Welcome to our next edition of Inside the Shell, the weekly Maryland football-recruiting roundup.
Calvin Ashley, OT, St. John’s (Washington, D.C.): We suggested last week Ashley’s final official to Auburn Jan. 20 could seal him to AU, and it sounds like that might indeed be the case based off the five-star’s public proclamations at the Under Armour All-American game check-in.
Ashley told our Scout colleagues he was firmly pledged to the Tigers and had a terrific relationship with the staff. He said he believes in head coach Gus Malzahn, thinks he can thrive on AU’s O-line, loves the atmosphere surrounding the program, and can’t wait to join his fellow commits in War Eagle country.
Now, Ashley also admitted Maryland held prime appeal. He talked about his official visit to College Park, Md., and said the program as a whole left him impressed. Ashley spoke to his relationship with multiple UMD coaches, his immediate connection with several incoming Terps’ recruits, and his comfort level on campus. The Florida native acknowledged he’s taken to the D.C. area and wouldn’t mind sticking around the DMV the next few years as well.
That’s all well and good, but fact of the matter is Ashley is still committed to Auburn and will be trekking through the Alabama school two weeks before Signing Day. In recent memory, we can’t recall a recruit who flipped after taking his final official to the program he was already pledged to.
Note: UMD’s next tackle option, Jalen McKenzie (Clayton Valley Charter/Concord, Calif.), the teammate of Terps’ commit Bryce Brand, told me this week he remained in a holding pattern in regards to official visits. He said he’s waiting until after bowl season to see if the coveted offers from Michigan and Southern Cal come through. In the unlikely scenario the scholarship do materialize, he’ll promptly visit Ann Arbor, Mich., and/or Los Angeles, Calif. If not, McKenzie will likely take in College Park, Utah and maybe one other locale.
Breyon & Brandon Gaddy, DL, Bishop Sullivan Catholic (Virginia Beach, Va.): This was bound to happen. With three weekends left to embark on official visits, the Brothers Gaddy, who committed to Maryland Dec. 12, will indeed be venturing out later in January.
Truth be told, when the Gaddys popped to the Terps following their Dec. 9 official, it reminded us of when class of 2016 defensive end Aaron Thompson (Dillard/Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) pledged early to UMD. Remember, Thompson had stated time and again he wanted to play in the SEC, so when he committed to Maryland it was rather curious. But two weeks later, on cue, he flipped to South Carolina.
We’re not saying the same will definitely transpire with the Gaddys, but the two 757 natives have typically tended towards nationally-known programs, while they’ve always intended to check out multiple schools. And apparently their eyes are on Florida and Oregon. The brothers have scheduled a trip to Gainesville, Fla., for Jan 27 and are taking in Eugene, Ore., Jan. 13. Florida was the consensus frontrunner for the Gaddys after the pair decommitted from Tennessee, and Oregon emerged late after head coach Willy Taggart tossed out a mid-December offer.
Either way, the Terps’ coaches, with Chris Beatty running point and defensive line coach Mike London and headman D.J. Durkin also involved, will undoubtedly be all over the twins too. They’ll be harping on the immediate-playing time opportunities along the D-line, and doing their best to appease the Gaddys’ parents.
The twins, for their part, are saying all the right things. They’ve suggested they’re happy with their initial commitment, believing they can thrive in Maryland’s defense and develop under London and Durkin. Plus, they’ve said they like the direction Durkin’s taking the program with the incoming recruiting class.
But we’ll see if the Gaddys remain in tow. These are the type of recruits who could be lured by the SEC and the chance to play at a national program like Florida. The fact the Gators’ staff has last dibs right before Signing Day makes us leery.
Ellis Brooks, ILB, Benedictine (Richmond, Va.): Talk about a 180.
The four-star Brooks had been sitting “hot” on the hot board and forecast to Maryland for a few months now, but at the Under Armour All-American game check-in, he didn’t sound quite as gung-ho about the Terps. Then, after checking with our Brooks contacts, we received a bleaker message: Brooks could be slowly fading from the Maryland staff’s grasp.
Notre Dame happened.
Recall, way back when (read: last spring), Brooks received an offer from Notre Dame, visited South Bend, Ind., and afterwards seemed destined for the Irish. He’d stated time and again UND had his firm attention and it was only a matter of time before he popped. But Brooks dragged his feet, the Irish staff filled their linebacker spots, and the two sides moves in different directions.
However, Notre Dame’s staff recently had a spot open up and quickly jumped back on Brooks. Now, after re-forging the relationship, Brooks wants to check out South Bend officially. Not only that, but he’ll be doing so Jan. 27, giving the Irish coaches last dibs before Signing Day.
It doesn’t take a fortuneteller to determine what’s going to transpire after that.
Brooks will also be taking in Oregon (Jan. 20) and Northwestern (Jan. 13), but neither hold the clout UND does. In fact, prior to the UA check-in, we had Maryland ahead of both the Ducks and Wildcats, and that could very well remain the case deep into January given the four-star’s rapport with the Terps’ staff and his affinity for the incoming recruiting class. (Brooks may also consider heading to Wisconsin or Mississippi, although the Rebels’ staff just offered Dec. 28 and likely has much ground to make up).
But there are no silver medals in recruiting. Unless the Irish coaches re-fill that vacant backer slot between now and Jan. 27, Brooks might be South Bend-bound.
Brooks has been shifted to “warm” on the hot board.
Louis Acceus, OLB, St. Joseph Regional (Montvale, N.J.): If Ellis Brooks (discussed above) is truly headed to Notre Dame, that means the Maryland staff will turn up the heat on Acceus. Even though Acceus doesn’t play the exact same position as Brooks, the Jersey recruit could still fill a similar role in UMD’s defensive scheme.
The three-star is scheduled to officially visit Maryland Jan. 27, but we could see the staff pushing for an earlier date -- with the intent of coaxing out a commitment on campus. Such a tactic could backfire if Acceus elects to see Va Tech and Indiana after College Park, but we’re not so sure it would in this case.
The Montvale prospect has already called Maryland his No. 1 option time and again, so it’s not like he’s actively looking for reasons to attend other schools. And, truthfully, he’d probably already be committed to UMD if the coaches had pressed earlier.
Acceus has been in College Park twice, and after each trip he dubbed Maryland his leader. He’s talked up the atmosphere on campus and the surrounding area. He has a close connection to linebackers coach Matt Barnes and believes he can thrive in the Terps’ defensive scheme. He loves the 2017 recruiting class and what head coach D.J. Durkin is building. And it’s a bonus the school is less than two hours from his home, giving Acceus’ family every opportunity to see him play six times a year. If that weren’t enough, Acceus’ brother, who is paramount in this recruitment, is all about the Terps too.
But, unless Acceus reschedules his College Park official, the UMD coaches might have to sweat out a Jan. 13 foray through Blacksburg, Va., and a Jan. 20 trek through Bloomington, Ind.
The thinking is the Hokies’ staff will push for a pop after missing on Markquese Bell (discussed below). The Tech coaches have stayed on Acceus and do have his attention give the program’s defensive reputation. Moreover, Scout’s Brian Dohn suggested the Hoosiers are more involved than originally surmised.
So, while we like the Terps’ coaches chances here (thus, Acceus continues to sit “hot” on the hot board), it’s not yet a lock he’s coming to College Park.
Markquese Bell, OLB/SS, Bridgeton (N.J.): With Anthony McFarland (DeMatha/Hyattsville, Md.) holding off on committing, it sounds like the Terps will have just one popper at the Under Armour All-American game Jan. 1. The four-star Bell should be announcing for Maryland over Rutgers and Virginia Tech at some point during the all-star affair. The major roadblock that stood in UMD’s way, Ohio State, still does not have enough room to accept Bell’s commitment, so unless something goes awry, he’ll be heading to College Park Jan. 20 (that’s move-in day).
First and foremost, Bell has had a longstanding rapport with multiple Maryland coaches, from area recruiter Anthony Tucker to linebackers coach Matt Barnes to defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim to headman D.J. Durkin. He’s easily bonded with each of them, noting their enthusiasm and welcoming personalities.
Additionally, the four-star has visited College Park numerous times since last spring, including twice in the last couple months. Bell took his UMD official in October and then returned in November for an unofficial, which was a clear indication he had turtles on the brain. The Jersey product has readily bonded with the current Terps and their incoming recruits, loves how he can play multiple positions in Maryland’s defensive scheme, and likes the various soon-to-be-completed facility upgrades.
Furthermore, Bell’s keen on the school’s academic reputation and the fact it’s only a couple hours from home. His mother is all on board with Maryland and the Terps’ staff too, appreciating their overtures during in-home visits.
True, Bell did take an official to Virginia Tech Dec. 10, and hometown RU made a strong run with head coach Chris Ash making multiple in-person pitches. But the tealeaves have read “Terps” on this one for quite some time.
Bell, who is set to graduate early, should be enrolled at Maryland Jan. 20.
Naytron Culpepper, S, Carol City (Miami, Fla.): There hasn’t been a change in Culpepper’s status yet -- we’re still projecting him to Maryland -- but this recruitment is getting a bit, shall we say, interesting. On Dec. 23, Oregon became the latest offer for the three-star, and we do think Culpepper is going to give the Ducks a look in January. The Miami native knows new Oregon coach Willie Taggart fairly well from when the coach was at USF, and the headman’s ties in southern Florida have several area recruits considering heading out to Eugene.
Beyond Oregon, a couple other suitors could come in late as well. For now, Culpepper is set to officially visit Indiana Jan. 20, and wants to check out Michigan State (not a “take” for the MSU staff) and Mississippi State too, but we’ll see if he follows through if other high profile programs enter the picture.
If no other schools’ coaches ante up, the Terps should have the edge over each of the above programs. Culpepper’s Dec. 3 Maryland official continues to resonate, and lead recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim has built a terrific relationship with the three-star.
Of course, those pro-UMD feelings could change after the upcoming officials. We’re wary of Oregon and a school like Mississippi State, the latter giving the safety a chance to play SEC ball.
Either way, this situation probably won’t be resolved until Feb. 1, which is Culpepper’s stated commitment day.
Jonathan Lovett, S, (Cherokee/Marlton, N.J.): Lovett is supposed to officially visit Maryland Jan. 13, but we’re somewhat skeptical he shows up. The Jersey prospect is not priority No. 1 for the UMD staff (Florida safety Naytron Culpepper is), and the feeling is Lovett, who has been in communication with area recruiter Anthony Tucker and several other Terps’ staffers, may sense this.
Plus, the three-star safety/running back added offers from Baylor, Michigan State and Tennessee recently, and he’s considering using his January weekends to see the Bears; Spartans; and Vols. Those schools’ coaches haven’t built relationships with Lovett yet, but he’s intrigued by MSU’s defensive reputation; Tennessee’s SEC affiliation; and Baylor’s Big 12 connection.
Lovett also has an official to Virginia Tech set for Jan. 20, and he probably will take that one since the Hokies’ staff does covet his services. The Cherokee product knows Tech has strong defenses year after year, so he’s eager to check out Blacksburg.
Right now, though, Lovett seems to be favoring either Iowa or Rutgers, two schools he’s already trekked through. The Hawkeyes have his eye since the staff wants him at running back and wowed him during the official, while the Scarlet Knights are in the game since it’s the hometown school and Lovett has a strong rapport with the coaches.
Given the above, we like Iowa’s position currently, but wouldn’t be surprised if Lovett ends up at a place like Michigan State or Tennessee if he opts to officially visit. First, though, we’ll see if he comes to College Park for his Jan. 13 official.
A Look At Local 2018 Recruits
Signing Day is less than a month away, and after Feb. 1 we’ll turn our attention to the 2018 class. Here are some DMV prospects with Division I offers to monitor, with those in bold indicating a Maryland verbal (followed by their initial hot-board rating) and those with an asterisk having perceived heavy interest from the UMD staff:
QB: DeJuan Ellis (McDonogh/Owings Mills, Md.): Va Tech
QB: Tucker Strachan (Bullis/Potomac, Md.)
RB: Ricky Slade (Hylton/Woodbridge, Va.): COOL
RB: Ronnie Walker (Hopewell, Va.)
WR: Randy Fields (St. Frances/Baltimore, Md.): WARM
WR: Asad Davenport (DeMatha/Hyattsville, Md.)
WR: Jelani Foster (Pallotti/Laurel, Md.) *
WR: Charlie Briscoe (St. John’s/Washington, D.C.)
WR: Daniel George (Oxon Hill, Md.): WARM
WR: Alphonso Foray (Northwest, Md.)
WR: Ed Hendrix (Woodson/Washington, D.C.)
WR: Dillon Spalding (South County/Lorton, Va.)
TE: Thomas Booker (Gilman/Baltimore, Md.): WARM
TE: Jordan Funk (Damascus, Md.)
OL: Jaelyn Duncan (Northern/Owings, Md.): HOT
OL: Rasheed Walker (North Point/Waldorf, Md.): WARM
OL: Evan Gregory (DeMatha): HOT
OL: Nana Asiedu (North Stafford/Stafford, Va.): COOL
OL: Tola Banjoko (Episcopal/Alexandria, Va.) *
OL: Josh Jefferson (St. John’s)
DL: P.J. Mustipher (McDonogh): COOL
DL: Austin Fontaine (DeMatha): WARM
DL: Eyabi Anoma (St. Frances): WARM
DL: Tyler Baylor (Good Counsel/Olney, Md.) *
DL: Spencer Anderson (McNamara/Forestville, Md.)
DL: Ben Amadi (St. Frances)
DL: Alvontray Foster (St. Frances)
DL: Ja’mion Franklin (North Caroline/Ridgeley, Md.)
DL: Cam Goode (St. John’s)
DL: Durrell Nchami (Paint Branch/Burtonsville, Md.)
LB: John Morgan (DeMatha): WARM
LB: Noah Taylor (Gonzaga/Washington, D.C.): Virginia
LB: Keshon Artis (Oscar Smith/Chesapeake, Va.): COOL
LB: Jamar Darboe (Christchurch, Va.): WARM
S: Noah Boykin (Woodson/Washington, D.C.)
S: Raymond Boone (Roosevelt/Greenbelt, Md.) *
S: Demetri Morsell (Wise/Upper Marlboro, Md.)
S: Darius Pickett (McDonogh)
S: Dashaun Jerkins (Woodbridge, Va.): COOL
CB: A.J. Lytton (Wise/Upper Marlboro, Md.): COOL
CB: Daymon Williams (Riverdale Baptist/Upper Marlboro, Md.) *
CB: Vincent Flythe (Woodson/Washington, D.C.)
CB: Juan Wallace (Woodson)
CB: Judson Tallandier (DeMatha) *
CB: Naim Muhammad (DeMatha)
CB: Terrell Smith (St. Frances)
CB: Derek Brown (St. John’s)
CB: Daesean Winston (Spalding/Severn, Md.) *
CB: Chelen Garnes (North Point)
Off The Board
Tyree Johnson, DE, St. John’s (Washington, D.C.): We probably could’ve taken Johnson off the hot board last week, but chose to keep him on since he did officially visit College Park and has a great relationship with UMD-area recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim. But after talking to a few folks this week, it’s fairly clear Johnson’s not going to flip from Texas A&M. And if he does pull a changeup, it could be to Auburn or Baylor -- not Maryland.
Honestly, Johnson is pretty much sold on the Aggies. He never really had any intention of decommitting and should be firming up his pledge when he visits College Station, Texas, Jan. 28. Johnson does want to take a look at the Tigers and Bears after the dead period as well, but unless those programs wow him, we don’t envision him backing out of his TAMU commitment.
Abdul-Rahim will surely stay in touch here, especially if the Terps lose the Gaddy brothers (discussed above), but, either way, we don’t see Johnson winding up in College Park.