Welcome to our next edition of Inside the Shell, the weekly Maryland football-recruiting roundup.
December 9-11 Official Visitors
Calvin Ashley, OT, St. John’s (Washington, D.C.): This is the Maryland staff’s chance to wow the five-star Ashley and potentially position themselves for a flip. Ashley has consistently heard from multiple UMD coaches and commits, has visited College Park, Md., several times during the fall, and personally hosted area-recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim and other Maryland staffers. Plus, the Florida native has come around to playing his college ball in the D.C. area and joining some of his new friends at UMD. Ashley knows he could possibly start immediately at Maryland too, which is a main selling point.
But if the Terps’ coaches are going to pull this off, they’ll have to prove this program can quickly rise up the Big Ten ranks. The coming facility upgrades, the DMV movement (it didn’t help that UMD lost five-star Josh Kaindoh) and Maryland reaching a bowl game all aid UMD’s perception, but will it be enough to convince Ashley to jump on board?
At this point, we’re not so sure.
It’s difficult to flip any recruit, and since Ashley has his Auburn official coming up in January, the Eagles probably have a good shot at securing the five-star. Ashley has given the Terps their share of props, but he’s heaped even more praise on AU and its staff, who have sent multiple coaches through St. John’s. We’re led to believe as long as head coach Gus Malzahn and Co. remain in place, Ashley will be inclined to stick.
Meanwhile, hometown Florida’s staff continues to pursue and could host Ashley for a January official. There’s a chance the Gators’ staff gains Ashley’s ear, though it sounds like UF is currently third in the pecking order.
Breyon & Brandon Gaddy, DT, Bishop Sullivan Catholic (Virginia Beach, Va.): The brothers Gaddy met with Maryland defensive line coach Mike London twice in December, and now the ex-Tennessee commits will be taking their first official visit to Maryland Dec. 9.
London has known the four-star defensive tackles (and their parents) for a couple years now, and evidently the pair are heeding his pitch. The Virginia Beach natives have connected with London on a personal level and know they’d have a chance to contribute immediately in College Park.
Breyon and Brandon Gaddy haven’t been to Maryland before, so we’ll be interested to gauge their feelings post trip. It’s possible, with the duo’s options somewhat limited due to transcript concerns, the Terps could be sitting fairly high on their leaderboard.
The Gaddy brothers intend to embark on about three more officials in January, however. Some of the schools in mind include Florida, Miami, Georgia, Kentucky and Virginia Tech.
The hometown Hokies could have a bead at the moment, and the Gators are on the brain too. (Our Scout colleagues are projecting the Gaddys to Gainesville, Fla., for what it's worth).
So, we’re keeping the Gaddys “cool” on the hot board for now.
Tyree Johnson, BUCK/DE, St. John’s (Washington, D.C.): The Maryland staff hasn’t backed off the local BUCK target and TAMU commit Johnson, with UMD-area recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim; defensive line coach Mike London; and head coach D.J. Durkin streaming through St. John’s. That persistent approach has been enough for Johnson to at least check out the hometown school officially Dec. 9-11.
Of course, the three-star has seen his share of College Park, and back in the spring/summer Johnson’s commitment to Maryland seemed inevitable. He visited campus seemingly every week, raved about the staff’s energy, and believed in the direction Durkin had the program heading. He liked the idea of the DMV movement, joining his teammates like Cam Spence and Kasim Hill in College Park, and playing in front of his family.
Ultimately, though, Johnson couldn’t turn down the allure of the SEC, so he popped to Texas A&M.
But he’s always had Maryland lurking somewhere in his brain (albeit, not always at the forefront). We’re not sure the Terps’ coaches will be able to swing a flip, but it’s a positive sign Johnson will be in town alongside a multitude of UMD pledges and locals Dec. 9-11.
At this stage, however, Johnson still plans to take his final official to TAMU Jan. 20. The St. John’s product has remained in regular communication with the Aggies’ staff, and the feeling is that last trip through College Station, Texas, could seal Johnson in.
The other program making a late push is Auburn, whose staff offered Johnson Dec. 3. Johnson is in the process of setting a post-New Year official to AU, the school’s SEC affiliation holding appeal.
But let’s see what Johnson’s thinking after the New Year. Much can change in the weeks ahead, even though prospects aren’t allowed to take official visits.
Note: Johnson embarked on his first official to Rutgers Dec. 2-4, telling Scout’s Sam Hellman the trip moved the Scarlet Knights up the leaderboard. But maybe not higher than third in the pecking order. We don’t envision Johnson winding up in Piscataway, N.J., unless something goes awry with TAMU and Maryland.
Kofi Wardlow, BUCK, St. John’s (Washington, D.C.): Wardlow took his first official to Michigan State Dec. 2-4, and while the trip opened his eyes and likely solidified the Spartans’ status as one of his top two or three suitors, we don’t believe the visit vaulted MSU to No. 1.
Wardlow is taking in the Terps Dec. 9-11, and, as we’ve written plenty of times, this is the Maryland coaches’ chance to establish itself as the clear leader. The St. John’s prospect has appreciated the entire staff’s ardent pursuit, Wardlow building a relationship with defensive line coach Mike London; area recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim; and the rest. Moreover, it hit home that Abdul-Rahim and Co. were the first power-five coaches to ante up -- and to boot offered early playing time.
Wardlow also wants the chance to represent the local university at the next level and is keen on the DMV movement. He’s comfortable on campus and around the program too, Wardlow returning to College Park on a whim numerous times this fall.
All of the above bodes well for the Terps, but don’t expect an immediate pop Dec. 11. Wardlow has been insistent on taking all five official visits, and in January he’s looking to see Virginia Tech, Rutgers and maybe Boston College; Pitt; or Missouri. Of those, the Hokies pose the greatest threat to Maryland for Wardlow’s services. The St. John’s product has readily taken to Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster, namely his reputation and resume.
We’ll keep an eye on that January Tech trip, but for now Maryland is the team to beat.
Guy Thomas, BUCK/DE, Booker T. Washington (Miami, Fla.): The Nebraska commit Thomas will be on his first official to Maryland Dec. 9-11. UMD defensive line coach Mike London went to see Thomas in late November and convinced the 6-2.5, 200-pounder to check out College Park.
The Miami native has remained in contact with London since receiving a Terps’ offer months ago, Thomas forming a close rapport with the Terps’ assistant. Additionally, the three-star knows he has a chance to play early in College Park, which is one of the main reasons he’s heading north.
But Maryland won’t be the only school Thomas checks out this winter. After the dead period, he’ll be at Louisville Jan. 13, and it sounds like the Cardinals’ coaches have just as good of a chance to flip Thomas as the Terps’ do.
The Booker T. Washington prospect also intends to officially visit Nebraska in late January. Thomas said he’s a solid Huskers commit, with that final official to Lincoln, Neb., seemingly firming things up. True, there have been some rumors about a mutual parting of ways, but it’s speculation at this point.
Let’s see what transpires after this upcoming College Park official and then following the New Year. If Thomas “decommits,” the Terps’ coaches would seemingly have a real shot to bring him in.
Ellis Brooks, ILB, Benedictine (Richmond, Va.): Brooks is a deliberate recruit, so don’t expect a pop Dec. 11. But the Terps should be able to cement their position as Brooks’ No. 1 suitor following his College Park official.
Brooks’ relationship with UMD-area recruiter Mike London and linebackers coach Matt Barnes is ringing true, with both the four-star and his father easily bonding with the Terps’ assistants. (London was in to see Brooks in late November, ensuring the Benedictine product was good to go for Dec. 9.) Also, Brooks has talked up each of his previous stays in College Park, mentioning the school’s academics; UMD’s need for linebackers; and the DMV movement that’s taken hold.
Now, Brooks still wants to take another official or two after the recruiting dead period, with Northwestern and Indiana being the most likely possibilities. The Wildcats’ academics, first and foremost, have Brooks’ attention, although we’re told Northwestern’s coaches would have to wow the recruit and his father to trump Maryland. The Hoosiers, for their part, are not thought to have major sway with the Brookses.
Meanwhile, as we’ve written several times, Virginia Tech’s staff has backed off. Brooks is not expected to visit Blacksburg, Va., unless the Hokies’ coaches opt to push once again. Tech was the one major roadblock for the Terps to overcome, so when news trickled out the Hokies’ coaches were content at inside backer, it opened the door for the Maryland staff.
Note: Brooks officially visited Ohio State Nov. 25, and he keeps listing Michigan as a school he wants to check out. But he’s not a “take” for either program right now.
Nick Underwood, ILB, Riverside C.C. (Riverside, Calif.): The Maryland staff trekked out West this week, stopping by the familiar junior college Riverside, which sent JC Jackson UMD’s way. While at the school, they identified Underwood, a 6-2, 230-pound inside linebacker who prepped at Lake Oswego Senior (Ore.). and originally committed to Air Force. Underwood never signed with the Falcons, however, and decided to go the JUCO route to attract power-five programs.
Thus far, Underwood has offers from New Mexico State and LA Tech, but Terps’ assistant Brawley Evans began initiating contact earlier in December. Then, after UMD linebackers coach Matt Barnes stopped by Riverside, Underwood felt the Maryland staff had enough interest that the recruit decided to immediately visit College Park.
“I was really excited when Coach Barnes came through,” said Underwood, who began his Terps’ official Dec. 8 and will stay until Dec. 10. “I’m excited to get out to Maryland and see what it’s about.”
With Underwood currently on campus, there’s a strong possibility the Terps’ staff gives him that coveted top-level look. If so, this recruitment could move fairly quickly. Underwood may not pop in College Park, but he could be a Terp shortly thereafter.
Tariq Castro-Fields, CB, Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.): Of all the recruits visiting College Park Dec. 9-11, Castro-Fields is the one the Maryland staff could really gain some ground with.
When the four-star corner decided not to commit to Alabama during his Nov. 25-27 official, it was an indication he wasn’t a “take” for the Tide coaches. (We later verified this with our Bama contacts). That doesn’t necessarily mean Castro-Fields is definitely signing with Maryland, but the Terps are positioned well heading into the official.
UMD defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim has been pressing for Castro-Fields for some time, and the assistant’s in-home with the four-star Nov. 29 resonated. Castro-Fields thinks highly of Abdul-Rahim as a coach and as a person, and the same goes for the recruit’s feelings towards the rest of Maryland’s staff. Plus, Castro-Fields knows he could play right away given the Terps’ need for corners; he’s familiar with many current Terps/commits; he believes Maryland is on the rise with D.J. Durkin at the helm and the incoming recruiting class; and he likes the idea of his mom seeing him play on a weekly basis.
But, like Ellis Brooks (discussed above), Castro-Fields is taking a conservative approach. He’s not going to leave College Park committed, the Riverdale product intent on thoroughly vetting his options before choosing a school.
Castro-Fields did say he wanted to commit on his birthday Jan. 14, which would preclude him from visiting two of his other primary contenders: Penn State and Virginia Tech. And it’s in the realm of possibilities Castro-Fields follows through with that announcement date, choosing not to see Happy Valley or Blacksburg. (If so, that means he’s obviously coming to College Park).
But we do believe he’ll at least give PSU a looksee. We could see Castro-Fields visiting State College right after the dead period and then ending his recruitment shortly thereafter.
If the latter scenario comes to fruition, the Nittany Lions’ staff would obviously be best positioned to swipe Castro-Fields. The four-star loves the PSU staff, the atmosphere in Happy Valley, the facilities/Beaver Stadium, and the school’s academics. He’s comfortable around the team and the program too, while State College is close enough where his mother could make the trek up.
But let’s gauge Castro-Fields’ thoughts after his Maryland official. Maybe, just maybe, Durkin and his staff can privately lock the four-star up, convincing the local corner to pop on his birthday, rather than embark on one last trip to PSU.
December 2-4 Official Visitor Recap
Anthony McFarland, RB, DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.): Per usual, McFarland didn’t respond to formal interview requests post Terps’ official, but luckily we have an array of DeMatha contacts who clued us in. We were told the trip went as well as could be expected, with McFarland willingly bonding with the coaches and players. The four-star was already at ease with the program heading into the official, so, in reality, the 48-hour stay was another opportunity for him to “feel like he was already part of the team.”
We’ve heard McFarland continues to like the idea of the hometown movement and helping build the local university into a winner. Meanwhile, the coaches, using his former DeMatha teammates as an example, also emphasized how McFarland could be a focal point from Day One in College Park, which readily appealed. Furthermore, McFarland likes how he could have multiple roles in offensive coordinator Walt Bell’s offense.
“Man, I had a ball with my Maryland official,” McFarland told us. “I’m feeling really good about the Terps right now.”
But whether or not the foray established Maryland as McFarland’s No. 1 is still to be determined. The four-star is intent on keeping his thoughts close to the vest until right around Signing Day, so it’s hard to say whether he’s leaning UMD or Miami. Our contacts keep suggesting the Terps hold the pole position, but it’s too soon to call him a “lock.”
Truth be told, McFarland’s affinity for the Canes runs deep, and that Coral Gables, Fla., official hit home in a major way. Head coach Mark Richt and Co. are in the four-star’s ear, trekking through DeMatha and staying in regular contact.
But so are UMD assistant Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, running backs coach Anthony Tucker, head coach D.J. Durkin and the rest of the Maryland crew. Which means it’s going to be a battle to the finish, with a few twists and turns along the way. (Read: If DeMatha head coach Elijah Brooks winds up in College Park, that could tip the scales in UMD’s favor).
And don’t completely discount Penn State, whose coaches have made a charge. McFarland took an official to State College and loved his stay in Happy Valley. We don’t think McFarland is going to wind up at PSU, but stranger things have happened.
Note: It’s possible McFarland could take a January official or two, though we haven’t heard of any other strong suitors heading into the dead period.
Emmanuel Greene, Slot, IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.): The UCF commit Greene did make it to College Park Dec. 2-4, though he didn’t respond to inquiries afterwards. We’re told, however, Greene had a good time hanging out with the other recruits and Terps’ players, while he liked the coaches a good deal too.
Greene has a rapport with UMD receivers’ coach Chris Beatty, who stopped in to see the slot recently. The slot likes Maryland’s spread offense and Beatty’s player-development reputation.
It’s difficult to glean exactly where Greene stands with the Terps, however.
We were led to believe the IMG product was a hard UCF pledge prior to the UMD visit and wasn’t inclined to flip. That likely remains true post-trip too, per our Florida contacts.
Fact is, Greene has a terrific relationship with the Knights coaches, has been on campus on several occasions, and is keen on staying in-state for college. Plus, the diminutive slot probably isn’t an immediate “take” for Maryland unless spots open up.
Sal Cannella, TE, Scottsdale C.C. (Ariz.): Any chance Cannella had of committing on his Maryland official was squashed mid-trip, when the junior college tight end secured a coveted Auburn offer Dec. 3.
Even so, the 6-6, 230-pound Chicago native loved his first look at College Park, including the coaches; players; campus; location; and offensive coordinator Walt Bell’s offense. Even though the Terps didn’t utilize the tight end much this year, Cannella believes, with the right personnel, Bell and Co. could take advantage of the position in the up-tempo spread. (That is, provided Bell is around). What’s more, Cannella knows he can step in and potentially contribute right away at tight-end needy UMD.
Following the trip, Cannella said the Terps have his attention and are his current favorites.
The key word there is “current.”
That AU look could pose a problem to Maryland’s chances here, and earlier this week Texas’ coaches anted up as well. In the wake of the latter looks, Cannella proceeded to officially visit Auburn Dec. 8-9 and then set a UT official for Dec. 10-11.
So although Cannella gave his share of encouraging pro-UMD comments, Terps’ fans are going to have to sweat out those forays through Alabama and Austin, Texas.
“The [Texas and Auburn] offers changed some things,” said Cannella, who plans to commit by mid-December before enrolling in January.
Cannella has said from the jump he was looking to play at a national program, and now Auburn’s and Texas’ staffs are giving him that option. It wouldn’t shock us to see him pop to either the Eagles or Longhorns before Christmas.
Deron Irving-Bey, OL/DE, Southwestern Academy (Flint, Mich.): Irving-Bey made it back to College Park for the first time since the summer, and he had naught but praise for the Terps’ program. Irving-Bey readily connected with the coaches and players, while complimenting the area; academic opportunities; and more. He felt like he fit in well with the team and community, acknowledging he could see himself living in College Park.
Moreover, Irving-Bey enjoyed sitting down with offensive line coach Dave Borbely and defensive line coach Mike London, the four-star lauding each for their personality and resume. And since Irving-Bey is being recruiting on both sides of the ball, he sees an opportunity to contribute in multiple areas at Maryland -- not to mention early during his career.
“The visit blew my mind, honestly,” said Irving-Bey, who is considering Michigan and Michigan State as well. “I was at Maryland before, but coming in I really didn’t know that much about the program. But after this weekend, learning about all the opportunities there, learning about how they could help me after football, and then just talking to the players and coaches, I really like what they have to offer.
“I haven’t been on any other officials, so I can’t really rate this one or compare it, but I did really enjoy myself at Maryland.”
Following the official, Irving-Bey reiterated that UMD sits near the top of his leaderboard.
But maybe not at the very top.
Irving-Bey has an official to Michigan coming up Dec. 9, and the Wolverines are thought to have the pole position given the program’s success; national reputation; coaches; and the atmosphere in Ann Arbor, Mich. Despite Michigan already having five D-line pledges, our colleagues who cover the Wolverines believe Irving-Bey remains a “take” for the staff.
Michigan State is somewhat involved too, and could gain the upper-hand if the Michigan coaches opt not to accept Irving-Bey’s commitment. Irving-Bey wants to check out East Lansing, Mich., officially prior to his intended commitment date at the Army All-American game Jan. 7.
The sense is Irving-Bey is going to wind up in either Ann Arbor or East Lansing before it’s all said and done, but the Terps’ coaches have made a potent pitch and do have the four-star’s eye.
You can read more about Irving-Bey HERE.
Bryce Brand, BUCK, Clayton Charter Valley (Concord, Calif.): The Arizona pledge Brand took his first official to Maryland, and it does sound like he has turtles on the brain --to an extent. The BUCK target isn’t ready to flip, but Brand was impressed with his initial look at College Park.
“Overall, the Maryland visit was great, and I got all my questions answered from a football and academic standpoint. I couldn’t of asked for a better visit,” Brand said. “The thing I liked best about Maryland, really, was the whole football program and how Coach Durkin and his staff are really building something special. You can really tell just from being around them they’re building something there.”
The Michigan native, who now resides in California, said Maryland’s enthusiastic staff; tight-knit community; and location near Washington, D.C., all caught his eye. He had a good time hanging out with the players and felt like he was immediately accepted.
Naturally, Brand had a chance to sit down with defensive line coach Mike London, who instantly connected with the recruit. The Clayton Charter product liked London personally and how the coach explained the recruit’s role in the Terps’ defense. Brand was further drawn to London and the Terps’ staff -- Chris Beatty has been after him for a good minute -- when they stopped by his California home Dec. 7, making a pitch to both the recruit and his mom.
Given the above, we might be inclined to place Brand on “flip watch.” But we can’t technically do so until Brand finishes his officials, including one to Arizona Dec. 9. Brand is also pondering visiting a couple other locales like Mississippi State, Louisville and possibly another late suitor, though none of those are set in stone.
If we had to make a call, we’d guess the Arizona coaches would be able to keep Brand in the fold, mainly because it’s close to the three-star’s family.
“Nothing has changed with Arizona,” Brand said. “I’m still solidly committed there.”
But we’ll see if that remains true. The Terps’ coaches haven’t made the decision easy for Brand.
You can read more about Brand HERE.
Naytron Culpepper, S, Carol City (Miami, Fla.): Culpepper was eager to officially visit Maryland thanks to his relationship with defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim and the Terps’ need for safeties. And now that he’s seen the school firsthand, the three-star thinks even more highly of UMD.
So highly, in fact, the Terps are probably the team to beat in this recruitment.
“The official visit was a 10. I loved it. Maryland is at the top of my list with South Carolina and a couple others like Mississippi State and Michigan State,” Culpepper said. “Maryland is really up there. I had a great time up there, and it was a lot of fun. The coaches showed me a lot of love, the players showed me love, and I just had a good time and it felt like home.
“It’s a family before a football team there, and that was great. The players, they told me they love it at Maryland and love the coaches.”
Culpepper easily bonded with the coaching staff, talking up head coach D.J. Durkin and his defensive assistants. The Carol City product’s bond with Abdul-Rahim runs deep, Culpepper calling the secondary staffer his favorite recruiter.
Culpepper connected well with the current Terps too, making sure to note how many Floridians UMD already has on its roster. He also loved the College Park area and the various internship/post-grad opportunities in D.C. and Baltimore.
But, more than anything else, Culpepper thinks he can develop at Maryland and contribute immediately after arriving on campus. That latter possibility, coupled with his potential role in Maryland’s defense (he likes how he could play different positions), seems to have grabbed Culpepper’s attention.
True, Culpepper isn’t ready to commit just yet, and much can happen during the holidays and into January. But the feeling is Maryland has the edge on Michigan State (Jan. 13 official), Mississippi State (unscheduled January official) and Indiana (unscheduled January official).
South Carolina, though, could still throw a wrench into the Terps’ coaches’ plans. The Gamecocks were Culpepper’s stated leader after his Columbia, S.C., official, but, as we’ve written previously, headman Will Muschamp isn’t ready to accept the Carol City prospect’s commitment at this stage. That could change if USC still needs a safety in January, but at this juncture we don’t foresee it.
Thus, we like Maryland’s position and have shifted Culpepper to “hot” on the hot board.
You can read more about Culpepper HERE.
Tavyn Jackson, CB, James Rickards (Tallahassee, Fla.): Jackson remains committed to South Carolina post-UMD trip, but it’s a “soft” pledge at best. The Terps’ staff has done very well here, and they look to be positioned for a flip down the line.
“[The Maryland official] was everything I expected and more,” said Jackson, who allowed he’d be returning to College Park unofficially at some point. “I’d rate it like an 100 out of 10 (laughs). I loved it up there. I’m pretty high on Maryland right now. To be completely honest, after the Maryland official, I’d say a flip could happen. To be honest, it could.”
Jackson loved chatting with Maryland defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, head coach D.J. Durkin and the rest of the staff Dec. 2-4, noting their energetic demeanors and resumes. In particular, Jackson has a close rapport with Abdul-Rahim, the recruit counting the coach as one of his most ardent pursuers.
The Tallahassee native is well aware the Terps have holes in the secondary, so the prospects of playing early during his college career has his attention.
The James Rickard product also liked how many Floridians the Terps had on the team, Jackson mentioning how comfortable he felt around the team. Furthermore, Jackson praised the campus, the College Park area and its location near D.C., the three-star intimating he could see himself living at UMD. To boot, he liked the atmosphere inside Xfinity Center for the basketball game.
Jackson does intend to follow through with a South Carolina official, likely in January, but it doesn’t sound like the Gamecocks’ coaches are truly pushing for the James Rickard product. We could see Jackson reneging on that trip and simply decommitting from USC.
The three-star would like to officially visit Indiana sometime in January too, but we don’t see the Hoosiers trumping the Terps at this stage. We’ve shifted Jackson to “hot” on the hot board and have him on “flip watch.”
You can read more about Jackson HERE.
Alex Woods, CB, Lackawanna (Scranton, Pa.): The junior-college corner Woods entered his Maryland official on “pop watch,” and he followed through with said pop Dec. 4. The former West Virginia pledge loved his stay in College Park, from the coaches he met; to the players he hung out with; to the students he interacted with. He liked the energy emanating from the program, the overall enthusiasm, the school’s location near D.C., and the various internship opportunities.
Most importantly, though, Woods connected with defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, the recruit believing he can learn plenty from the secondary staffer and then have a significant impact in Maryland’s defense. Woods said he knows he’s needed in College Park and can step in right away and contribute. The Lackawanna corner also took to head coach D.J. Durkin and recruiter Pete Lembo, noting the family environment they, and the rest of the coaches, provided.
It only helped matters that Woods’ mother was impressed with the Terps’ program.
“I had actually been thinking about committing for weeks now. I was actually going to flip to Maryland from West Virginia, but I just decided to go through the process of decommitting and then taking the official,” Woods said. “The timeframe worked out where I could go through it all, but really I knew I was going to Maryland for a good while now.
“Basically, even without seeing a game there, I knew it’s where I wanted to be. You can tell Coach [D.J.] Durkin is making changes in the program and has it on the rise. They have everything I was looking for in a school – a great DB coach, a great head coach, an opportunity to play, and a great education. And it’s only like four hours from my home, so that’s not so bad. It was plusses in every area.”
Woods did have hometown East Carolina on his radar, but, beyond sentimental appeal, the Pirates couldn’t offer the same opportunity as the Terps.
The North Carolina native will have two years of eligibility remaining after enrolling in January.
So, what are the Terps getting in the 6-2, 185 pounder?
Woods is a rangy, long corner with solid quickness and athleticism. He’s smart, instinctual, and displays above-average ball skills. Woods is not the fastest defensive back around, and he has technical areas to shore up, but he has enough tools to contribute right away at Maryland.
The concern, however, is that Woods hasn’t played in a year after missing this season with a torn labrum. He should be able to bounce back, but one of the main reasons more programs didn’t pursue was Woods’ lack of film.
You can read more about Woods HERE.
More Recruiting Notes
Tyran Hunt, OT, Southampton (Courtland, Va.): The tackle Hunt canceled his Duke official visit Dec. 9-11, meaning it’s down to Maryland and Virginia for the three-star, with Syracuse third in the pecking order. Hunt, who officially visited each of the aforementioned programs, should be selecting either UMD or UVA in short order.
Both the Terps and Wahoos sent multiple coaches in to see Hunt this week, with head coach D.J. Durkin and line coach Dave Borbely doing the honors for UMD. The Virginia native did have Maryland out in front for a long while, but the in-state school has made up ground of late. The feeling is the Hoos are either neck and neck, or maybe even slightly ahead of the Terps, at this time.
But, truth be told, this is a tough call as Hunt seems torn between the two programs. On one hand, he likes the idea of staying in state and attending a nationally-renowned academic institution like UVA. Despite Virginia’s on-field performance this season, Hunt and his family have taken a liking to the coaching staff and their character-building mentality. The culture surrounding Virginia -- socially, academically and athletically -- fits Hunt well too.
On the other hand, Hunt absolutely loved his treks through College Park, which prompted him to place Maryland atop the totem pole in late November. He extolled the coaching staff’s emphasis on both education and athletics, the welcoming atmosphere provided by the players and fans, the business/networking opportunities in Washington D.C. and Baltimore, and the program’s direction under Durkin. To boot, Hunt and his parents have an outstanding relationship with UMD-area recruiter Mike London.
This looks like a toss-up, but we’ll stick with Maryland since Hunt’s had the Terps out in front for some time.
Either way, we should have a resolution soon enough.
Note: If the UMD coaches miss on Hunt, look for them to offer ASA (Brooklyn, N.Y.) junior-college tackle Nour-Eddine Seidnally, who we wrote about last week. The DMV native, who visited UMD Nov. 26, is seeking a Terps’ scholarship and would likely snap it up if it’s presented.
Kyree Campbell, DT, Wyoming Seminary Upper School (Kingston, Pa.): The Virginia native Campbell, whom the Maryland staff went after last recruiting cycle, is spending a prep year at Wyoming Seminary Upper School. And with the Terps in need of D-line help, the staff reinitiated contact with the former four-star recruit Dec. 4.
Campbell responded by promptly placing the Terps among his top-five suitors. He is in the process of setting a January official to College Park.
That’s fine, but we’re told this is a somewhat “murky” situation. There may be some issues to work out here before the Terps’ staff can push for Campbell in earnest.
In the meantime, Campbell is heading to Penn State Dec. 9 for a look at the Nittany Lions. It’s questionable, though, whether the PSU staff will go hard after Campbell, either.
The other players here are Temple, Pittsburgh and JMU, all of which could get looks after the New Year. But, if Campbell winds up at a place like JMU, well, Terps’ fans can probably surmise why.
For now, we’ll place Campbell on the hot board as “cool.”
Vic Dimukeje, BUCK, Boys’ Latin (Baltimore, Md.): There’s really not much more to say here. The signs have been there for a couple months, but it’s becoming more evident each week that Dimukeje is not going to wind up in College Park. (Read: missed prospect days, cancelled gameday visits, no family outings in College Park). The latest indication came when the Boys’ Latin product decided he’d rather take an official to Virginia Tech Dec. 9-11 than head over to Maryland for its major DMV visit day.
The Hokies’ defensive reputation, coordinator Bud Foster’s resume and the coaches’ pitch have Dimukeje’s attention. The edge rusher believes he could fit well into Va Tech’s versatile, hybrid scheme, with Foster taking advantage of Dimukeje’s athleticism.
Wake Forest remains in the thick of things too, with Dimukeje eager to see Winston Salem, N.C., after the New Year. Tech may be trending, but the Deacons’ small-school atmosphere and the coaches’ longstanding, tight-knit bonds still ring true.
Maryland may get a look in January as well, but it might be of the courtesy variety. UMD defensive line coach Mike London did his best here, forming a father-like bond with Dimukeje. But it seems like the one-time mutual interest between the two sides has waned, leading London and Dimukeje to explore other options.
Unless there’s a sudden change of heart, look for Dimukeje wind up in either Blacksburg or Winston Salem.
We’ve shifted the three-star to “cool” on the hot board.
Note: We didn't think Dimukeje was a "take" for Duke any longer, but apparently headman Dave Cutcliffe was in to see the Boys' Latin recruit Dec. 8. If the Blue Devils' staff is legitimately on Dimukeje, they could probably land him after a January official.
Jordan Anthony, OLB, IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.): Anthony reneged on an Oklahoma official Dec. 2 and then cancelled his Maryland trip Dec. 9, all but giving away his intentions. The four-star DMV recruit will supposedly return to Ann Arbor on his own dime Dec. 9, and then will announce his college destination Dec. 22. So unless he throws a curveball, Anthony’s intentions are pretty clear.
Anthony has had Michigan out in front since well before his standout Oct. 1 official and subsequent visits from Wolverines’ assistant Don Brown and Co. The ex-Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) backer has formed a tight-knit bond with multiple Wolverines’ coaches, Anthony believing he could thrive under them. The atmosphere on campus, in the Big House, and around the program has the Maryland native thinking long and hard about Michigan as well. In addition, Anthony wants the chance to play for a title contender and in a top-notch defense, and Michigan certainly provides the opportunity to do so.
The Terps’ staff made a formidable run at Anthony, with area recruiter Chris Beatty; defensive line coach Mike London; D.C. native Aazaar Abdul-Rahim; defensive coordinator Andy Buh; and headman D.J. Durkin doing all the could to convince Anthony to return home for college. They’ve kept communication lines open, trekked through his school, offered immediate playing time, and harped on building the hometown school into a winner.
Anthony, for his part, has praised their message and personally believes the Terps are on the come-up in the Big Ten. He’s keen on the idea of teaming up with his friends and fellow DMV natives in College Park too.
But, like with some of the other elite recruits the Maryland staff is pursuing, UMD’s advantages may not be enough to jump the country’s foremost programs. It’s difficult to turn down the chance to play for a coach like Jim Harbaugh -- especially a defensive recruit like Anthony.
Markquese Bell, S/OLB, Bridgeton (N.J.): How the winds have shifted with this one.
A few questions have led some of Bell’s major suitors, including Ohio State and Michigan, to back away for the moment, and it’s no guarantee the four-star is going to wind up at hometown Rutgers either. That leaves Maryland as one of Bell’s most significant suitors, with the Terps’ staff seemingly primed to reel the Jersey athlete in.
Bell, remember, officially visited College Park Oct. 21-23, and then returned for an unofficial Dec. 3. He extoled both recent stays at Maryland, detailing the fan atmosphere at the football game (Oct. 22) and basketball game (Dec. 3); the welcoming environment provided by the coaches and players; and the school’s location/academic opportunities.
It helps that Maryland’s staff has been in regular communication with Bell for months, namely defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim and linebackers coach Matt Barnes. Both have trekked through Bridgeton and let on how much they covet Bell’s services.
The Garden State recruit isn’t ready to shut down his recruitment just yet, however, and will take an official to Virginia Tech Dec. 9-11. The Hokies are attempting to make a late run, but are likely trailing Maryland and RU at this juncture.
Also, it’s important to note that Ohio State, which Bell officially visited in November, could jump back on the four-star if the Buckeyes’ coaches find a scholarship for him. If so, then Bell’s going to wind up in Columbus, Ohio.
But the Terps are trending and could have the inside track, with Bell set to commit Jan. 1.
The Jersey recruit has been shifted to “hot” on the hot board.
Louis Acceus, OLB, St. Joseph Regional (Montvale, N.J.): Scout’s Brian Dohn touched base with Acceus this week, and the three-star basically delivered the same spiel he has for several months -- with a couple caveats.
Most notably, Acceus no longer has Pitt and UNC in the running as both schools’ staffs have moved on to other targets. That’s somewhat significant, because the Tar Heels at one time posed the greatest threat to Maryland for Acceus’ services.
The St. Joseph Regional prospect replaced the Panthers and Tar Heels with Indiana and NC State, but both are relative newcomers in this recruitment and won’t land Acceus unless the top-two contenders drop off. Those top two are, of course, UMD and Va Tech, which have been broached time and again in conjunction with Acceus. But, of the pair, the Terps have long held the edge, Acceus labeling Maryland his No. 1 suitor since he first visited College Park last spring. The Jersey native has returned to UMD twice more, raving about each successive stay.
"I like what [Maryland has] to offer, and the atmosphere of the campus. I like coach (D.J.) Durkin. He's a nice guy. I feel like belong there,” Acceus told Dohn. "It was my second time going to college game and it was a good experience… And [area recruiter Matt Barnes] came to my house last week and met with my mom. She loved him. He is real down to earth. He's respectful. He's charismatic."
Expect Acceus to take his College Park official sometime in January, with Jan. 13 as the target date. Acceus may journey down to Virginia Tech, but that might be his last official before concluding his recruitment.
At the moment, all signs still point in Maryland’s direction. We’re leaving him “hot” on the hot board and will keep projecting Acceus to College Park.
John Lovett, S, Cherokee (Burlington, N.J.): Lovett was supposed to take his second official to Maryland Dec. 2, but he decided against it, perhaps at the UMD staff’s urging. The Terps already had one safety on campus Dec. 2-4, Naytron Culpepper (discussed above), who is the priority, so the coaches might not have wanted both in College Park at the same time.
Lovett said he still wants to officially visit Maryland in January, however, with Jan. 13 as a potential target date. The Cherokee prospect, who has seen UMD twice before, has been counting the Terps as one of his primary contenders ever since decommitting from Rutgers. Lovett has a great relationship with UMD-area recruiter Matt Barnes and knows Director of Recruiting Marcus Berry and defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim as well. Lovett likes Maryland’s location near Washington, D.C., and how it’s only a couple hours from home too.
But, if the Terps’ staff is able to land Culpepper, there probably won’t be any room for Lovett. Maryland is likely taking just one true safety in the 2017 class, and they have a couple current commits who could easily transition to safety.
Either way, expect the UMD coaches to keep in touch with the Garden State native in case Culpepper falls off.
In the meantime, Lovett will visit Piscataway, N.J., before the dead period. Although the three-star decommitted from Rutgers, he still has the hometown school in mind and will give head coach Chris Ash and Co. a chance to win him over.
Iowa, meanwhile, which wants Lovett as a running back, was the recipient of a mid-November official. The Jersey recruit loved the staff and environment in Iowa City, Ia., not to mention the program’s penchant for a strong running game.
As for Penn State, recall, the staff is not going to “take” Lovett at this stage, despite handing him an offer.
With the above in mind, the feeling is Lovett may end up at Iowa or Rutgers -- unless the Terps’ staff elects to push. Lovett is also leaving a couple January weekends open in case another attractive offer crops up.
O.J. Tucker, CB, Vanguard (Ocala, Fla.): The three-star Tucker is back on the market after decommitting from Georgia Tech Dec. 2, and he’s the Terps’ to lose -- if they want him. The Maryland staff does have other safety/corner targets ranked ahead of Tucker, so the Floridian might not be an immediate “take.”
Either way, Tucker has high interest in the Terps and has his College Park official set for Jan. 12. Tucker said he likes UMD defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim a good amount and is eager to meet the rest of the coaches in person. The Vanguard prospect also knows the Terps need help in their secondary, so he sees more of an opportunity at a place like Maryland than at Georgia Tech.
Regardless of where the Terps stand with Tucker, the corner will take a look at Wake Forest. The Deacons sent assistants through Vanguard and are making a strong run at the three-star. Tucker, who has the Deacons sitting right alongside the Terps atop his leaderboard, will officially visit Winston Salem, N.C., Jan. 20.
The Ocala native will give Georgia Tech a look too, with an official set for Jan. 28. But he didn’t sound particularly high on the Jackets after backing out of his commitment.
It’s possible Iowa State or UCF could become involved with Tucker, but at this stage he’s probably heading to Wake if the Terps’ staff backs off.
You can read more about Tucker HERE.
New Offers Out
Sam Howell, QB, Sun Valley (Monroe, N.C.) (2019): While down in North Carolina, Terps offensive coordinator Walt Bell delivered an offer to this budding quarterback Dec. 7.
Howell, a 6-1, 200-pound dual-threat, is a surefire top recruit and should have much of the ACC and some schools in the SEC after him in time. In that sense, Bell did well to identify him early. Perhaps, Howell will even visit College Park at some point this offseason or next, giving Maryland a chance to stay in the game even as the Carolina native’s offer list expands.
Jalen McKenzie, OT, Clayton Valley (Concord, Calif.): Maryland assistant Chris Beatty tossed an offer McKenzie’s way Dec. 3, and the Clayton Valley product is considering it. McKenzie is friends with California resident and current IMG Academy defensive end Bryce Brand (discussed above), who is another prime UMD target who officially visited College Park. Beatty, who doubles as Brand’s recruiter, is attempting to off a coup, coaxing McKenzie to Maryland by way of Brand.
But even if Brand isn’t an option for UMD, the Terps’ coaches do have a shot with McKenzie, because many of the tackle’s major suitors have either backed off or failed to extend an offer.
The 6-6, 307-pound four-star is a Tennessee legacy with his father, uncle and brother all playing for the Vols. McKenzie wants in at Rocky Top too, but the UT coaches haven’t offered yet and likely won’t at this stage of the game. In addition, McKenzie is seeking offers from programs like LSU, Michigan and USC, but those schools’ coaches aren’t expected to ante up either.
That leaves Maryland as one of his more significant pursuers. Now, McKenzie is contemplating an official visit to College Park after the New Year.
Realize, however, that offerees Arizona State and UCLA do have McKenzie’s eye. Expect him to officially visit both of those programs provided their respective coaches keep pushing.
This is a prospect worth monitoring, though, especially if McKenzie makes it to College Park.
Qadir White, OT, Cardinal Hayes (Bronx, N.Y.) (2018): Maryland-area recruiter Pete Lembo trekked through New York Dec. 7 and gave the 6-7, 291-pound four-star tackle White a Terps’ offer. It was White’s 12th overall offer, with some of the other notables being Miami; Pitt; Rutgers; BC; Minnesota; and Syracuse.
White’s going to reach a higher level than the latter verbals indicate, however. The Big Ten, ACC and maybe even the SEC bigwigs will ante up soon enough. The Cardinal Hayes lineman is one of the top-rated recruits in New York and could have his pick of schools by the time spring comes around.
Let’s see if Lembo can convince White to give College Park a look this winter.
Anton Harrison, OT, Carroll (Washington, D.C.)(2020): The Terps became the third program to offer this future star from the DMV, joining Syracuse and Kentucky. Harrison is already 6-5, 260 pounds and figures to be 6-7 before it's all said and done. He'll have his pick of schools in a couple years, so UMD-area recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim did well to jump on the local before he blows up.
Expect Abdul-Rahim to stay hard after Harrison and for the recruit to be a regular in College Park.
Kirby Jones, DE, Jones (Orlando, Fla.) (2018): The four-star junior Kirby has been on fire of late, watching his recruitment rise from a high Division I suitors to almost 15 in the span of a month. The Terps, who sent numerous coaches through Florida once again this week, became the 6-3, 235-pounder’s latest offeree Dec. 7. Jones already had looks from FSU, Ohio State, Tennessee, Miami, Florida, Duke, Kentucky, NC State, Iowa State, Rutgers, USF and more.
In-state Florida State, Miami and UF are the frontrunners initially, but Kirby’s recruitment could go in many different directions. One thing is near certain, however: Kirby is sure to wind up at a national elite.
Jamar Darboe, ILB, Christchurch (Va.) (2018): The Terps were first to offer this Virginia linebacker Dec. 3 when UMD-area recruiter Mike London let Darboe’s coach know he wanted to ante up. The 6-1, 233-pound Darboe was absolutely thrilled with the look, admitting he started yelling and crying when he heard about the scholarship.
Darboe was already familiar with London and the Terps prior to the look, however. The junior had visited College Park twice before, most recently for the UMD-Ohio State game in November. Darboe extolled the Terps’ fans, Maryland Stadium, the campus, and the environment in and around the program.
But the Christchurch product saved his most effusive comments for London.
“I met Coach London and the Director of Recruiting [Marcus Berry] when I was there, and I liked them both. Coach London is a great guy, a cool guy and a spiritual guy. He’s very down to earth and you can talk to him about anything. I really like Coach London, and my mom and grandmother like him too,” Darboe said. “He has a great resume, he’s been the head coach of an ACC program, and I’d love for him to be my coach.”
The Terps seemingly have a bead, but Darboe’s recruitment is in its infant stages. He’s getting interest from various ACC programs, with coaches from UVA; Va Tech; and UNC all interested. The budding backer hinted that North Carolina was a dream school of sorts, Darboe talking up his recent stay in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Expect Darboe to take numerous trips this offseason, including another jaunt through College Park.
You can read more about Darboe HERE.
Shayne Simon, S, St. Peter’s Prep (Jersey City, N.J.) (2018): The junior Simon pulled his seventh offer from Maryland Dec. 6, the Terps joining Army; Navy; North Carolina; BC; Rutgers; and Syracuse.
Those won’t be the last schools to join the fray for the 6-3, 195-pounder. Simon is a potential four-star recruit, and has the Big Ten and ACC elites closely monitoring him.
The Jersey product likes the hometown Scarlet Knights after taking in RU, but, at this stage, he’s wide open in his recruitment. Simon will embark on numerous trips this offseason, with programs such as Michigan; Ohio State; UNC; Penn State; and others in mind.
Let’s see if UMD-area recruiter Matt Barnes can get Simon down to College Park this winter.
Off The Board
Blake Williams, TE, Canada Prep (St. Catharines, Ontario): We kept Williams, who has missed the last two years with injury, on the hot board just in case the Maryland staff came back around to him if they missed on their other tight end targets.
Well, the Terps did see a couple tight ends either come off the board or are about to come off the board (see: Sal Cannella), but Williams hasn’t reported any renewed contact with the UMD coaches. It seems like Maryland’s coaches will go in a different direction for a tight end, even if the likes of Sal Cannella head elsewhere.
Tareke Lewis, CB, Riverside C.C. (Riverside, Calif.): The junior-college corner Lewis was trending away from Maryland anyway, and on Dec. 6 he popped to Utah after West Virginia’s staff backed off.
The Terps, with Aazaar Abdul-Rahim running point, might maintain contact here, and tentatively Lewis does have an official visit set to College Park in January. But we’re not so sure Lewis follows through with that trip.
He has some academic issues that have prevented the UMD staff from pursuing in earnest, and with JUCO corner Alex Woods (discussed above) already on board, we don’t foresee headman D.J. Durkin adding Lewis as well.