In a somewhat surprising move, four-star St. Frances (Baltimore , Md.) tackle Jaelyn Duncan opted to end his recruitment months sooner than expected and commit to Maryland June 15. Now, the Terps have been the frontrunners for awhile -- even if Duncan didn’t publically say so – sitting atop his unstated leaderboard since the hometown offer went out last year. The 6-6, 295-pounder always sought to play near his family, so he wasn’t going to be venturing far from home anyway.
"Maryland was home and the coaches treat me like family there," Duncan said. "Maryland was my top school for a long while. I always felt I was treated right up there. I loved it."
But what sold Duncan on the Terps, and not another close-by locale like, say, Penn State, was how well he connected with the staff. The Southern Maryland native easily bonded with recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, forming a buddy-like relationship with the Terps’ defensive backs' coach. Duncan also readily took to line coach Tyler Bowen, enjoying sitting down with the assistant in position meetings and watching him work with his players. The former Northern High (Owings, Md.) star had a great rapport with head coach DJ Durkin, offensive coordinator Walt Bell and the other staffers as well.
Speaking of Durkin, Duncan ate up the coach’s stay-home mantra and DMV-to-UMD. He liked the fact the Terps’ coach is prioritizing local recruits, giving Duncan an opportunity to play alongside friends at the next level.
The St. Frances recruit was comfortable in College Park, Md., too, visiting on numerous occasions. He returned earlier in June and had another standout meeting with Durkin and other staff members. That last visit made Duncan realize he didn't need to explore or venture out; he had everything he needed right up the street.
Besides the staff's potent pitch, UMD's campus, the coming facility upgrades, the Under Armour connections and the school’s academics resonated too.
Now, Duncan did look into his other options such as Ohio State, Florida, Penn State, LSU and more. He visited OSU recently and was set to see Florida this summer, so the Buckeyes and Gators figured to be the primary threats to UMD for Duncan’s services. The four-star insisted he wasn’t going to pop before taking official visits either. But, after discussing the matter with his family, he decided he’d rather focus on his senior season at St. Frances than drag his recruitment out. He knew he wanted to be at Maryland anyway, so why delay?
For an idea of what Duncan brings to Maryland, take a look at Scout’s Brian Dohn’s breakdown HERE.
Duncan’s commitment is an important one for a number of reasons. Not only is he the highest-rated recruit in Maryland’s 2018 class (OK, so not by Scout’s measure, but by yours truly), but he’s the first elite recruit Maryland’s landed from the touted Gilman (Baltimore, Md.)/St. Frances coaching regime. The Terps have actively recruited Gilman and now St. Frances for years, and while they’ve pulled prospects from the schools (Kenny Goins, Shane Cockerille, B’ahmad Miller, etc.), the programs’ top talents often opted for the national institutions.
Duncan, with offers from Ohio State, LSU, Florida, Penn State and others, had a chance to go to one of those power schools, but he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stay home and represent for the local university. His pledge signals to SFA’s other top talents that Maryland should be a viable option -- and not just a school one gives lip service to. The Terps may or may not be able to reel in future five-star Eyabi Anoma -- who has UMD among his five or so foremost contenders but has schools like Alabama, Penn State, Michigan and Clemson on him -- but SFA has plenty of highly-sought-after recruits Maryland and others would love to have. Tight end/receiver Tyree Henry is another target, along with Anoma, in the 2018 class, while UMD has offers out to 2019 prospects like running back Joachim Bangda; linebacker Shane Lee; guard Darian Dalcourt; and tackle Anthony Ogudo. Meanwhile, 2020 recruits such as defensive end Demon Clowney (6-5, 200) and running back Osman Savage (6-0, 212) are firmly on the radar as well. Plus, SFA is bound to add more transfers the Maryland staff will want down the road.
With Duncan on board, look for the Terps’ staff to attempt to add about two more tackles in the 2018 class. They have one guard commit (Evan Gregory) and would ideally like to bring in three total tackles. Justin Johnson (Imhotep/Philadelphia, Pa.) could be one of those tackles, and the other possibilities include Spencer Anderson (McNamara/Forestville, Md.); Aidan Rafferty (Gonzaga/Washington, D.C.); T.J. Bradley (Lackawanna/Scranton, Pa.); Hamilton Hall (Chamblee, Ga.); Nick Lewis (Bolles School/Jacksonville, Fla.); and Rasheed Walker (North Point/Waldorf, Md.).
Johnson is down to Maryland and Temple, and the Terps are thought to have the upper-hand. He’ll be back in College Park shortly, which could propel UMD ahead of the Owls. The third tackle is more of a question, however. Rafferty is currently favoring Va Tech; Bradley has UMD under prime consideration but is also keen on WVU and PSU; Hall, who should be visiting Maryland this summer, is fairly open at this stage as he waits for more offers to come in; Lewis is high on UMD after a College Park visit, but isn’t a “take” for the Terps’ staff at this time; and Walker is favoring other locales such as PSU, Va Tech and UNC. Anderson may be the best bet since he’s local, has a solid rapport with the Maryland coaches and has been on campus multiple times. But he too is taking a deliberate approach and has Wake Forest and Pitt in the thick of things.
If the Terps’ coaches can’t reel in a third tackle (we’d expect more offers to go out if the above names fall off), they could opt for a second interior lineman. Center Zack Zambrano (American Heritage/Plantation, Fla.), who has trekked through College Park and repeatedly called Maryland his No. 1, could become a “take” and would be in line for a pop.