The Terps secured a commitment from four-star offensive tackle Jaelyn Duncan (St. Frances/Baltimore, Md.) June 15. Afterwards, we spoke to his former coach at Northern High (Owings, Md.), Darren DeMeio, to gain more insight into the 6-foot-6, 295-pounder.
Terrapin Times: Coach, were you surprised at all by Jaelyn committing to Maryland yesterday night?
Darren DeMeio: I wasn’t really surprised. His family actually called me last night and let me know Jaelyn was going to make the commitment beforehand, and that was nice.. It’s the home school and he has a lot of pride in the local area. Coach [DJ] Durkin has done a good job bringing that culture to Maryland, and Jaelyn really took to that.
TT: What did the Duncans say specifically during your conversation with them?
DD: I’ve been real close with them on this whole process, so it wasn’t really a surprise, as I said. They kind of just let me know what they were doing. But I saw it coming for a long time. It was a great honor when he got offered by them last summer. It’s been great with [Maryland], and Jaelyn has always been a fan of the program.
TT: Jaelyn told us a couple weeks back he wanted to take official visits and commit later during the process. Were you surprised by the timing?
DD: I knew it was going to happen sooner rather than latter. When you’re a kid, you see all these big schools and all these great teams on TV, and then it’s cool to get the offers from them. But once you’re a part of it, and you see who really wants you and you know what you like, it makes it kind of easier to make the decision. Jaelyn has always liked Maryland and playing near home.
TT: I know Jaelyn was pretty raw when he first started. How did his development go for you guys?
DD: His first year playing football in high school was his sophomore year. What he’s done best is his work ethic to get to the point where he’s at now. He’s got the natural size, but he never missed a training session. He was in the weight room, he ran hard, and he lost a lot of weight. But his athleticism is really what separated him from a lot of other linemen. He’s so quick and fast for a 300-pound guy.
TT: Can you give us a scouting report on Jaelyn?
DD: The college game is a lot of zone and a lot of air-raid offenses, and he’s got the ability to reach any defender. He has the athleticism, strength and length to really pass protect. He’s the perfect tackle for those wide-open spread offenses. Plus he can move his feet, he shifts his weight well and he plays with a great base.
TT: And what does he have to work on?
DD: One thing, playing in our conference, the competition wasn’t always great and it was pretty easy for him. Him going to St. Frances and playing against that top-level competition every day will help him develop and get even better. It will help prepare him for Big Ten football. But he has all the tools; he just has to be consistent and get the fundamentals down pat.
TT: Whenever we’ve spoken to Jaelyn he’s always been very quiet and reserved. Is that how he is in the locker room?
DD: Yeah, that is who he is. He’s a great guy, everybody likes him and he’s one of the nicest kids you’ll meet. But he is very, very quiet and keeps to himself. He’s relaxed, laid back and nice to be around. There’s nothing crazy to say about him. He’s just a great guy.
But on the field, he can turn the mean streak on. His first year was definitely a learning experience, but he played with much more confidence this last year. He had much more passion.
TT: When did you guys first identify Jaelyn and how did you get him involved with football and playing for you?
DD: He was in my first-period class his freshman year, and I see this 6-5, 330-pound large man walk into my classroom (laughs). I called him up to my desk and I go, ‘Why aren’t you playing football?’ I gave his family a call right away, and once January came around he started coming to workouts and was there every day. He really developed from there.
TT: Coach, there are a lot of big linemen out there who can’t really play at a high level. When did you first know Jaelyn could play major college ball?
DD: His sophomore year was a big growing experience. But in his junior year, we put in outside zone as a play. Like I said, he has the ability to reach anybody, and in a scrimmage he pancaked the defensive end; he continued on his way; knocked a linebacker on the ground; and then took out the safety. He knocked all those guys out at the point of attack, and our running back went right by for a touchdown. You kind of almost laugh on the sidelines, like, ‘I can’t believe I get to coach this kid.’
TT: What kind of potential do you think Jaelyn has? He has an NFL body, that’s for sure.
DD: Everybody shared the numbers with me, where he stands compared to other people. But a lot needs to happen between now and four years down the road. His ceiling will be determined by how much work he puts in and what he does from here.
TT: What did you think of Coach Tyler Bowen and Coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim and what kind of impression did they have on Jaelyn throughout this process?
DD: Those guys are great to be around. I’ve been able to go around with Jaelyn a lot of places, and he just always loved those guys. They like to have fun. They’re not stressed-out, business-only guys. They’re like family, they treated Jaelyn well and [Duncan] felt very comfortable around Coach Bowen, Coach Aazaar and all those guys. He loved it every time he was around the Maryland coaches.