It took a month longer than originally anticipated, but Academy at Palumbo (Philadelphia, Pa.) cornerback Kenny Bennett finally committed to Maryland on his birthday Nov. 9. The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder had dubbed UMD his favorite school all the way back in June, before he even landed a Terps’ offer, and almost five months later the Philly product made good on his word.
“Maryland has always been sort of my dream school,” said Bennett, who was also considering Pitt and Temple, after receiving his UMD scholarship back in the spring. “When I was younger, I was actually in Baltimore for awhile, and I… took notice of Maryland with the uniforms and all that. I’ve just always sort of enjoyed Maryland as a state and Baltimore as a city, so I grew to watch the teams there. Maryland has always been a school I’ve had my eye on.”
Bennett, who transferred to Academy of Palumbo from Simon Gratz (Philadelphia, Pa.) prior to the 2016 season, may have had an affinity for the Terps for some time, but he first grabbed defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim’s attention during an early-June camp. He didn’t receive an offer right away, however, and ended up heading to College Park, Md., twice more before finally pulling in the coveted look.
The scholarship came to fruition after Bennett squared off against four-star wideout Mark Webb (Archbishop Wood/Warminster, Pa.) at UMD’s Friday Night Freak Show camp June 17, the Philly corner more than holding his own against the Georgia pledge.
“I remember after the camp, Coach [D.J.] Durkin shook my hand and told me I had a scholarship to the University of Maryland. There were a lot of kids there that day that could have been offered, but I was the only one to get one, so that meant a lot,” Bennett said. “I was honored and excited to get an offer from my dream school.”
During the next four months, Bennett developed a strong bond with Abdul-Rahim. Although the assistant isn’t UMD’s Pennsylvania-area recruiter, he took the lead role in this particular recruitment.
“I really like Coach Aazaar as a coach and a person,” Bennett said. “He keeps it real with you, and he’s straightforward. He’ll always tell you exactly where you stand. He was one of my favorite [college] coaches to talk to.”
Bennett first had a chance to work with Abdul-Rahim during the summer camps, and then sat down with him for one-on-one meetings on his return to College Park for a game. The latter trip, Oct. 1, allowed Bennett to delve deep into UMD’s system and pick Abdul-Rahim’s brain even more.
“As a coach [Abdul-Rahim] is very technical and all about details. He helped me with certain parts of my game, just from working with him [at the camps],” Bennett said. “Then he showed me exactly how I’d be used in their system. He showed me how the corners work, but also the nickel and safety spots as well. He believes I could help them all over [their secondary].”
Bennett had similar praise for area recruiter Anthony Tucker, the head coach D.J. Durkin and the rest of the coaches. He called the staff “my type of people” and noted their overarching enthusiasm.
“They’re up-tempo, lots of energy and they keep it real with you. There’s nothing fake about them,” Bennett said. “They’re not going to tell you something and then not follow through.
“Coach Durkin has great energy and a lot of enthusiasm. He’s the type of coach you want to play for. I have a lot of respect for him and believe in what he’s doing [at UMD].”
Besides the staff, the Academy at Palumbo product has been able to connect with the current Terps and their 2017 commits. He mentioned how positive the players and pledges were in regards to the program and its direction.
And Bennett has now been able to watch said players in action. He first saw Maryland drub Purdue back on Oct. 1.
“I just fit in perfectly in the system. I think I can do really well in [the scheme],” Bennett said. “And I love the fans at Maryland and the school spirit. The fans are into the game and really support the players. I liked the atmosphere inside the stadium and I could definitely see myself playing there in front of those fans.”
In addition to the coaches, players and fans he interacted with, Bennett was also struck by Maryland’s academic reputations and the various degrees the school offers. He’s unsure what he wants to major in, but knows he’ll get “a great degree” either way.
“It’s one of the best research universities in the country,” Bennett said. “The fact that I will have a powerful degree not just a piece of paper [appeals]. I know I’ll get a good job coming out of there.”
Bennett went on to note Maryland’s Under Armour connections and post-football career opportunities as a primary factor that made the school attractive. He also mentioned UMD’s coming facility upgrades (“It’s exciting what they’re building there. I can’t wait,” he said), dorm renovations (“those look very, very nice”) and the campus itself (“It’s beautiful”) as positives.
“Maryland is just a great place to be,” Bennett said. “It felt like home. I’m very comfortable there and I could see myself living there the next few years.”