It was an admittedly difficult junior campaign for tight end Elijah McAllister. The Rumson Fair Haven (Rumson, N.J.) product tore his ACL while at an AAU basketball tournament in Los Angeles and ended up missing the fall football season. Thus, the 6-foot-6, 225-pound three-star tight end was forced to watch his team win its fourth straight state title from the sidelines.
“This year was pretty tough for me, but I was excited for my teammates and what they were able to accomplish,” said McAllister, who claims verbals from Tennessee, Maryland, Rutgers, Virginia, Pitt, Syracuse, BC and UConn. “But I’m pretty much fully recovered now, and I’m playing basketball again [in late January] and will be running track too. I’m actually going to be going down to the Army Combine as well to show that I’m still one of the best tight ends in the country.”
As a result of his injury, McAllister said several programs' coaches are taking a wait-and-see approach before re-upping their pursuit. Meanwhile, other schools have continued to recruit the Jersey native in earnest, despite the missed 2016 season.
“I’d say I’m in good talks with Michigan, Penn State, Maryland, Virginia and Tennessee – those schools still talk to me and are continuing to press for me,” said McAllister, who actually doesn’t hold offers from the Wolverines or Nittany Lions yet. “But I know other schools are going to come in too once I show I’m recovered. So I want to wait and see what new offers I get and what happens after that.”
Of his current offers, McAllister said the Vols, Terps and Wahoos have his attention. He’s visited each of the three and was thoroughly impressed after touring the schools and speaking to the respective staffs.
“UVA has really stepped up their game in recruiting and I think Coach Bronco Mendenhall is doing a good job for a first-year coach. I liked what I saw down there,” McAllister said. “Tennessee, I went for a visit and loved it there. I could definitely see myself there. They’re continuing to recruit me hard, although I have to see what happens with that coaching situation since I’m big on coach stability.
“And Maryland is an up-and-coming program in the country. They’re recruiting me hard and think I can really help build them up. I loved my last visit there too.”
McAllister’s most recent trek through College Park, Md., was in October when the Terps hosted Ohio State. It was his second time at Maryland, but the first under the D.J. Durkin regime.
“Honestly, the first time I went to Maryland I really didn’t like it, but the second time I went I loved it. I just liked the new energy there and the vibe there,” McAllister said. “The atmosphere was great [at the game], and even though Maryland lost I could tell they’re a team on the rise. And they’re building the new facilities, which look awesome, and it’s a great academic school. So Maryland has a lot going for them.”
McAllister had an opportunity to meet the head coach Durkin and several other Maryland staffers during his College Park stay. The tight end lauded Durkin’s enthusiasm, while mentioning his rapport with tight ends coach Pete Lembo and area recruiter Matt Barnes.
“I have a great relationship with the Maryland coaches,” McAllister said. “I talk to them like every day. They’re recruiting me like crazy and really pushing for me. They’re telling me I have a chance to play early there, so that’s big.”
The Rumson prospect took note of the rest of UMD’s 2016 campaign, as well as the Terps’ top-15 recruiting class. He believes Maryland has a bright future with the staff that’s in place.
“They had a great season under a new coach, and they’re hitting the recruiting trail hard,” McAllister said. “This year, if you look at what they’re bringing in, it’s the best recruiting class in school history. What they’re doing there is great.”
In addition to Maryland, McAllister has seen Rutgers, Syracuse, Penn State, Tennessee and UVA. He’s not sure where he wants to visit this offseason, however, preferring to gauge which programs come after him before heading out.
“I’d say Penn State and Michigan are two schools that haven’t offered that are close,” McAllister said. “PSU might be pushing the hardest of any school that hasn’t offered. I’ve visited there before when [the Nittany Lions] beat Ohio State, which was a great game. I could definitely see myself there.”
Although the offseason has barely begun, McAllister already has an idea of when he’d like to have his college chosen. He said in an ideal world he’d be committed by August or early September so he can focus on his senior season.
“I won’t rush things, but I really want to find a school by the summer,” McAllister said. “I want to go to a place where I can compete for a championship, where it’s a great area to live in, and a place that sets me up for life after football with a great degree and various connections outside of school.”