It's a great day to be a Maryland fan thanks to one Damian Prince, the five-star left tackle out of Bishop McNamara who chose the Terps over Florida on National Signing Day. He's the shining star of this class and the most decorated commit since Stefon Diggs stepped to the Looney's Pub stage in 2012. He's also a 300-pound feather in the cap of Mike Locksley and, yes, Randy Edsall, who hauled in the biggest fish to be found in the Old Line State this year.
Not only does Prince fill a vital need for a depleted and questionably talented offensive line corps, but he fills an even bigger need in the stay-at-home narrative Edsall has been pushing since Day 1. Prince, Diggs, Wes Brown, Derwin Gray, Jesse Aniebonam, Shane Cockerille and Will Ulmer, among others, are huge local gets and are the type of prospects that were not pulling Maryland hats in the final years of the Friedgen regime. These are the type of guys that build recruiting momentum and that draw the eyes of younger stud players who might some day think staying home is cool, too. Even among those great Maryland/DC prep football names, Prince stands out. He's a 5-star. The best of the best. So let's celebrate the young man a little bit by watching him on video.
You can see the film here.
The Recruit: Damian Prince
School: Bishop McNamara, Forestville, Md.
Measurables: 6-foot-5, 295 pounds
247sports composite ratings: Five stars, 27th-best player in the class, second-best offensive tackle, best player in Maryland
Senior season: The Mustangs, playing a great schedule that included Good Counsel and DeMatha, finished 5-5 and missed the playoffs. It's hard to quantify a blindsider like Prince statistically, but Bishop McNamara averaged a very healthy 267 passing yards per game, which is a tribute to pass-protecting in general and a specifically strong tribute to the left tackle, which happened to be Prince. The Mustangs also rushed pretty effectively, despite having a sophomore lead back, at about 157 yards per game.
Offers: Prince, a consensus 5-star prospect, ultimately picked Maryland over Florida, but FSU, South Carolina, Penn State, LSU, Alabama and anyone else with a heartbeat coveted the guy. This was a true recruiting coup for the Terps at a position, left tackle, that may not be as glamorous as WR, where the Terps' last 5-star signee played, but is widely considered a more important position on the field.
On film: It takes a smarter OL critic than me to find fault in Damian Prince's film. With other OL prospects I've looked at, common high school faults include choppy footwork, not enough knee-bend, moving with your upper body too upright, standing up straight off the snap and not using your arms and hands at the same pace as your feet and legs are moving. Prince is guilty of none of these things. You can see him playing at all times with a low center of gravity. He keeps his knees and lower back angled and is clearly a strong and coordinated athlete. His feet are fluid, not choppy. His hands are particularly impressive and he uses them ahead of his body to make up for those rare instances on film where he loses a little ground. Prince is also mean in a good way. It's plain to see that he hates being beat, and even when he wins he shows leg drive and relentlessness beyond the point of attack and beyond the necessity of the play.
The story of Damian Prince includes a significant weight loss between his junior and senior years, and you can tell by watching him that he loves his improved lateral movement, flexibility and lightness on his feet. Even in national combine footage where he's competing against 4- and 5-star type defenders in no-pads drills, his anticipation is great and he finds a way to win angles and ground his guy without hitting him. It's fun to watch - defenders get beat cold in a non-contact drill and then look to the coaches to cry foul. Finally, one of the best things about Prince is that he's really not a giant lineman right now, so the universal praise he receives isn't based on him simply being huge, which is a common distraction in OL analysis.
The only negative trend I can come up with is that he can get a little grabby as a reflex and thus could possibly be susceptible to some holds, but that strikes me as possibly nitpicking, and definitely correctable. I'm nobody's OL coach or footwork technician, so there are probably other faults may have escaped my eye, but overall this is a very advanced prospect. And, hey, Maryland just landed Damian Prince! So I'm not really in the mood to complain about him much.
2014 outlook: Let's be honest -- if Prince had any intention of redshirting, he'd be a Seminole or Crimson Tide today. It seems pretty certain that Sal Conaboy is going to be a starter on the OL this season, but after that it's anybody's game. As a true freshman, Prince will have things to work on, weights to lift, and a playbook to learn. It's unfair to expect him to be a star out of the gate. OL, in my mind, is the toughest place to make the leap from high school to college, and then again from college to pro. But when camp starts, Prince is going to compare favorably to his competition. He's as big or bigger than most, he's faster than most, he's a better athlete than most. I'll go ahead and say it: Damian Prince will be a starter Week 1 next year. Where exactly will he start? That's to-be-determined, but right tackle is a good guess until he gets a little more seasoning and makes the move to the left side.
Longterm outlook: Call me an optimist, but between Damian Prince and Derwin Gray (who will get a head start in spring practice), I think we're looking at our 3-or-more-year starter at left tackle. Prince is the better athlete and better technician based on high school film, so let's give him the edge. I've watched a lot of Prince interviews and the kid seems like a hungry, serious, no-BS football player who wants to learn and get great and who really, really wants to play in the NFL. The longterm outlook for Damian Prince: Four-year starter, All-B1G left tackle by senior year, NFL lineman, all-time Maryland great. We Terps fans only get so many 5-stars to wrap our arms around, so why not swing for the fences? Welcome to Maryland, Damian Prince. We're thrilled to have you.
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