 dismantling that was basically over by halftime.
The final score was of little concern, though, as my main objective was to hone in on Terps’ pledges Kasim Hill and Cam Spence. Additionally, I got a good look at five-star offensive tackle Calvin Ashley, an Auburn commit, as well.
Texas A&M commit Tyree Johnson showed out too, but he exited the game early, precluding me from conducting a full evaluation. And one underclassman who forced my attention was 2019 linebacker Shane Lee, who has the look of a future five-star. Lee’s classmate, running back Keilan Robinson, has potential as well.
-- The No. 1 takeaway from watching Kasim Hill was his poise. The big, strong right-hander is a cool customer, keeping calm in the face of a rush or when flushed from the pocket. He knows how to maneuver under duress, shifting up or to the side while keeping his eyes focused downfield.
Physically, the 6-2, 195-pounder has a solid arm, a compact delivery and can make all the necessary throws. He typically leads his receivers, puts touch on his passes and delivers crisp, catchable balls.
Hill also sees the whole field, goes through his progressions and makes smart decisions. He'll take risks, but not to the point where he's foolish.
Hill can pick up yards with his feet too. He's a pass-first signal caller, but he has enough speed and shake to create yards in the open field.
Now, Hill does need to continue refining his mechanics. Like most young quarterbacks, his arm slot, release and motion could all stand to become more consistent. Also, once in awhile his accuracy will wane, a result of said fundamental issues. He could stand to continue strengthening his arm and honing his footwork as well.
But Hill has a high upside and projects as a starter in the near future. He has all the tools necessary to succeed in the Big Ten.
After the game, Hill reiterated his stance as a firm UMD pledge. He's all about the coaching staff, offensive coordinator Walt Bell’s scheme and keeping the DMV movement humming. He said he's personally trying to bring linebacker Ellis Brooks (discussed below) and running back Anthony McFarland (discussed below) aboard.
You can see the interview with Hill HERE.
-- The defensive tackle Cam Spence has vast potential provided he continues to work. The 6-3, 295-pound four-star has an imposing frame, loads of power, and athleticism to boot.
The main quality that separates big linemen is how quick they are for their size. There are plenty of big-bodied plodders out there, but few who can really move.
Spence can move.
The Baltimore, Md., native gets up and down the line, ably maneuvering in traffic and out in space. He has the deft feet to slice through small gaps and enough short-area quicks to beat blockers to a spot. Spence does well chasing down backs on the edge too, catching them before they can turn the corner.
The four-star is also quite powerful. He typically comes off low and hard, has a stunning initial punch and keeps his feet moving after contact. His long arms and violent hands allow him to knock blockers backwards or toss them to the side.
Furthermore, Spence has a rapid-fire get-off and a fast first step, giving him even more of an advantage over offensive linemen who are slow to set up.
He tackles well and finishes plays too, allowing little leaky yardage.
To improve, Spence mainly has to keep working on his conditioning. He plays with a high pad level at times, so he’s prone to being out-leveraged or unable to get off a block. Moreover, Spence has to keep working on his hand placement, rush moves and his backside pursuit.
Following the game, Spence said he's 100 percent Maryland. He's in close contact with most of the UMD coaching staff and is doing his part to draw other DMV recruits like teammates Calvin Ashley and Tyree Johnson, not to mention Anthony McFarland, to College Park.
He said any official visits he takes -- Penn State, Kentucky, etc. -- will be to "get that free steak dinner."
You can see the interview with Spence HERE.
-- As for Calvin Ashley, there's a reason he's a five-star projected as an SEC left tackle. The 6-6, 310-pounder is a man-child with a developed frame and a refined skill-set.
Ashley can both maul in the run game and finesse in the pass game. He can open up huge holes at the point of attack and mow down linebackers out in space. He can finish at the second level and readjust to quick-twitch edge rushers. He can anchor a defensive end and turn away a blitzing backer.
In other words, he's the total package. Sure, there are mechanical flaws and areas for improvement. Ashley tends to play high, he'll occasionally lunge for blocks and his pass-pro technique needs some refining. But the inherent physical traits -- long arms, violent hands, wide base -- coupled with his natural athleticism and developed strength suggest a future top-flight tackle.
For now, Ashley's all about Auburn, but he does intend to take a couple officials. Florida and Maryland are both on his mind.
We're not projecting Ashley to flip to UMD, but the Terps do have life here after Ashley's two unofficial visits to College Park. Maryland area recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim is in his ear.
You can read the full evaluation of Ashley HERE.
-- The defensive end Tyree Johnson opened my eyes during the first quarter-and-a-half, but after SJC grabbed a commanding lead, he took a seat. Thus, I wasn't able to fully evaluate him. But he made the most of his cameo appearance, racking up a sack and a tackle for loss.
During those plays, Johnson looked the part of a high-upside defensive end, flashing burst; acceleration; short-area quickness and toughness. He proved he could beat tackles off the ball, ably navigate traffic, disengage and make tackles down the line.
I’ll have a more complete report in the future, but, at first blush, Johnson is probably someone the Maryland staff needs to stay after. He is a firm TAMU pledge, but he indicated he'd be officially visiting UMD, Tennessee and maybe another school or two.
Terps' area recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim remains after the three-star, and won't give up the pursuit until Signing Day or Maryland fills its defensive end spots. Johnson has plenty of hometown affinity, so it wouldn't shock if he flipped down the line (especially if the TAMU staff identifies another couple edge rushers they covet and deems Johnson “expendable”).
-- The 2019 linebacker Shane Lee is a future stud. The 6-1, 245-pounder looks and acts like a high school senior, his talent and demeanor belying his experience level. There's little wonder he had five offers before his freshman year at Gilman (Baltimore, Md.) concluded.
Lee plays the game with reckless abandon, an absolute force as a rusher and run defender. He literally flies on every down, always in attack mode.
Lee is explosive off the ball, runs like a deer sideline-to-sideline and closes like a truck. He's powerful, quick and athletic, actively disengaging and fighting through traffic.
Lee is a true thumper too, someone who finishes plays with a reverberating thud.
The Terps have the inside track on the talented youngster, but there's a long ways to go here. All of the bigwigs are, or will be, involved.
-- As for Lee’s classmate, Keilan Robinson, he’s a diminutive speedster who can really fly in the open field. He didn’t receive a ton of carries during the game, deferring to the upperclassmen, but the 2019 running back had his share once SJC pulled away. The 5-9 Maryland offeree flashed shake, superior cutting ability and loads of speed and athleticism.
The Terps did well to jump on the youngster early, because his wheels alone are going to garner him so significant Division I attention.
Checking Out Boys’ Latin (Baltimore, Md.)
The first game I attended this year was Boys’ Latin at Loyola (Towson, Md.) Sept. 2 in order to gauge Terps’ defensive line target Vic Dimukeje against an MIAA A-Conference opponent. As expected, Boys’ Latin fell, 23-3, but Dimukeje personally played reasonably well, recording nine tackles; three tackles for loss; and a sack.
The 6-1.5, 245-pounder has above-average athleticism, burst and short-area quickness. He possesses nimble feet, maneuvers well in traffic and does a good job scraping off blocks. Dimukeje has a fast first step, decent acceleration up and down the line, and can make plays in space too.
Dimukeje’s also a finisher, typically driving through his man or at least wrapping up and limiting leaky yardage. Most impressively, Dimukeje hustles on every down and plays through the whistle. His effort alone makes him an appealing commodity.
Now, Dimukeje is rather small for a college defensive end, and he doesn’t possess especially long arms. He might have to pack on pounds and move inside to tackle.
Plus, Dimukeje has to become more powerful; his initial punch could use some pop. He also has to work on his rush moves, hand placement and pad level, not to mention his backside pursuit.
Right now, we project Dimukeje as a possible starter after a couple years in a college weight program. At the very least, he should be a valuable rotational piece, either as a 3- or 5-technique.
After the game, Dimukeje -- who did not attend Maryland’s game against Howard Sept. 3 -- backed off his comments from last week, when it sounded like Wake Forest was trending. He said the Deacons do have his eye, but they’re on the same level as Maryland; Duke; and Va Tech.
We previously surmised the Blue Devils’ and maybe the Hokies’ staffs had cooled on Dimukeje a bit, but the Boys’ Latin recruit denied the claims, saying both programs want him. He said Duke still has defensive line spots available despite its rash of commitments, while Tech has room for two defensive ends and “they want me bad.”
As for Maryland, Dimukeje is now a priority for the Terps’ coaches with several of their other options committed elsewhere. Dimukeje talked up his relationship with UMD-area recruiter and position coach Mike London and the rest of the staff. He said the Terps remain one of his foremost suitors and a school he’s seriously considering.
I asked Dimukeje about his parents’ influence too, mainly because we’d heard they could be favoring Duke due to the academics. But Dimukeje said they like all the schools they’ve seen, specifically pointing to UMD; Wake; and Duke.
The Boys’ Latin lineman then discussed his upcoming visits, noting he’d like to take in games at each of his top four suitors. Then, after his senior season, he wants to embark on his officials.
We’re not so sure Dimukeje will have the luxury of waiting that long to commit, however. More than likely, he’ll be forced into an earlier decision when programs start giving him an ultimatum of sorts.
The feeling here is Duke might not be an option for him, even though Dimukeje believes he’s still a “take” for the staff. More than likely, it’s going to come down to Va Tech, Wake and UMD, and the vibe is he may opt for the Deacons. The small-school environment, the presence of two teammates in Winston Salem, N.C., and the fact it’s near his family in North Carolina all appeal. Meanwhile, the Wake coaches may be pushing harder for Dimukeje than any other school in play.
That said, it wouldn’t totally shock us if he picked UMD. He does like being close to his immediate family, and the rapport he has with London is indeed strong.
You can read my evaluation and see the interview with Dimukeje HERE.
Note: I was also able to get a look at Maryland’s preferred walk-on commitment, long snapper Brock Sassler. During the Loyola game, Sassler, who is considered one of the best at his craft in the country, was on-point with each of his snaps.
Afterwards, he discussed his technique, what he’s working on and his relationship with UMD special teams coach Pete Lembo.
You can hear the interview HERE.
Opening Game Visitors
The Terps demolished FCS foe Howard Sept. 3, and a few of Maryland’s foremost recruit targets were on hand to witness it. That included DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) four-star running back Anthony McFarland, Benedictine (Va.) four-star linebacker Ellis Brooks and some underclassmen, headlined by DeMatha four-star defensive tackle Austin Fontaine.
-- Anthony McFarland, as we mentioned last week, isn’t deciding on a school anytime soon. Even so, it’s always a positive for UMD when he’s on campus, exposing him to the coaching staff and the program itself.
Mostly, McFarland wanted to get a glimpse of the new-look Maryland offense to see how he could potentially fit. And after watching offensive coordinator Walt Bell’s fast-paced spread roll over Howard, McFarland is well aware he could rack up the yards in College Park. The scheme fits McFarland’s “scat-back” style perfectly -- and the DeMatha runner knows it.
Expect McFarland to return to Maryland Stadium for another game down the road, perhaps for Michigan State Oct. 22. He should then be officially visiting College Park sometime in early December with the current UMD commits.
But, again, Miami looms, with an official coming up in late December or January. For the time being, the Hurricanes pose the greatest threat to Maryland for the injured four-star, who has been talking up head coach Mark Richt for two-plus years now.
After taking in Coral Gables, Fla., look for McFarland to take in Alabama, although we’re skeptical the Tide will remain in play. The DeMatha four-star is maintaining interest in Bama, but we’re not sure how long headman Nick Saban will stay on him.
Regardless, expect McFarland to pop sometime around Signing Day. Unless his situation changes and a program like Florida or Tennessee makes a late surge, he’ll be choosing between UMD and Miami.
Our gut, as previously stated, is he could very well fall into the Terps’ lap, although the Hurricanes do make us leery.
-- The linebacker Ellis Brooks has now been at Maryland three times in the last couple months, and it's obvious he's excited about the school. Both he and his father, who is primary in this recruitment, thoroughly enjoyed their latest College Park foray, the two actively snapping photos of the stadium; Gossett; and New Cole.
Brooks arrived at UMD early too, taking the opportunity to chat up linebackers coach Matt Barnes and area recruiter Mike London before the game.
The Virginia prospect has a close bond with London, who has both Brooks' and his father's ear. Brooks knows he's the priority at inside backer and believes he could seamlessly transition into the Terps' aggressive scheme.
Moreover, Brooks sees what's going on in College Park with the recruits headman D.J. Durkin is bringing in. The three-star even has UMD pledges like Kasim Hill in his ear about joining the Movement at Maryland.
But, at the same time, Brooks is in no rush to pop. He wants to embark on multiple officials, of which none have been set. Brooks is also seeking looks from bigwigs like Michigan, Alabama and others in the SEC and Big Ten. Not to mention in-state Va Tech is hot on his heels and has Brooks' firm attention.
Our gut? We're banking on Brooks NOT landing his coveted powerhouse scholarships. He's trending in Maryland's direction, and we believe he might just wind up a Terp before it's all said and done.
Note: Terps’ cornerback pledge Fofie Bazzie (Quince Orchard/North Potomac, Md.) was at the game too, and we’re told he’s in solid standing with the UMD coaches. The three-star was suspended for the first two games of his high school season, leaving us a tad leery head coach D.J. Durkin might choose to move on. But apparently that won’t be the case provided Bazzie stays in the line from here on out.
News On Top Targets
Emmanuel Greene, Slot, IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.): It’s unclear whether the Terps are truly pushing for the IMG slot Greene, but the 5.9.5, 160-pounder did tell Scout’s Corey Bender he was considering an official to College Park. Greene has been committed to UCF since the spring, but he already has one official set up to Nebraska Oct. 1 and is mulling others to WVU; Louisville; Kentucky; Penn State; Tennessee; TAMU and UMD.
Greene added an offer from Terps’ area recruiter Chris Beatty during the spring evaluation period, but the two have had off-and-on contact since then. However, it’s conceivable Beatty recently jumped back on the three-star with UMD in need of another 2017 receiver.
Again, Greene doesn’t seem like someone who would immediately rocket to the top of Maryland’s board, but he’s another name to keep in mind down the line. For the moment, he’s firmly committed to UCF, so we’ll list him “cool” on the hot board.
Travis Koontz, TE, Boardman (Youngstown, Ohio): Koontz pulled a Maryland offer from UMD head coach D.J. Durkin back in May, but two weeks later he popped to hometown Bowling Green. Koontz decided to go with the program that had been with him since Day One rather than check out UMD, Illinois and Cincinnati, which were his other three suitors.
But earlier this week Koontz told Scout’s Bill Greene he had not only maintained contact with coaches from the Terps, Illini and even Penn State, but the tight end wanted to visit each of those locales as well.
Maryland tight ends coach Pete Lembo and area recruiter Dave Borbely have been in touch with Koontz and seemingly have his ear. Meanwhile, Illinois represents an attractive option closer to Youngstown, with new headman Lovie Smith gaining traction in the Midwest. And since the Nittany Lions’ staff missed out on tight end target Reese Leitao (Jenks, Okla.), they are now considering extending an offer to Koontz.
If the latter occurs, Koontz could be State College, Pa., bound, but let’s see if the Boardman prospect makes it to College Park later this fall. If so, this could escalate quickly in Maryland’s favor.
Rasheed Walker, OT, North Point (Waldorf, Md.) (2018): Scout’s Brian Dohn caught up with the rising-star tackle Walker this week after the 6-5, 270-pounder landed a rash of offers. Ohio State, UNC and Florida all came in recently, joining earlier looks from UMD; Rutgers; and Penn State.
The junior Walker proceeded to heap praise on each of his most recent verbals, in particular the Tar Heels. Walker said he grew up watching North Carolina and it’s a program that’s always been on his mind.
The North Point tackle then noted Florida’s SEC affiliation and said he’d be taking a deeper look at the Gators. Penn State, though, seems to have left a major impression following Walker’s trek through Happy Valley. The DMV tackle said he’s taken a liking to the PSU staff and felt “at home” on campus.
Ohio State, though, has Walker smitten. He loves the vibe in Columbus, Ohio, the coaching staff and the Buckeyes’ rise to power in college football.
Now, Walker does have plenty of affinity for the hometown school too. The Terps, recall, were his initial offer, and Walker couldn’t say enough when the local university was first to ante up. He’s been in College Park several times and has a budding rapport with line coach Dave Borbely and area recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim as well.
Walker is gaining momentum, but Maryland is in position early and should be considered the frontrunner for now.
Deron Irving-Bey, OT/DL, Southwestern (Flint, Mich.): The four-star defensive lineman Irving-Bey, who the Terps offered as an offensive tackle, returned to his presumed leader Sept. 10: Michigan. After taking in the Wolverines’ drubbing against Hawaii, Irving-Bey sounded even higher on Jim Harbaugh’s program. The 6-5, 272-pounder told Scout’s Sam Webb he was “blown away” by the atmosphere inside the Big House, and he loved reconnecting with the players and coaches. Even Irving-Bey’s mom liked everything she saw too, from the stadium to the fans to the academics.
Given the above, most believe Irving-Bey is going to wind up with the maize and blue. But before committing, the Flint native insists he wants to officially visit Michigan State, which may be running second; Maryland; and Tennessee, in addition to UM.
Irving-Bey, recall, attended Maryland’s camp back in June and connected with offensive line coach Dave Borbely, who is also the four-star’s area recruiter. The Southwestern Academy product said he liked Borbely personally and enjoyed working with him at the camp. The two have been in contact since then, and evidently Borbely’s early-playing pitch has Irving-Bey intrigued.
But we’re not going to elevate Irving-Bey above “cool” on the hot board unless both Michigan and MSU fall through. We’re told he’s “definitely” a “take” for both the Wolverines and Spartans.
Markquese Bell, DB, Bridgeton (N.J.): The four-star Bell, who the Terps want as a corner/safety, has Maryland among his top seven suitors, and he’s set to officially visit College Park for its game against Michigan State Oct. 22. The 6-3, 195-pounder told Scout’s Brian Dohn he had a standout spring trip to UMD and is excited to get back on campus.
"The coaching staff is really cool," Bell told Dohn. "(Assistant) coach Aazaar (Abdul-Rahim), he's my guy. He talks to me all the time. Also, (assistant) coach (Anthony) Tucker, I like him as well."
That’s all well and good, but we don’t believe Bell has Maryland higher than perhaps fifth in the pecking order. The Jersey product seems to be favoring Michigan and Ohio State, first and foremost, followed by Clemson and Florida. Hometown Rutgers is in the thick of things too, though it sounds like Bell won’t be staying local for college.
Bell will be officially visiting Michigan Sept. 24, Florida Oct. 8, Clemson Nov. 12 and Ohio State Nov. 26. He then plans to select one of the above schools during the Under Armour All-American game or perhaps on Signing Day.
Now, it’s possible the Wolverines’ coaches can coax out an early pop, but more than likely Bell will string things along. That last foray through Columbus, Ohio, could prove pivotal.
About the only way the Terps are going to snag Bell is if some of the other schools fill their spots before the two-way star is ready to commit. He’s currently listed “cool” on the hot board.
New Offers Out
Nayquan Wright, RB, Carol City (Miami, Fla.) (2019): Maryland assistant Aazaar Abdul-Rahim went right to work as soon as the Terps landed in Miami for the FIU game. He offered at least two recruits Sept. 8, including this 2019 runner.
Wright is one of the top backs in the freshman class, and already has offers from Bama, Miami, Notre Dame, Florida, FSU, UGA, LSU and more. Needless to say, he won't be an easy pull for the Maryland staff.
Demji Dumervil-Jean, OT, St. Thomas Aquinas (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) (2018): The Terps took advantage of their time in South Florida this week and identified this emerging junior tackle. Dumervil-Jean didn't have any offers prior to Sept. 8, but UMD assistant Chris Beatty changed that while in town.
The 6-5, 350-pound Aquinas prospect was thrilled to have his first college verbal, and will surely be looking deeper into the Terps now that Maryland's an option for him. Granted, it's early in the process, and Dumervil-Jean figures to blow up after this season. After all, he attends powerhouse Aquinas and will have recruiters galore viewing his junior film. He's bound to secure offers from some of the Florida powers, in addition to schools throughout the ACC, SEC and Big Ten.
But we'll see what kind of traction Beatty and Co. can gain. The first step is securing a College Park visit at some point during the offseason.
Tyler Dunning, ILB, St. Thomas Aquinas (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.): Add another inside linebacker target to Maryland's board. On Sept. 8, while in Florida for the Terps' game against FIU, UMD assistant Chris Beatty extended an offer to Dunning.
The 6-0, 230-pound three-star committed to Mississippi State back in May, but word from our Florida colleagues is he could be open to other suitors. He's gauging what offers come in after his senior film is evaluated and could then elect to embark on a couple officials depending on the various looks.
Dunning hasn't responded to interview requests yet (we're told he doesn't like to talk), so we're not sure exactly how interested he is in the Terps. But UMD is in need of an inside backer and can offer early playing time, so perhaps Beatty can convince Dunning to check College Park out.
For now, though, we're listing him "cool" on the hot board.
Naytron Culpepper, S/CB, Carol City (Miami, Fla.): The Terps' offer binge in south Florida continued Sept. 8 when Aazaar Abdul-Rahim extended a scholarship to this three-star safety/corner. But Abdul-Rahim has his work cut out for him with this one.
Culpepper has already declared South Carolina his leader and is set to officially visit Columbus, S.C., Oct. 1. He also has Michigan State in the thick of things and will be in East Lansing, Mich., Nov. 19. If that weren't enough, Culpepper has Tennessee running third and wants to see the Vols officially as well.
Maybe Abdul-Rahim can cull a visit out of Culpepper, but we don't envision the Carol City prospect in College Park unless the aforementioned program fall off.
Alex Woods, CB. Lackawanna (Scranton, Pa.): The junior college cornerback Woods, who is a sophomore with two years of eligibility remaining after this season, is currently committed to West Virginia. He was just in Morgantown, W.Va., Sept. 3 and said he’s on board with the program. (Lackawanna has a pipeline of sorts to WVU).
However, Woods has been gaining steam on the trail and pulled a Maryland offer Sept. 7. The 6-2 corner has been in touch with defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim and assistant Pete Lembo for several weeks and likes what the assistants have intimated about the Terps. Namely, Woods senses an opportunity to start in College Park.
“The first thing I really liked is they have two starting corners, Will Likely and J.C. Jackson, who probably won’t be there very long, so there’s an opportunity for early playing time if I were to flip. And secondly, I like how it’s not as far from home as WVU, so that means my mom could come see my games easier,” Woods said. “And the things Coach Rahim was saying about his history and the people he’s coached like Joe Haden and Jalen Tabor, that definitely opened my eyes.”
The North Carolina native, who played his high school ball at powerhouse Hillside (Durham, N.C.), is now considering an official visit to UMD. If he follows through, the Terps have a legitimate shot at flipping Woods.
The three-star will also be officially visiting ECU, the hometown school, and WVU. The Mountaineers will have every chance to keep the Carolina corner in tow, but, when probed, Woods admitted he was “pretty open” to both UMD and ECU.
We’re listing Woods “warm” on the hot board, but this could escalate quickly should be follow through with that College Park trip.
You can read more about Woods HERE.
Ken Montgomery, CB, Hillsborough (Tampa, Fla.) (2018): The junior Montgomery is a fast-riser, someone who has already opened eyes early in his 2016 campaign and is gathering more and more offers. Even before UMD-area recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim tossed Maryland’s name into the hat Sept. 5, the 6-2, 167-pounder had verbals from Arkansas; USC; Kentucky; Louisville; Duke; Mizzou; Tennessee; NC State; Va Tech and more. Not to mention in-state powers Florida and Florida State have taken keen interest and could be anteing up next.
At the moment, the Trojans seem to be high on the four-star’s board, but his recruitment is bound to ebb and flow as the scholarships pile in.
We’ll see what kind of traction Abdul-Rahim can gain, and if the defensive backs coach can coax Montgomery north for a visit down the line.