Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
With NSD 2013 in the corner, we look ahead a year to the big names Maryland will be trailing in this class. And there are plenty of them.
Wednesday was fun, huh? Hectic, active, and ultimately rewarding, it was the most exciting and most productive Signing Day for Maryland football in years. But if it left you at the end of the day asking "Now what?", well, we've got you covered.
Such is the life of a football coach, where the recruiting never stops and the fan expectations never stop rising. But Randy Edsall and Mike Locksley aren't likely to complain, after pulling in their second top-40 class in two years, both buoyed by strong, unexpected back-end finishes. Maryland's lackluster (and lacking in luck) showing on the field last year torpedoed their momentum from the 2012 class, but they built it back up last class and find themselves poised once again for a big showing in a talent-laden 2014 group.
How talent-laden? Looking at 247's early class rankings, really talent-laden. Like, the #1 prospect in the country, the #2 offensive lineman in the country, and the #3 cornerback in the country all residing a stone's throw from Maryland's campus talent-laden. Oh, plus another seven locals in the top 200. And that doesn't count the significant depth throughout the class, which rivals 2012 for the best local group in recent memory. This is quite a group.
Don't expect, however, a big class from Maryland, at least in the numbers game. They're graduating only 14 players next year, with C.J. Brown possibly postponing his departure from the program with a medical redshirt. They stand at only 84 committed scholarships by my count, for the time being, and will surely lose some more guys through transfers, academics, injuries and the like. But the numbers don't add up for a huge class, with it more likely that Maryland is selective about adding big-time talent.
And there's plenty of that to go around. Most of these guys will wait until the season's underway, or even later, to make any decisions. If that's the case, Maryland will need to win finally win some games, with a bowl appearance the absolute minimum - not only for Randy Edsall's job, but also to build momentum on the trail. Judging by what Esdall and Locksley have done after 2- and 4-win seasons, a 7- or 8-win year might just lead to them cleaning up.
Anyway, below we have a listing of the big names to know in Maryland's 2014 recruiting class, most of them local. This list is far from exhaustive, but to be honest making an exhaustive list in football recruiting is more trouble than it's worth: staffs evaluate hundreds of kids, dozens, with many of those never becoming public and many of the public offers not as advertised. There will always be guys who fly under the radar, or those who are found by Maryland at their camps, and listing the potential options would take forever and a day. But for the casual recruitnik, or for the more discerning eye looking to whet their appetite, these are the guys worth truly knowing.
We'll go position-by-position, with a quick overview of where Maryland stands at each. Without further ado, let's kick it off:
If the crop of 2014 local signal-callers was a usual one - which is to say completely bereft of talent, save for a kid from Northern Virginia destined for Stanford or perhaps a military transplant with no ties to the region - I wouldn't expect Randy Edsall and his staff to put much, if any, emphasis on the position. Between Caleb Rowe, Perry Hills, and now Shane Cockerille, Edsall will likely have three serviceable options, all either freshmen or sophomores next season (expect Rowe and Hills to redshirt if they don't win the job), plus two older heads for the short-term. It'll be tough to attract talent to that group in the first place, and even tougher to commit scholarship space to it, fully knowing several of them would end up elsewhere, either at a different position or a different school. Oh, they'd probably look to add one, maybe, for continuity's sake - can never have too many quarterbacks, as we well know - but probably not much more than that.
Thing is, this isn't a usual class for quarterbacks. There are three four-star caliber quarterbacks within a stone's throw of Maryland's campus, a rare group of talent for an area that's struggled so mightily in producing top-flight QBs. Maryland wants to build around DC and the state, and at some point that means they need to stop importing their QBs, too. It could be that Cockerille will accomplish that himself, but like any young QB he's a gamble, and not worth halting recruitment of the position for. Nothing draws other players like a quarterback - see Christian Hackenburg at Penn State - and landing one of the local Big Three early in the game would do wonders for the rest of the class. Maryland doesn't lead early for any of the three, but they didn't lead early for Derwin Gray or Yannick Ngakoue, either, and they both shocked everyone and pulled the trigger in the summer. This will be a priority for Maryland, and they'll be pushing for a commitment as soon as they feel they can get one.
William Crest (Dunbar / Baltimore, Md.): If you've been around, you know that Crest is a guy I just absolutely love in this class. A Baltimore kid with a great arm and good athleticism? What's not to like? He's still a bit raw and erratic at this point, but with a bit of fine-tuning there's a potential big-time quarterback in there: he has the arm to make almost any throw (already flashed the ability to throw a deep out) and the athleticism to run a zone-read scheme effectively. Early offers from the likes of Ohio State and West Virginia are going to be tough to overcome, especially given that Maryland's still not completely ingratiated with Baltimore in the football side like they are in D.C. West Virginia really wants him, and keeping a Dunbar kid who looks like the Second Coming of Geno Smith out of Morgantown is going to be a hell of a task. But he's worth the effort. [VIDEO]
Caleb Henderson (Alexandria, Va. / Lake Braddock): Northern Virginia isn't a traditional Maryland stomping ground, though it has been emphasized of late by the Terps' staff. Henderson is the least dynamic athlete of the three, and he's certainly not an explosive runner, but don't take that to mean he's a bad fit. He's certainly pass-first, but he runs a spread at Lake Braddock and has enough legs to run a zone-read well. You ideally don't want to be overly reliant on the quarterbacks legs in this system, so that's probably enough, given that he does have a very good arm. Henderson, a four-star on Rivals and top-50 player on 247, has made no bones about his desire to play Big Ten football, and Maryland's recent addition will surely up their appeal in his eyes. They were an early offer, too, so while they're far from an early favorite, if he lets the process play out and Maryland can win a few games next year, they might well find themselves in contention. [VIDEO]
Will Ulmer (St. John's / Washington, D.C.): Ulmer's the least highly-regarded of the three, but that's still a pretty high bar. He's a four-star himself, and claims offers from the likes of Nebraska and North Carolina early in the process. His arm still has some growing to do, for sure, but he runs in the 4.4s (and maybe even quicker). For a scheme that requires a running quarterback, Ulmer's about as good as it gets. He's in a running offense in high school, and his arm - while not at all bad - would take some time to get up to speed with the rest of him. He's a highly dynamic player and, crucially, a D.C. local. [VIDEO]
Other names to know: Andrew Ford, a rangy, athletic dual-threat QB from southern Pennsylvania with early Terps interest but no offer yet
Maryland didn't really add much depth, if any at all, to their running back stable in the 2013 class. DeAndre Lane and Jacquille Veii both can play the position, but it sounds like their eventual spot is likely to be elsewhere; even if they did end up as running backs, they're unlikely to be feature backs as much as scat backs who can move out to the slot. And make no mistake: Locksley's offense requires a feature back. Like most spreads, it's new-school smashmouth football, and big primary backs like Wes Brown and Brandon Ross are the future here. With both of them slated to be juniors by the time 2014 recruits arrive on campus, you can bet running back will be an area of concern for the class.
Jonathan Haden (Friendship Collegiate / Washington, D.C.): Ah, the last of the Hadens. Maryland has had poor luck with the D.C.-area legacy family, but Haden plays at Terps stronghold Friendship Collegiate, which has an increasingly pro-UMD environment. And none of the other Hadens had a Mike Locksley recruiting them to the local school. Jonathan isn't necessarily a superstar recruit, like you'd expect from the name, but he does claim an early offer from Ohio State and is nothing if not an intriguing prospect. He's only 5-8, but he's a burly, well-built 5-8; his top-end speed doesn't look fantastic, but he has short strides and gets to top gear immediately. He's got that low center of gravity and natural strength that makes for pinball backs, plus the ability to make a guy miss in the open field. I don't know how prototypical he is, but he's certainly fun to watch. And between Maryland's need for numbers at running back, the Haden name, and the Friendship connection, he'll likely be a prime target. [VIDEO]
Mikale Wilbon (De La Salle / Chicago, Il.): It's only a matter of time before Maryland starts dipping into Big Ten territory consistently, given that they'll present an interesting attraction to most Midwestern kids. Maryland's trying to turn themselves into something of a glamour program, and they can offer kids who don't get Michigan or Ohio State offers a chance to go to a flashy school on the East Coast, forge their own identity a bit, get early playing time, but still get the chance to play in the Big Ten and stay semi-local. You can expect that to take some time and probably start with more under-the-radar recruits, but Wilbon is the first big-time prototypical Midwestern prospect the Terps are pursuing. Mike Locksley's Chicago connections from his time at Illinois will help, as will the fact that Maryland was in on him somewhat quickly. He's somewhat similar to Haden, perhaps not as quick but of a similar build and playing style: he's a downhill back, a bit of a pinball type who bounces off tackles and can make moves in the open field. Throw in some impressive vision, and you can see how he'd be an heir to someone like Davin Meggett at Maryland. [VIDEO]
Other names to know: Marcus Boone, teammate and cousin of Da'Shawn Hand - Marlyand offered him before anyone else, presumably as a running back, and they may be an early favorite; Taiwan Deal, a bowling ball of a running back from DeMatha, who has an early Maryland offer; Justin Jackson, another Chicago native who garnered a Terps offer early in the process; Treyvon Paulk, a Georgia native Maryland offered early but seems to want to stay in the South
If there's any position Maryland doesn't need help at in the 2014 class, it's receiver. They're absolutely stacked with talent and depth, most of it of the younger variety at that. Deon Long and Stefon Diggs could be gone pretty soon, and Marcus Leak is quickly becoming one of the team's senior members, so the position can't be ignored entirely - especially when it comes to adding high-quality prospects. But there are more pressing matters on the roster, and without a lot of big-time locals at the position, you can expect Maryland to focus on only a handful of receiver recruits.
Freddy Canteen (Eastern Christian / Elkton, Md.): Maryland and Eastern Christian don't have much of a relationship, and I suppose it's no real surprise that they don't - ECA is a transplant institution, barely in Maryland at all and stocked with kids with few ties to the area. Still, the longer they're around the more the Terps should fight to get some in-roads, and Canteen is their first big target from the program. A rangy athlete, Canteen had an early offer from Maryland and appears to likes the Terps quite a bit. He's somewhere in-between being a slot and a feature receiver at this point, as he's a bit bigger and less explosive than a usual slot but not quite as big and strong as you'd like from a feature guy. No matter: he's a playmaker, elusive in space with reliable hands and a quick first step. Plus: his name is "Freddy Canteen", which is fantastic. [VIDEO]
Chris Jones (DeMatha / Hyattsvilee, Md.): Jones got an offer in the first batch Maryland sent out in this class, well before anyone else had extended one to him - in fact, he still doesn't have a particularly long offer sheet at all. The Terps clearly liked what they saw from him on tape and in person, especially with the amount of talent they already had on the depth chart. He's a big, long receiver, with good top-end speed and the ability to stretch the field as a deep threat. Maryland might lack that type of receiver at this point, as they're filling up with shifty slot types, and that probably helps to explain the Terps' attraction. Given how early Maryland offered, the local selling aspect, and the present lack of substantial competition, you'd think the Terps have a great shot at an early commitment. [VIDEO]
Other names to know: Cam Phillips, DeMatha's more highly-touted receiver, who doesn't yet have an offer; Chigoze Onyekwere, a D.C. guy out of Friendship and big-time athlete - claims an offer from N.C. State, but Maryland may extend one over the offseason
Maryland did an admirable job of strengthening its offensive line in the 2013 class, adding plenty of depth, some ready-to-play prospects, and even an elite recruit in Derwin Gray. But all good teams are built in the trenches, and the Terrapins will continue to build there themselves. Good news is that they're in luck: for the second year in a row, there's plenty of local talent on the line.
Sam Madaras (Good Counsel / Olney, Md.): Yes, he's that Madaras, younger brother of current starting Terps' left tackle Mike Madaras. The younger Madaras isn't quite the technician that Mike is, but he's bulkier and more likely to end up somewhere on the interior of the line. Maryland hasn't offered yet, but the Terrapins are usually a bit slow on the offer these days; he already has offers from a few mid-majors and N.C. State, and given that Maryland still needs line depth - especially on the interior - I'd expect an offer to be forthcoming before long. Once it is, Maryland would be the clear frontrunner. [VIDEO]
Sam Mustipher (Good Counsel / Olney, Md.): Mustipher could easily end up on either side of the line, but most right now project him as an offensive lineman so we'll stick him here to start with. He's a big kid with a great physique for the position, and will likely be a four-star and potential top-250 type of player when it's all said and done. He has early offers from the likes of Ohio State, Florida State, and Michigan, among others, and he's a West Virginia legacy. But Maryland will fight, and Good Counsel kids are still, as a rule, generally particularly receptive to Terrapin overtures. [VIDEO]
Damian Prince (Bishop McNamara / District Heights, Md.): Prince is an absolute mountain of a man, standing at an absurd 6-7 and 310 pounds already. He's going to end up a giant when it's all said and done, but has light, quick feet and surprising athleticism. He's a potential five-star, and would continue building the massive, talented line the Terps are currently constructing. He's friendly with Derwin Gray, already in College Park, and was teammates with Milan Collins as well. There's plenty pulling him elsewhere - he'll have offers from virtually everywhere in the country by the time it's all said and done - but local connections will help, especially with Locksley running point. [VIDEO]
Brock Ruble (DeMatha / Hyattsville, Md.): Ruble's another massive lineman - he's 6-9! - and another local at that. His size alone means he's going to be highly sought-after, and he already claims offers from South Carolina, N.C. State, FSU, and a handful of others. He's nimble for someone so large, especially because he hasn't filled out that 6-9 frame as much as he might do in the coming years, which makes him an attractive proposition for a downhill spread like Maryland is trying to foster. The Terps haven't offered yet, but he's a local guy at a position of relative need with a lot of interest; I would expect that to change sooner rather than later. [VIDEO]
Other names to know: Justin Falcinelli, a rare western Maryland recruit and a big kid who claims an offer from Maryland, along with a host of other similar-sized schools; Brian Allen, another Illinois-based recruit Maryland's offered in recent weeks; Coleman Thomas, a center from southwest Virginia, the heart of VT country, who garnered a Terps offer just last week
Without a question, expect the defensive line to be Maryland's priority in this recruiting class. They're relatively light on numbers there already, and Justin Anderson and Isaiah Ross are slated to graduate by this time next year. Only three linemen came into the program in the 2013 class with each looking more like long-term projects (and thereby slight gambles) than players who are ready to contribute right away. Nose guard in particular will be a priority, but high-quality ends will be emphasized as well. Expect the Terps to take another three or so linemen in the class.
Jesse Aniebonam (Good Counsel / Olney, Md.): Aside from Madaras, Aniebonam is probably the GC recruit Maryland is best situated with. He's already down to five, and it's a hell of a list - Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Clemson and of course the Terrapins rounding it out. As talent flocks to D.C., Maryland-based traditional powerhouses like Good Counsel (and, more aptly, DeMatha) are getting a bit less hype, and Aniebonam probably doesn't receive the local attention he deserves. He's a likely-four star, top-200 type of player, maybe top-150, and will be fighting it out with the likes of Crest, Mustipher, and Demetrius Johnson for the #2 spot in the state. This is the type of guy the supposed, mythical Fence Around the DMV would keep in, in an ideal world - big, five-star national recruits will always get away just due to their nature, but the second and third tier need to be locked down a little better than they are - so he'll be an interesting test. I'd feel better if it lasts awhile, though, so Maryland can win a few games and sell him on that. Given the Midwestern flavor of his list, though, you have to think the Big Ten move is a big one for him. [VIDEO]
Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge / Woodbridge, Va.): I refuse to give up the dream. Hand, a northern Virginia native, is the king of this class, the consensus top player in the country and someone who's already drawn comparisons to Jadeveon Clowney. He already has a top five that doesn't include Maryland, but this will likely go until Signing Day and that top five will see plenty of changes. He visited Maryland last month with his cousin, Marcus Boone, who already has a Terps offer, which is a good sign; so, too, are the rumors that he might end up at Friendship Collegiate, which would put Maryland quietly at the forefront. Stefon Diggs was a hell of a get and Mike Locksley's pulled off plenty of crazy coups in his time in College Park, but you get the feeling that it might be here that he's making his big play. Whether or not he has the capital to pull it off, I don't know. But if Maryland surprise some people next year with seven or eight wins, I wouldn't be surprised if they end up in the fight late. People aren't going to talk about Maryland at all throughout the recruitment, but they didn't talk about Maryland with Stefon Diggs, either. This is going to be a stealth effort for Locksley and Brian Stewart, but don't undersell them. [VIDEO]
Jayln Holmes (Lake Taylor / Norfolk, Va.): Maryland's slowly starting to build relationships back up in the 757, an area they generally haven't frequented too much in recent years. Holmes is probably the biggest recruit from the area to appear receptive to Maryland's push, as he just recently put out a top seven that had the Terrapins in it. Of course, it also had Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, UNC, and Virginia Tech, so maybe you shouldn't expect the Terps to be around for long. But you gotta start somewhere, and Maryland at least has their foot in the door. Holmes is a bit undersized for a 3-4 end spot, but he's a fearsome athlete and has the frame to support more weight. [VIDEO]
Other names to know: Noah Beh, a huge (6-7!) Pennsylvanian with an early offer; Andrew Brown, the nation's best defensive tackle and a 757 native - he's good friends with Da'Shawn Hand and could be interested if Maryland pulled the coup of all coups with Hand, but it's a long shot; Khairi Clark, a superstar recruit from Florida unlikely to seriously consider Maryland, but with a family connection (Undray Clark) on the roster; Ricky Walker, another 757 native who just recently garnered a Maryland offer himself
The wide receivers of the defense. Maryland has, by my count, 15 linebackers on the roster at present, and only two - two! - will have graduated by this time next year. Some will likely transfer; others will find new positions. But after the on-rush of linebacker recruiting over the past two years, there's simply not that much space at linebacker for more bodies. It's already a guarantee that there will be plenty of players getting shed from those positions, and adding even more, when there are depth issues on the lines, doesn't seem particularly bright. But there's just too much local talent to ignore the position entirely.
Melvin Keihn (Gilman / Baltimore, Md.): Two years, two Gilman recruits for Maryland, and just like that they've melted away years of cold shoulders between the programs. It's still not as Terp-friendly as, say, Friendship Collegiate (which increasingly has a "Howard Schnellenburger in Miami" feel to it), but the tension has melted away in large part and having Shane Cockerille in College Park is a big recruiting tool. Keihn is probably Gilman's biggest recruit in this cycle, an athletic wrecking ball of a linebacker who could end up anywhere across the four positions, depending on what Maryland wants him to do. He's played defensive end for Gilman, which should say something about his strength, personality, and pass-rushing ability, but he's more likely to stand up at the next level, probably starting at WILL but potentially able to play SAM or even on the inside with some chiseling. He'll be one of the biggest recruits in the state of Maryland this year, so he'll be an obvious priority for the Terps. [VIDEO]
Spencer Kleinrichert (DeMatha / Hyattsville, Md.): Maryland was one of the first to offer Kleinrichert, who plays outside lienbacker at DeMatha, and they appear to be one of his early favorites. If they push in the offseason, it wouldn't be shocking to see him commit quickly. He strikes me as more likely to end up at SAM or even in the interior than he does at WILL, which requires a more natural athlete, generally speaking, but his pass-rushing background makes even that a possibility. He's a strong guy who packs some serious punch, and appears to take deep pleasure in laying the wood. He plays with a nasty streak already and always finds himself around the ball, which are two things that Maryland's staff has prioritized over the past few years. He has some raw parts of his game, but he looks like a coach's favorite right now. [VIDEO]
Maryland added quite a bit of defensive back depth last class, bringing aboard five guys who'll start out in the secondary. With no one scheduled to graduate this year, there isn't a whole lot of room in the defensive backfield, so don't expect Maryland to look to overhaul with a bunch of corners this year. But, much like at quarterback, there's just too much talent to ignore the positions entirely: one of the best corners in the nation calls D.C. home, and other four-star types are peppered throughout the District, Annapolis, and Baltimore. There's a bunch of talent in the secondary locally this year, and if Maryland's going to build from the DMV, they can't afford to not take talent in certain positions when it's there.
Demetrius Johnson (Annapolis Area Christian / Annapolis, Md.): Johnson has quietly emerged as one of the state's better prospects, and one of the contenders for the best recruit in Maryland behind Prince. He's not a big name and doesn't play at a powerhouse, but he's a well-built, athletic safety who's starting to garner some serious hype. Annapolis isn't a traditional football powerhouse, which means Johnson probably isn't getting the offers or recognition he'd be getting if he was playing at Friendship or Gilman or the like; that works in Maryland's favor, as the big names are yet to come calling. His teammate Elvis Dennah signed with Maryland on Wednesday, and the Terrapins have a bigger presence in the Annapolis area than any out-of-town school. [VIDEO]
D'Andre Payne (Friendship / Washington, D.C.): One of two elite cornerback prospects from Friendship, Payne transferred in from H.D. Woodson, a long-time Mike Locksley stronghold. The move to Friendship was smart for academic and exposure reasons, though, and it'll serve to raise Payne's profile even higher. Not as if it needed it: he's already looking like a top-200 type four-star prospect, with offers from Auburn, Florida State, Michigan, Ohio State, Georgia, and more. As a guy who came up through the D.C. publics, though, Mike Locksley's recruiting pitch will carry extra weight. He doesn't seem likely to decide before the season, so a strong start to the year could go a long way toward keeping Maryland in the running. As a DB, he's actually in many ways similar to current Terp Will Likely, as an undersized playmaker; like Likely, his physical tools aren't outstanding, but they're good enough for him. [VIDEO]
Jalen Tabor (Friendship / Washington, D.C.): Fawning over Jalen Tabor is no longer trendy, but darn it if I just can't help myself when it comes to looking at him as a football player. Sure, Tabor loves him some Tabor, but he's a shutdown corner in the making, with the ability to be a superstar if he keeps his head down and keeps working. He's a physical match for almost any receiver in the country, and is ahead of the curve in technique as well. He perhaps lacks the ball skills or play-making ability of a Will Likely, but Tabor's a big deal for a reason, and it's because he's a darned good cornerback prospect. Maryland's in his ever-shifting top group, but most have been wary of Tabor's attention-grabbing ways. He's made it obvious that the idea of staying home and building something appeals to him, but he's also played it coy enough to give him plenty of room to pick glamorous programs like Alabama or Ohio State. This is Mike Locksley time once again: he has to sell Tabor on the glories of staying home and making his own path, and hopefully do it as soon as possible to get a snowball effect. It's likely, though, that that's a step too far; this is probably going to last until NSD 2014, and if that's the case Maryland needs to win games next year to have a fighting chance. [VIDEO]
Troy Vincent (Gilman / Baltimore, Md.): Yes, that Troy Vincent. The Gilman star is the fifth elite secondary prospect in the area, yet another early four-star type with a big offer sheet - Michigan, Michigan State, UNC, Penn State, and Wisconsin are among those who have offered. He's a Wiscy legacy, and the presence of Big Ten programs make it seem likely he'll end up in the B1G somewhere, which should help Maryland's case. He has good physical tools, but is more impressive technically and with his ball skills, where he's one of the more developed guys in the class. Any Gilman pull is tough; a Gilman pull who isn't a Baltimore kid through and through is even tougher. But he'll be one of the many secondary options in this class. [VIDEO]
Other names to know: Marcus Allen, local safety with a connection to Pittsburgh (godson of Curtis Martin), but appears to have Terps as an early favorite; Daejuan Funderburk, another Friendship player, this time yet to get an offer but will be on the radar; Marcel Joly, a Good Counsel cornerback who had one of Maryland's first offers of the class; Kobie Walker, another Good Counsel prospect with early interest, likely to end up at safety