TTDave's Inside The Shell

Welcome to our next edition of Inside the Shell, the weekly Maryland football-recruiting roundup.

Welcome to our next edition of Inside the Shell, the weekly Maryland football-recruiting roundup.

December 9-11 Official Visitor Recap

Maryland’s “program-changing” official-visit weekend saw more than 20 recruits show up in College Park, Md., including most of the incoming class and nine uncommitted targets. The end result was three pledges, several recruits trending towards the Terps, solidified commitment statuses for the currently pledged, and a ton of pro-UMD buzz.

Calvin Ashley, OT, St. John’s (Washington, D.C.): The Auburn commit Ashley is one of those touted recruits who pretty much the entire Maryland staff is involved with, and the five-star received the royal treatment Dec. 9-11. From head coach D.J. Durkin to area recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim to line coach Dave Borbely to offensive coordinator Walt Bell, Ashley, along with his father, were thoroughly impressed with the staff’s presentation.  

Ashley already knew how much the Maryland coaches wanted him, and he was well aware of Maryland’s need at offensive tackle, but it was those in-person overtures that resonated. Ashley is keen on the coaches’ pitch about joining a program thought to be on the rise and potentially aiding in its ascension.

Moreover, the Florida native has quickly formed friendships with two of his teammates heading to College Park: Cam Spence and Kasim Hill. The two Terps’ pledges joined Ashley during the official and were in his ear about jumping on the UMD bandwagon.

So were the current Terps.

Ashley reportedly bonded well with the team and liked how UMD featured a variety of players from both the DMV and from his Florida home. If that weren’t enough, Ashley has taken to the D.C. area after a year at St. John’s and wouldn’t mind sticking around town for college.

Now, Ashley remains an Auburn pledge and should be heading through Alabama Jan. 20 for his official. The AU staff has stayed on Ashley, sending coaches through to ensure the five-star stays on board.

Also, Ashley may still inclined to take a look at Florida since it’s his hometown school. We don’t envision a flip to the Gators, but it’s something worth monitoring.

But, from what we’re hearing, an Ashley flip to Maryland is a real possibility. He has been shifted to “hot” on the hot board.

Breyon & Brandon Gaddy, DT, Bishop Sullivan Catholic (Virginia Beach, Va.): Talk about a stunner.

We’d heard leading up to the Gaddy brothers’ Maryland official the Terps were in the game for the four-star Breyon Gaddy and the three-star Brandon Gaddy, but were likely trailing Florida and Virginia Tech. Sometimes, however, standout campus trips and strong coach relationships can turn the tide rather quickly.

Which is what happened at the end of the twins’ 48-hour stay in College Park, the Gaddys committing to head coach D.J. Durkin Dec. 11.

"We love the players and coaches," said Brandon Gaddy, who is the 56th-ranked defensive tackle in the country, in an interview with Scout’s Mike Clark. "They visit definitely played a big role in our decision. I loved the visit. I loved everything they had planned for us. It was just great."

"Maryland is a great place and we're really excited," said Breyon Gaddy, who is the 24th-ranked defensive tackle in the nation. "As soon as we got there, we felt a connection with the coaches and players. They made us feel welcome. And I know the coaches are going to help us be successful."

During position meetings, the Gaddys instantly connected with defensive line coach Mike London, the assistant’s player-development reputation and demeanor hitting home. The two were shown how they’d be featured in UMD’s defense, and the chance to potentially play side-by-side and up and down the line hit home. The pair were made aware they could potentially contribute right away in College Park, which was a significant plus for them.

Furthermore, London, area recruiter Chris Beatty -- who is a regular at Bishop Sullivan Catholic and formed deep inroads with the Gaddys-- Durkin and the rest of the staff left a significant impression on the recruits and their parents.

If that weren’t enough, the Gaddys loved hanging out with all the other recruits and the current players. Being around the multitude of Terps’ commits, who let the twins know what was up at UMD, aided in the brothers’ perception of Maryland.  

Afterwards, the former Tennessee commits said they were all on board with Maryland and wouldn’t be taking any other officials. Naturally, other suitors will come after the Gaddy twins -- Oregon’s staff anted up Dec. 12 -- but we’re led to believe the two should stick with the Terps.

Provided the Gaddys sign with UMD, it will represent a significant pickup beyond what the two offer physically. The Terps have made strides in the talent-riddled 757 and the Hampton areas thanks to Beatty’s and London’s ties, but now they have something tangible to demonstrate their progress. Perhaps adding the Gaddy twins will spark the staff’s future efforts as they continue to mine Virginia.

So, what are the Terps getting in Breyon and Brandon Gaddy?

The four-star Breyon Gaddy stands 6-feet-4, 305 pounds and is a potential backfield buster. He gets off the ball well, has terrific explosiveness and is strong enough to drive offensive guards back into the pocket. Breyon Gaddy possesses above-average athleticism too, showing the ability to make plays down the line and out in space.

The one knock on the four-star is his technique, namely his rush moves; hand placement and footwork. But those areas should be ironed out once he begins working under a defensive line coach like London.

Brandon Gaddy, on the other hand, is a 6-5, 290-pound athlete who actually played running back; tight end; and defensive end his junior year. Gaddy projects to defense, and can line up as either a 3- or 5-tecnhique, but we wouldn’t be shocked if Durkin gave him a look at tight end, either.

Regardless of his spot, Brandon Gaddy is a mammoth, athletic specimen who can both eat up space and make plays in the open. He’s a stout, physical presence; has a quick first step; and displays standout burst and acceleration. Brandon Gaddy is also loose and agile, allowing him to slip through gaps; ably change direction; and get down the line.

Brandon Gaddy, like his brother, does have to shore up his fundamentals and continue honing his backside pursuit. But his size-speed-athleticism combination should play well in a variety of roles at Maryland.

You can read more about the Gaddys HERE.

Tyree Johnson, BUCK/DE, St. John’s (Washington, D.C.): The local BUCK target and TAMU pledge Johnson finally made it back to Maryland Dec. 9-11, and the visit went as well as could be expected. Johnson had a good time chatting with defensive line coach Mike London, area recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, defensive coordinator Andy Buh and headman D.J. Durkin.

The St. John’s prospect also enjoyed hanging with his fellow St. John’s teammates and the other DMV recruits on campus. And the current Terps, with Cavon Walker acting as host, made him feel welcome and part of the team. (Of course, Johnson has always felt comfortable in College Park after multiple forays last offseason, the three-star routinely joining teammates-turned-Terps commits Cam Spence and Kasim Hill on campus.)

"[The players] were real cool dudes," Johnson told Scout’s Brian Dohn. "It was like I've always been with them for a number of years. Everybody was cool with everybody, and that's what I like.

“I was focused on how the players were interacting with each other, and how they feel playing under coach (D.J.) Durkin. I was seeing how they were liking the place with the coaching change (after the 2015 season), and everyone seemed to love it. They want to play for the coaches, and for each other, so it was good."

But while Johnson may be warming up to the local school again, we haven’t heard a flip is imminent. In fact, we’re inclined to believe Johnson is fairly open to anything, whether it’s sticking with the SEC -- either at Texas A&M or maybe Auburn, whose staff offered in early December -- heading north to Rutgers; south to Baylor (the Bears’ coaches offered Dec. 13); or staying home with Maryland.

We might not know what Johnson’s truly thinking until late January, when his officials are completed. Johnson will be in College Station, Texas, Jan. 20, and is considering checking out AU after the New Year too.

The Maryland coaches are going to keep pressing for Johnson, evidenced by Abdul-Rahim; London; Durkin and others trekking through St. John’s and the recruit’s household the last couple weeks. But time will tell if the Terps can top what TAMU is offering, which is the chance to play in the nation’s No. 1 conference.

You can read more about Johnson HERE.

Kofi Wardlow, BUCK, St. John’s (Washington, D.C.): The Terps were positioned well for Wardlow prior to his Dec. 9-11 College Park official, and Maryland only improved its standing afterwards. The athletic St. John’s lineman, who visited Maryland about four times during the fall, raved about his latest jaunt through UMD. Although, in reality, his comments mirrored those from some of his previous trips; there wasn’t too much he hadn’t already seen or knew about the program.

In effect, the official was all about Wardlow having fun with the players and coaches. It also allowed the staff an opportunity to continue making inroads with his parents.

Mission accomplished.

Afterwards, Wardlow said he loved being with all the DMV recruits and commits, while the Terps’ players made him feel like he was part of the program.

“It was real good. I had a lot of fun with the commits there and my teammates Cam Spence and Kasim Hill. It was cool being around all the people that are going to be [at Maryland],” Wardlow said. “Just hanging out with the others players, that was my favorite part. I wanted to see how well I gelled with those guys, and I had a great time and felt very comfortable.”

The local edge rusher then complimented the staff’s enthusiastic stay-home spiel. He also detailed how much he likes the BUCK position and Maryland’s defense in general.

And, per Wardlow’s intimations, his parents readily bonded with assistants Mike London and Aazaar Abdul-Rahim and head coach D.J. Durkin. The Wardlows appreciated the family feel the staff provided and how well the coaches answered their questions.

But Wardlow isn’t ready to end his recruitment just yet. Post dead period, Wardlow wants to officially visit Pitt Jan. 13, Va Tech Jan. 20 and maybe Boston College Jan. 27. The Hokies are probably Maryland’s main threat for Wardlow’s services, the three-star high on Tech’s defense and coordinator Bud Foster.

Wardlow previously took an official to Michigan State, and though he had much praise for the Spartans and their defensive reputation, we don’t envision the St. John’s product in East Lansing, Mich.

Terps’ fans may have to sweat out that January trip to Blacksburg, Va., but for now we see no reason to move Wardlow off “hot’ on the hot board.

You can read more about Wardlow HERE.

Guy Thomas, BUCK/DE, Booker T. Washington (Miami, Fla.): Thomas remains committed to Nebraska, but the Terps did have a chance to leave an impression during the three-star’s first look at College Park.

The 6-2.5, 200-pounder was complimentary enough, lauding the coaches first and foremost. Thomas loved the staff’s overarching personality, energy and positive attitude. The Booker T. Washington product easily connected with headman D.J. Durkin, and the Miami native already had a close bond with London from previous encounters.

Thomas also liked the versatility of the BUCK position and how he’d be used in Maryland’s defense. He senses an opportunity to contribute soon after arriving on campus.

Thomas fit in well with the team and other recruits too. He chatted up fellow Floridians-turned-Terps, who let Thomas know how much they enjoyed being in College Park.

Taken at face value, the above all seems well and good. But then Thomas dropped in this caveat:

“I’d rate the visit a ‘7’ overall. It was good, but it wasn’t, like, perfect. But it’s a good school and I liked it there.”

In other words, we’re not so sure Thomas was thinking “flip” post trip. (Nor are we positive the Terps' coaches are even making a run at him).

Thomas still has an official to Louisville coming up Jan. 13, and the Cardinals do have his eye. Plus, Thomas intends to take his final official to Lincoln, Neb., and if that comes to fruition -- depending on whether or not the Huskers’ coaches keep pushing -- the defensive end could wind up sticking with Nebraska.

Thomas is staying “cool” on the hot board.

You can read more about Thomas HERE.

Nick Underwood, ILB, Riverside C.C. (Riverside, Calif.): The junior-college inside linebacker Underwood became the third weekend Maryland commitment after officially visiting Dec. 8-10. It was a tight battle between the Terps and Washington State for the Oregon native, and although WSU held sentimental appeal since it’s close to home and would’ve allowed Underwood to play in the Pac-12 (the conference he grew up watching), Maryland’s advantages won out.

 “I have a lot of respect for Mike Leach his coaching staff and the WSU program. They are a great program,” said Underwood, a January enrollee who will have three years of eligibility remaining. “But, for me, the University of Maryland offers an incredible, elite Big Ten program that is on the rise and I want to be apart of it.”

Underwood raved about linebackers’ coach Matt Barnes and the rest of the Maryland staff, making sure to mention their ardent pursuit and how welcoming they were during the official. The Oregon native extoled UMD’s strength program, headed by Rick Court, and how he’d be adequately prepared physically for the next level.

The linebacker had similar comments for Maryland’s defense, noting how it’s a “pro system” and would allow him to transition to the NFL should he prove capable.

The Riverside product had a great time with player host Avery Edwards and the rest of the Terps too. Underwood said ever player he spoke to loved it at Maryland and thinks the program is on the rise, leading the JUCO to state UMD “is on the verge of being great.”

To boot, Underwood talked up the Under Armour connections, the business school, the coming facility upgrades (he dubbed them “mind blowing”), the campus and more. Underwood even said he could see himself living on the East Coast and near Washington, D.C.

A few days later, after visiting Washington State and speaking to his parents, Underwood opted in at Maryland. He said it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up, and he’s eager to begin the next stage of his career.

So, what is Maryland getting in the 6-2, 230-pounder?

Underwood is a quick-twitch, instinctive backer who sees the field well; wraps up; and can deliver a thump. He has a fast first step, gets downhill in a hurry, and shows the ability to shed blocks and make plays at or behind the line. Underwood is also agile and loose enough to drop into coverage.

Underwood isn’t a sideline-to-sideline defender, and he can be caught flat-footed from time to time. But he looks like a dependable gap defender who should be able to control the box.

You can read more Underwood HERE.

Ellis Brooks, ILB, Benedictine (Richmond, Va.): Brooks attempted to play it close to the vest in his post-official interview with Scout’s Mike Clark, but the Terps are probably still the team to beat here. The four-star inside backer told Clark he had a great time at Maryland bonding with the staff and other DMV recruits in attendance. The football banquet, in particular, stood out, letting the recruits to connect with the coaches and players on a more personal level.

Furthermore, Brooks thinks the Terps are on the up-and-up with the incoming class and the way the current squad has responded to the coaches.

Speaking of those coaches, Brooks has an outstanding relationship with recruiter Mike London, position coach Matt Barnes and headman D.J. Durkin. The four-star had productive meetings with all three during the official, with Brooks speaking to each staffer’s personality and coaching prowess. (The UMD coaches have also done well with Brooks’ father, who is paramount in this recruitment.)

"It meant a lot that we were able to speak," Brooks said of his conversation with Durkin. "His main message was that they really like me as a player and person -- and that they want me at Maryland. He answered all my questions. If I were to go there, my role would be middle linebacker and he said he thought I'd fit well in their defense.

"I've always thought he was a really good coach, but I can tell he really cares about his players. He pushes them to work hard, too, and that's what you want in a head coach."

In addition, Brooks knows he can contribute early in College Park and likes how he’d be used in UMD’s defense. What’s more, the Benedictine prospect loves the school’s location near Washington, D.C., the internship opportunities the area presents, and the various majors he can pursue.

Now, Brooks does want to follow through with an official to academically-rigorous Northwestern Jan. 13, and he’ll take in new offeree Oregon Jan. 20.

Of those, the Wildcats likely hold some weight given the school’s educational reputation, although we’re led to believe Maryland has the edge for now. The Ducks’ coaches, for their part, were late to the game and probably have ground to make up. And although Brooks isn’t concerned about a school’s distance from home, he might change his tune once he realizes just how far Eugene, Ore., is from Richmond.

Thus, the tealeaves continue to read “Terps,” and we’ll keep projecting the inside linebacker to College Park. Truth be told, we wouldn’t be totally shocked if Brooks opted to forego his final two officials and commits at the Under Armour All-American game Jan. 1.

You can read more about Brooks HERE.

Tariq Castro-Fields, CB, Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.): Castro-Fields has the Terps trending following his official to College Park, but now we’ll see just how much clout the Maryland staff has with the four-star local. The Riverdale product didn’t commit on campus, and he intends to follow through with officials to Penn State and Va Tech in January.

Of those, the Nittany Lions could prove troublesome for Maryland purposes considering Castro-Fields’ rapport with the staff and affinity for the program in general. But Maryland is positioned well heading into the dead period after the Dec. 9-11 official.

Castro-Fields, who has been on campus numerous times, loved reconnecting with the UMD coaches and associating on a more personal level. He and defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim have a close relationship, and Castro-Fields has readily taken to head coach D.J. Durkin and the rest of the coaches as well.

Plus, Castro-Fields once again enjoyed interacting with the other DMV recruits and players.

"They're not even recruits," Castro-Fields told Scout’s Brian Dohn. "They're like my friends. I know them all outside of football, so I can't even call them recruits or commits. We went to Dave N' Busters and we got to hang out with a lot of the current players as well."

The Riverdale product feels wanted at Maryland and is keen on the idea of the hometown movement. The four-star thinks UMD has a bright future with the 2017 class and with Durkin directing the program.

And it surely helps the Terps’ chances that Castro-Fields’ mother is comfortable around the school and coaches. The Riverdale product has previously suggested his mom would love for him to stay local.

But, as aforementioned, the Terps may have to survive head coach James Franklin and the allure of Happy Valley before they can lock the Riverdale recruit in.

Plus, it’s possible Alabama, which Castro-Fields talked up after officially visiting in November, could reenter the picture with the Tide staff unable to flip Ohio State pledge Shaun Wade (Trinity Christian/Jacksonville, Fla.).

Expect Castro-Fields to commit sometime during late January. He told Dohn he’s no longer intent on announcing his destination on his birthday, Jan. 14.

You can read more about Castro-Fields HERE.

More Recruiting News

Anthony McFarland, RB, DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.): Folks questioned why McFarland took his Maryland official Dec. 2 rather than Dec. 9 with the rest of the DMV targets and UMD commits. As it turns out, McFarland was on campus anyway Dec. 10, returning to College Park unofficially to hang out with his friends, teammates and former teammates-turned-Terps.

Obviously, this bodes well for Maryland purposes, with McFarland reneging on another official in favor of the hometown school. We’re told the four-star once again had a great time socializing with the UMD coaches and other recruits. He has a terrific rapport with pretty much the entire staff and loves how they treat him each time he’s in town. McFarland, who hosted the Maryland coaches in-home in early December, has said time and again how he’s been made to feel part of the program and at home on campus.

On top of that, McFarland believes he could become an instant playmaker in Maryland’s offense, with coordinator Walt Bell using him out of the slot and in the backfield.

The DeMatha runner isn’t committing until January (maybe the Under Armour All-American game), but all signs suggest he’s heading Maryland’s way. Miami is always going to be a prime contender given McFarland’s relationship with the staff and head coach Mark Richt’s ardent pursuit, but, after seeing College Park on back-to-back weekends, it’s fairly clear where the four-star’s mind is at.

We’ve been projecting McFarland to Maryland, and will continue to do so heading into the holidays.

Jalen McKenzie, OT, Clayton Valley (Concord, Calif.): The Terps’ coaches could still add another tackle (or two if the second one is Calvin Ashley) to this year’s class, and McKenzie would be a primary option provided there’s room. The 6-6, 305-pound four-star pulled his UMD offer from Terps’ recruiter Chris Beatty in early December, and the pair have been in communication since then.

Beatty has also been recruiting McKenzie’s teammate, BUCK Bryce Brand, who officially visited College Park Dec. 2. The Arizona pledge Brand had an outstanding trip and relayed the news to McKenzie.

“Bryce went out there and really enjoyed it,” McKenzie said. “He said it’s a great school, a great area next to D.C., and they’re getting a lot of good recruits to go there. [Brand] said he liked the coaches and thought it was a great experience.

“Of the offers I have, they’re pretty high up there. From an offer standpoint, it’s Maryland and Utah at the top.”

The key phrase there is “offer standpoint.” McKenzie, as we mentioned last week, is starry eyed and seeking looks from Michigan and USC. He thinks the coaches from both the Wolverines and Trojans will offer him, and, if so, McKenzie plans to officially visit both in January.

But we’ve heard neither the Michigan nor the USC staffs are going to ante up. (Neither are the Tennessee coaches. McKenzie is a Vols’ legacy and has made it known he wants in at Rocky Top, but the four-star admitted he hasn’t had recent talks with the UT staff). Which means the Terps, along with Utah and maybe UCLA, could be right in the thick of things by default.

McKenzie said he would set up a College Park official for some time after the New Year if the coveted offers don’t come to fruition.

But even if all the above comes to pass, we wouldn’t immediately project McKenzie to UMD. First of all, it’s not a given McKenzie’s a “take” after Tyran Hunt’s (discussed below) Terps’ pop. Secondly, McKenzie personally didn’t sound overly enthused about taking his talents to the East Coast.

Mindsets can easily change when options are limited, however, so we’ll continue to monitor the situation.

You can read more about McKenzie HERE.

Owen Carney, BUCK, Miami Central (Miami, Fla.): Florida State, Carney’s supposed destination, is likely not going to accept the Miami Central product’s pledge right now. From what we’ve heard, the Seminoles’ staff is focused on higher-rated targets, including ex-UMD pledge Josh Kaindoh (IMG Academy/Bradenton, Fla.), who has a solid shot at winding up in Tallahassee, Fla.

Which means Carney is down to either Illinois or Maryland. The three-star officially visited the Terps Oct. 15 and saw the Illini Dec. 9, with a decision coming this month so Carney can enroll early.

After Carney’s UMD trip, he lauded the coming facility upgrades; Under Armour connections; and the internship opportunities available in Washington, D.C. Carney also had a good time reuniting with his friend from back home, safety Qwuantrezz Knight.

The coaches, with Terps’ assistant Mike London handling the recruitment, did their part to sell Carney as well.

“Coach London is a great guy and I have a great relationship with him. I knew going in what he was about as a coach and as a person. I heard countless things about his reputation, and on the visit he lived up to it. He’s great to talk to and really knows what he’s doing,” Carney said. “Coach Durkin, he told me I had a great opportunity there to be special. He was talking about the previous defenses he had and how I could excel there. He said I could be like Dante Fowler when he was at Florida. [Durkin] thinks I can play the BUCK position and really do a lot for the defense, and that really stood out to me.”

But Illinois was the recipient of the final official, and, honestly, the Illini were on Carney’s mind long before that. The Illinois staff has been pressing for Carney for upwards of nine months now, and the defensive end appreciates their efforts.

“I’m very high on Illinois’ staff," Carney told our Scout colleagues who cover Illinois. "They treat me like family. If I call one coach, I’m going to end up talking to the whole staff. That’s just the way they are. No other program has treated me like that.” 

The sense is Carney is going to pick Illinois for a couple reasons. Not only did the Champaign, Ill., official resonate, but we’re not so sure the Terps’ staff is pushing with scholarships running short. The Maryland coaches may be focused on other BUCK targets like Kofi Wardlow (discussed above), allowing Carney to slide to the Illini.

Bryce Brand, BUCK, Clayton Valley (Concord, Calif.): The Terps have made it interesting with the California resident and Arizona commit Brand, the coaches hosting him for a Dec. 2 official and wowing him in the process. The BUCK target and January enrollee loved UMD’s defense and his potential role in it, the current Terps he interacted with, and the entire Maryland staff.

“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,” said Brand, who is a Michigan native. “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.”

But Brand took his Arizona official Dec. 9-11, and that final trek through Tucson, Ariz., may have cemented his status. The former IMG Academy prospect reformed his bond with the Arizona coaches, while the school’s relative close proximity to home is a significant factor here.

We’re leaving Brand “warm” on the hot board, however, because we’ve heard it could be a toss-up between Maryland and Arizona. But it could be one of those infamous Keith Cavanaugh 51/49 scenarios -- in this instance favoring the Wildcats.

Note: For what it's worth, Brand didn't comment when asked if his final official to Arizona sealed the deal for the Wildcats. That could mean he's considering flipping to Maryland, or it could mean nothing. Stay tuned.

John Morgan, BUCK, DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) (2018): Scout’s Virginia Tech reporter, Jason Stamm, caught up with the 2018 recruit Morgan earlier this week, and the recruit’s words were a bit disconcerting for Maryland purposes. Morgan gave Stamm an early top-five favorites list, and the Terps weren’t included. Instead, the DeMatha edge rusher placed Va Tech, Penn State, Pitt, Rutgers and Syracuse on the leaderboard, with the Hokies sitting up top.

Morgan was just in Blacksburg Nov. 26 for the Tech-Virginia showdown, and the trip hit home in a major way.

“Virginia Tech is definitely in there. Coach [Justin] Fuente, what he’s been able to accomplish in his first year, getting to the ACC championship game, it’s probably one of the best things I ever saw in a first-year head coach,” Morgan told Stamm. “That’s probably my number one choice right now.”

Penn State was Morgan’s assumed No. 1 after multiple trips to State College, Pa., and the Nittany Lions are going to be in the thick of things throughout this recruitment. Don’t be surprised if PSU leapfrogs Va Tech after Morgan returns to Happy Valley.

Meanwhile, there’s time for the Maryland staff to turn the tide here, and UMD-area recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim will undoubtedly be in close contact. Plus, Morgan should be back in College Park soon enough, and afterwards he’ll place the Terps back among his foremost contenders.

But it was odd Morgan included the likes of Rutgers, Pitt and Syracuse rather than Maryland. It’s an indication the DeMatha recruit’s mind isn’t necessarily on the hometown school.

Markquese Bell, OLB, Bridgeton (N.J.): Such are the ebbs and flows of recruiting. After officially visiting College Park in October and then returning to Maryland for an unofficial in early December, the vibe was the Terps had the upper-hand for the four-star Bell. The versatile athlete extoled the fan atmosphere, the coaches’ personalities, College Park’s close proximity to Washington, D.C., and the energy surrounding the program. Bell was impressed with the incoming recruiting class and said the Terps were clearly a team on the rise too.  

But Bell embarked on an official visit to Virginia Tech Dec. 9-11, and word out of Blacksburg is the Hokies have made up ground. The four-star connected with the Hokies’ staff and believes he could thrive in their defense. Bell detailed Va Tech’s defensive reputation and the coaches’ penchant for developing their players, which grabbed the recruit’s attention. The Bridgeton prospect was comfortable on campus and around the current Hokies as well.

Besides Va Tech, Ohio State is still on the brain after Bell’s official to Columbus, Ohio, in November. The Buckeyes’ coaches may not have a scholarship for Bell at this time, but, if a spot opens up, the four-star would be hard-pressed not to snap it up.

Hometown Rutgers is in play to an extent, though it doesn’t sound like Bell’s going to wind up in Piscataway, N.J., unless the aforementioned contenders fall off.

Realize, however, all of the above could change by the time you’re finished reading the Shell. Bell tends to be quite mercurial, so it would be a mistake to definitively forecast his destination at this juncture.

The outside linebacker will be receiving numerous coach overtures the next couple weeks. We’ll have to assess Bell’s thoughts later in December and see where he stands closer to his intended Jan. 1 decision date.

Our gut?

After an in-home visit from Terps’ headman D.J. Durkin, we do like Maryland’s position -- ahead of Va Tech and RU. It’s Ohio State that makes us leery, however.

As Scout’s Brian Dohn surmised, if the Buckeyes’ staff wants Bell, they can probably land him. But there’s no evidence he’s a “take” for the OSU coaches yet, so we’ll keep Bell “hot” on the hot board.

Jordan Anthony, OLB, IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.): Why hasn’t Anthony come off the hot board yet? Because there’s still a slight chance he doesn’t follow through with his Michigan commitment.

The Wolverines’ coaches might try to have Anthony go the prep-school route due to transcript issues, and the Olney native is mulling the option over. Our colleagues who cover Michigan believe Anthony will eventually comply since Anthony’s so high on the program, but it’s not a slam-dunk given.

Now, even if Anthony does decide to explore other options, it doesn’t mean he’s definitely coming to Maryland. After all, the four-star chose not to officially visit UMD Dec. 9 with the other DMV recruits.

However, we do think Anthony could push back his Dec. 22 college-decision date and give the Terps a look in January thanks to the Maryland staff’s persistent pursuit; his local ties; and his connections to UMD’s incoming class. The former Good Counsel star will probably visit Oklahoma too after the Sooners’ staff asked Anthony to reschedule his Dec. 3 trek through Norman, Okla.

But that’s all conjecture at this stage. In all likelihood, Anthony will opt for Michigan Dec. 22 and then see if he’ll have to go to prep school before enrolling.

We’re leaving him “cold” on the hot board.

Jon Lovett, S, Cherokee (Burlington, N.J.): Lovett pulled off the rare visit-the-school-you-just-decommitted-from Dec. 9-11, taking in hometown Rutgers. The Jersey three-star said he had fun hanging out with the recruits and staff, noting that headman Chris Ash held no ill will and wasn’t trying to force Lovett to recommit.

That’s fine, but we don’t get the feeling Lovett will be re-upping with the Scarlet Knights. Iowa, which hosted Lovett in November, could be the frontrunner since the staff is recruiting the Cherokee prospect as a running back. Additionally, Lovett loved the close-knit atmosphere in Ames, Ia., and how welcoming the staff was.

Lovett did say he wanted to officially visit Maryland Jan. 13, Virginia Tech Jan. 20, and maybe Penn State or Michigan State Jan. 27. But, at this moment, Lovett is not a “take” for the Terps’ or Nittany Lions’ staffs and may not be for the Hokies’ either, so we’ll have to see if he follows through with those trips.

Recall, the Maryland coaches urged Lovett to reschedule his original College Park foray (Dec. 2-4) since the team’s No. 1 target, Naytron Culpepper (Carol City/Miami, Fla.), was on campus that weekend. Culpepper isn’t choosing a school until he takes a couple January officials, but he’s favoring the Terps and has been projected to UMD.

If Culpepper falls by the wayside, however, the Maryland staff will push for Lovett. And, if so, the interest should be reciprocal.

Lovett has regular communication with UMD-area recruiter Matt Barnes, has spoken highly of both previous treks through College Park, and thinks he could play early given the team’s need for safeties. He likes the school’s location near Washington, D.C., and how Maryland’s not far from home.

But even if the Terps’ coaches do eventually press, there’s no guarantee Lovett winds up in College Park. As previously stated, Iowa has the three-star’s ear and could be the team to beat.

Let’s see how it plays out.

Tavyn Jackson, CB, James Rickards (Tallahassee, Fla.): Following his Maryland official Dec. 2, the South Carolina commit Jackson said a Terps’ flip was practically inevitable. He rated his visit a “100 out of 10,” Jackson praising the number of Floridians on Maryland’s roster; the coaching staff’s enthusiasm; the campus; and the fan atmosphere at the hoops game that day.

“Maryland has really been pushing for me and I really like Coach [Aazaar Abdul] Rahim. He’s been telling me they need corners there, and just what I’d heard about the program, it sounded great. So I went up to visit, and it was everything I expected and more,” Jackson said. “I’d rate it like an 100 out of 10 (laughs). I loved it up there. I’m pretty high on Maryland right now.”

But a couple days later, South Carolina’s staff went in-home with Jackson and apparently changed the three-star’s thinking. Prior to that visit, Jackson was an admitted “shaky” pledge, letting on he hadn’t had as much contact with the Gamecocks’ staff as he would’ve liked. The personal meeting made Jackson feel he was needed in Columbia, S.C., though, and now he might be inclined to stick with the Cocks.

Jackson is scheduled to officially visit South Carolina Jan. 28, and that could trip could seal him to the Cocks. Moreover, despite Jackson’s intimation that the Maryland staff has been pushing, we think he may be more of a backup option. UMD head coach D.J. Durkin may only press for a pop if  someone like Dazz Newsome (Hampton, Va.) decommits.

Either way, expect Abdul-Rahim to remain in communication with Jackson in case the latter scenario occurs. For now, we’re down-shifting the 5-10, 170-pounder to “warm” on the hot board.

Tyran Hunt On Board

Besides the Gaddy brothers, the Terps’ staff secured one of their top O-line targets Dec. 11, Tyran Hunt (Southampton/Courtland, Va.). The 6-6, 290-pounder had been trending Maryland’s way for awhile, but two December in-home visits with offensive line coach Dave Borbely, coupled with overtures from area recruiter Mike London and head coach D.J. Durkin, sealed the deal.

“Maryland I felt was the best fit for me athletically, academically and socially. I really like respect what the coaches are doing with the program and feel like I can excel there. But the academics and what Maryland can do for my education, that’s really what sold me,” Hunt said. “It’s a great degree, it’s in a great location near D.C. and Baltimore, there’s so many internship opportunities, and there are a lot of networking opportunities available too. I know I’ll get a great education and be set up for life at Maryland.

“The communications program is one of the main reasons I chose Maryland. It’s a great major they offer and so many opportunities. And the entire academic plan there [for student-athletes], and how it’s based off what you personally want to accomplish, that’s really good. I liked most how it’s tailored to you personally.”

Indeed, academics were the main driving force in this recruitment, with Maryland’s journalism program the separating factor between UMD and UVA, which finished a close second.

That’s not to discount the Terps’ coaches’ efforts, with London and Borbely running point. Those two basically convinced Hunt UMD was the best fit.

The Southampton three-star detailed how much London meant to both himself and his parents, how impressive Borbely was during the in-homes, and the overall family environment the staff provided. Hunt believes he can readily develop under Borbely’s watch, while he knows he’ll be in good hands under the watch of Durkin; London and the rest.

Hunt’s two Maryland visits aided in his decision as well, the second of the official variety Nov. 12. The big tackle loved being on campus, lauded the coming facility upgrades, and couldn’t say enough about the school’s location. He connected with the players, enjoyed being around the Maryland fans, and spoke highly of the atmosphere in and around College Park.

After considering all of the above and comparing it against Virginia, the Hunt family decided UMD was the best option.

“Once I was 100 percent feeling it, that’s when I made my move. And after talking to the coaches and talking to my family, I really got a feel for what’s best for me,” Hunt said. “And that’s Maryland.”

So now that Hunt’s on board, what does he bring?

For one thing, length. He’s a long, lean lineman with an ideal frame and room to take on massive bulk.

Beyond the obvious physical attributes, Hunt is an fairly developed pass protector, using his long arms and strong hands to his advantage. He shows a solid kick step, a decent punch, and has the ability to anchor and readjust. Moreover, Hunt gets off the ball well, quickly engages his man, and keeps his legs moving after contact. His football IQ shouldn’t be discounted, either, as Hunt has a keen understanding of the position and reads his keys well.

Hunt, though, does have several areas he needs to improve. First and foremost, he needs to add strength and power. Right now, he seems to lack oomph when he strikes.

Hunt also tends to play high and must make sure he comes off the ball lower and harder. It follows that Hunt isn’t an elite hole opener quite yet, and he can sometimes be stalemated/stood up at the point of attack.

Finally, Hunt has to keep honing his footwork, hand placement and all-around fundamentals. He’ll likely need a redshirt year and another season to build his body before he’s ready to contribute.

You can read what Hunt had to say HERE.

You can read what his coach had to say HERE.

Off The Board

Quantino Allen, Slot, Glades Central (Belle Glade, Fla.): The slot receiver Allen officially visited Maryland Oct. 1, dubbing the trip a “10 out of 10.” The Oregon State commit said receivers’ coach Chris Beatty and the rest of the UMD coaches had his attention. He liked how many Floridians the Terps had on their current roster, praised the incoming recruiting class, and enjoyed being in College Park too.

But while Allen was a “take” for the UMD staff, the coaches haven’t actively pursued since the official. Furthermore, the three-star’s November official to Oregon State basically solidified his status as a firm Beavers’ pledge.

Sean Savoy, Slot, Wilson (Washington, D.C.): For a brief moment, there was some renewed buzz surrounding Savoy and the Terps. We’d heard UMD-area recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim remained in contact and had the Va Tech pledge Savoy considering a College Park return.

But such a trip never materialized, and Savoy hasn’t said a word about the Terps in months. Meanwhile, the DMV slot has returned to Blacksburg a few times and seems like he’s content with his original college choice.

Emmanuel Greene, Slot, IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.): Greene, a UCF commit, officially visited Maryland Dec. 2 at the behest of receivers’ coach Chris Beatty. But even as he made his way to College Park, Greene was not a surefire “take” for headman D.J. Durkin.

Plus, Greene was a hard UCF pledge, and we were told he’d be a difficult flip for any out-of-state program. More than likely, Greene’s going to sign with the Knights in February.

Sal Cannella, TE, Scottsdale C.C. (Ariz.): When the four-star junior-college tight end Cannella chose to officially visit Auburn and Texas back-to-back Dec. 8-11, it was an indication he intended to commit to either the Eagles or Longhorns. On Dec. 14, he opted for Auburn due to his relationship with the staff, comfort around the program and the chance to play in the SEC.

Maryland, a one-time leader, finished third in the race.

The Terps’ coaches did their best to sell Cannella during his Dec. 2 College Park official. The four-star connected with tight ends coach Pete Lembo, thought he could fit well as an H-back/tight end in coordinator Walt Bell’s offense, and felt head coach D.J. Durkin had the program on the rise. Cannella bonded with the players and liked the College Park environment too.

But, from the start, the Chicago native sought to play at a nationally-known program. So when coaches from AU and UT came calling, the Terps, for all intents and purposes, dropped off.

Note: We do not expect the Maryland staff to pursue another tight end. They should be content with just Andrew Park (Lake Braddock/Burke, Va.) in this year’s class.

Deron Irving-Bey, OL/DL, Southwestern Academy (Flint, Mich.): The four-star Army All-American Irving-Bey had all positive comments for Maryland after his Dec. 2 College Park official, but he returned to Michigan a week later, and that trip likely cemented him to the Wolverines. We’ve checked in with our colleagues several times, and they’ve said time and again Irving-Bey, who Michigan’s staff wants as a defensive end, is a “take” for headman Jim Harbaugh. (Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison went in-home the four-star last week, proving out colleagues correct).

But even if Michigan falls off, Michigan State’s coaches would be right there to snap Irving-Bey up. Even though Irving-Bey didn’t have a chance to officially visit East Lansing, he’s been there before and has the Spartans running a close second to the Wolverines.

Irving-Bey will choose his destination Jan. 7.

Nour-Eddine Seidnaly, OL, ASA (Brooklyn, N.Y.): The DMV native Seidnaly would’ve been positioned to land a Maryland offer and potentially commit if the Terps’ staff couldn’t reel in its other tackle targets. But the UMD coaches pulled Tyran Hunt (discussed above), precluding the need to offer the junior-college tackle Seidnaly.

Look for the ASA product to wind up at a lower Division-I program.

Jacob Bolton, OL, Blessed Trinity (Roswell, Ga.): Bolton, following an eye-opening summer visit to College Park, had the Terps atop his leaderboard for a good minute. But even as he heaped praise on the UMD program, Bolton was never priority No. 1 for the staff. And when the Maryland coaches landed tackle Tyran Hunt (discussed above), Bolton, in effect, came off the board.

The Georgian tackle is coming off an Iowa State official, and if he’s a “take” for the Cyclones’ staff, that’s where he’ll sign.

Kyree Campbell, DL, Wyoming Seminary Prep (Kingston, Pa.): Well, so much for that.

The JUCO Campbell included Maryland among his top-five suitors, but a week later he promptly committed to Florida on a Gators’ official. The four-star, who is from Virginia and popped to UNC out of high school, chose Florida over Penn State; Temple; Pitt and UMD.

The Terps’ coaches, however, would not have pursued Campbell after securing the Gaddy brothers (discussed above).

Hozey Haji-Badri, DL, Virginia Prep (Chantilly, Va.): The junior-college defensive tackle Haji-Badri made it no secret how much he wanted a Maryland offer. He visited College Park four times and was in regular communication with defensive line coach Mike London. But any chance Haji-Badri had of landing that scholarship ended when the Terps’ staff secured Breyon and Brandon Gaddy (discussed above),.

Look for Haji-Badri to wind up at a lower Division-I program, perhaps at Buffalo or Georgia State.

Josh Paschal, DE, Good Counsel (Olney, Md.): In a somewhat surprising move, Paschal, coming off an official visit to Notre Dame, opted to pop to Kentucky Dec. 13. Evidently the draw of playing at the school his brother coaches at was enough to convince Paschal to join the Wildcats.

Paschal officially visited Lexington, Kent., earlier during the fall and had plenty of complimentary remarks for the Kentucky staff, campus and environment. He also liked the SEC affiliation and the chance to play immediately along the Wildcats’ defensive line.

Paschal chose Kentucky over Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Ohio State and USC. He did not include Maryland among his final suitors.

The Terps’ staff did make a push, and we heard Paschal could consider officially visiting in January. But apparently area recruiter Chris Beatty’s plea fell on deaf ears.

Paschal has no intentions of reneging on his Kentucky pledge, nor will he embark on post dead-period trips.

Vic Dimukeje, BUCK/DE, Boys’ Latin (Baltimore, Md.): After the Terps’ coaches landed the Gaddy brothers (discussed above), and with other BUCK targets higher on their board (see: Kofi Wardlow), Dimukeje probably isn’t a “take” any longer.

Not that we sensed the Boys’ Latin product would be coming to UMD anyway.

Although he placed Maryland among his foremost four contenders, it might have been courtesy inclusion. From this vantage point, Dimukeje is focusing in on Virginia Tech and Duke, the latter reentering the picture of late.

Dimukeje officially visited Blacksburg Dec. 9-11, and he couldn’t say enough about the Hokies’ program and coaches. He loved Va tech’s defense and how he could develop under coordinator Bud Foster’s watch.

After the jaunt, it sounds like Tech is trending, but Dimukeje is set to officially visit Durham, N.C., Jan. 20. At one time, Duke was Dimukeje’s projected destination until we heard the staff might not be able to accept his commitment. But with headman Dave Cutcliffe and Co. seemingly after the Boys’ Latin recruit again, we could see Dimukeje signing with the Blue Devils due to the school’s academic reputation and the three-star’s family ties in North Carolina.

Regardless, we don’t envision Dimukeje coming back around to UMD.

Nate Proctor, BUCK, Lackey (Indian Head, Md.): Proctor officially visited Va Tech Dec. 9, and afterwards he told Scout's Brian Dohn he was focused on the Hokies, Penn State and Pitt. He said he'd be visiting the Panthers and Nittany Lions after the dead period ends, and then select his school after that. The feeling is PSU and Va Tech are trending, and Proctor could choose either one. 

We'd heard Proctor could give Maryland a look, but that doesn't seem to be the case. UMD-area recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, along with the rest of the staff, made a run with the four-star, but Proctor has not been in College Park recently and it sounds like he's focused elsewhere.

Malik Horton, BUCK, Langston Hughes (Fairburn, Ga.): Horton’s name hasn’t been broached in conjunction with Maryland in some time. The teammate of current UMD pledge Sean Nelson was never the staff’s main target, although if a couple BUCK options fell off, we figured the coaches might reenter the fray.

That probably won’t be the case.

The Terps’ coaches have identified numerous BUCKs since “offering” Horton, and they’re positioned well for a couple of them, headlined by Kofi Wardlow (discussed above).

Marcus Bowman, ILB/BUCK, Douglass (Upper Marlboro, Md.): The DMV linebacker Bowman, who has repeatedly listed Maryland atop his favorites list, hasn’t completely lost contact with UMD-area recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim. But that’s likely just the Terps’ assistant keeping communication lines open with a local recruit. Transcripts have been an issue here, and the UMD coaches are in line for other inside linebackers (see: Ellis Brooks).

Bowman might end up at Temple or Marshall, a lower-level program, or he could opt for the prep/JUCO route.

Gary Johnson, ILB, Dodge City (Kans.): The Maryland coaches’ chances at landing the four-star junior-college linebacker Johnson were slim to begin with, although the Alabama native was supposed to officially visit College Park in January. However, now that Nick Underwood (discussed above) is on board with UMD, the Terps likely don’t have room for another JUCO inside linebacker.

Johnson may end up at Arizona State, which he officially visited Dec. 9, or maybe Louisville or Miami.

 


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