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The Film Room: A closer look at CB commit Kareem Ali Jr.

Maryland's latest football commit, Kareem Ali Jr., is a highly touted and exciting cornerback prospect, which is exactly what the Terps needed.


We're back with another film review. And not just any film review, a really, really important one. Our humble managing editor, Pete Volk, is a follower of all things Maryland, but football recruiting is his wheelhouse. Since Kareem Ali Jr. has been a favorite of Pete's since Day 1 of the 2015 cycle,  I figured it was a good time to check in with him for a reaction:

FlaTerp: Pete, I know Kareem Ali Jr. is a recruit you've kept a particularly close eye on. Why?

Pete: For starters, it's a huge position of need for Maryland. They have three graduations at corner over a two-year period, and brought in only Daniel Ezeagwu in last year's class. Ali continued to make a name for himself on the camp circuit throughout the recruiting process, earning offers from the likes of Florida and Penn State, and it was clear from the start this was the kind of dynamic kid they needed in the class at the position. He'll also be enrolling early and playing in spring ball 2015, which makes a gigantic developmental difference.

FlaTerp: OK, but you know I'm a "stars" guy. The Terps have been recruiting five-stars (Petitbon) and four-stars (Prince, Locksley, Boulware and others). Ali isn't rated as highly as those guys are. Is he as important? More important?

Pete: I would say he's as important, if not more, just due to the team's make-up. While you can never have too many linemen, Maryland had a great haul on the line last season, and they have a few young options at quarterback already. Ali's considered a four-star on Rivals, and I fully expect him to get the bump to that level on the composite by Signing Day.

FlaTerp: So what does this mean for the recruiting cycle in the secondary? Ali is a pure CB. Ty Johnson is a possible CB. The Terps seem to be in a good position with Ashton White and Darnell Savage (CBs), while we're hearing some exciting rumblings about superprospect and Florida commit Marcus Lewis, another CB. How do you think the Ali news affects all these guys and the class in general?

Pete: I don't think it alters anything -- yet. They're likely to take at least three corners (and there's not a scenario in which they say no to White or Lewis), so everything's pretty much the same, for now. If I'm Darnell Savage, however, I start thinking about reserving my spot.

FlaTerp: So how are you feeling about Maryland's Class of 2015 now? It was just a couple weeks ago that E.J. Donahue was the lone commit and even he seemed like a flight risk. Things have changed quickly!

Pete: They certainly have. It's hard not to get excited with this positive momentum, and they're in a pretty good place right now. If they continue to close like they have, we could see a class that, as a whole, tops any of Edsall's previous hauls.

FlaTerp: Thanks Pete!

So there you have it. The master of negativity himself, the one and only generator of Maryland doom and dismay, Pete Volk, is all positive. Is that a sign of the apocalypse? Y'all better board up the windows and hide your loved ones, just in case. On that note, let's go look at some film.

Click here to see Ali's film reel from his junior year. There is also a very impressive Rivals combine film review, but it's paywall.

The Recruit: Kareem Ali Jr.

High School: Timber Creek. Sicklerville, N.J.

Position: Cornerback

247sports composite: Three stars, 44th-best cornerback and the 12th-best player from the state of New Jersey. Rivals is a little more keen on Ali, listing him in the Rivals 250 as a four-star, the 28th best corner nationally and seventh-best player in New Jersey.

Measurables: Ali is universally listed around 5-10 and 175, but I have to say he looks a little smaller than that on film. There aren't easily found measurables for speed and strength, so we'll speculate about that stuff downpage in the film review.

Junior season: Timber Creek was an elite New Jersey football team, finishing 10-2 and reaching the Group 4 state championship game, where the Chargers suffered a 31-22 loss to Shawnee. Ali was a two-way force for Timber Creek in 2013, finishing with 31 tackles, eight pass defenses and an interception as a lockdown corner who quarterbacks tended to throw away from. He was also a factor in the Chargers offense, where he totaled 339 all-purpose yards as a running back with four touchdowns. It's probably also signficant to note that Timber Creek is one of those schools that has at least a couple D-1 prospects every year, so a charismatic guy like Ali could possibly open further intriguing possibilities down the road.

Offers: Ali has a superlative list of offers that includes, among dozens, Clemson, Florida, Michigan State, Nebraska, Penn State, West Virginia, Virginia and Wisconsin.

On film: Cornerback is one of the tougher positions to evaluate on film for a very simple reason: the better the cornerback, the fewer the targets, the lesser the highlights. This is definitely the case with Ali's junior-year film reel, which is largely made up by rushing plays on offense. He's a nice little speedy rusher who could possibly parlay that talent into a role returning punts or kicks on special teams, but that's not why Maryland coveted him so we won't waste anymore words on it.

As a cornerback, Ali is, in a word, solid. He's not big, not at all. In fact, to the eye he looks smaller than just about every receiver you can find clips of him covering, but as we've seen recently with Terps like Dex McDougle and Will Likely, height and size aren't really great factors for cornerbacks. If you're fast, nimble and physical, you don't at all need to be big and tall. Ali is fast, nimble and physical.

The speed is probably the thing that jumps out at you the most, both on defense and offense. Speed is so important here, because sometimes cornerbacks have to tangle with guys like Sammy Watkins and Stefon Diggs. In those instances a defense needs someone who can simply keep up with players who can both burn as well as turn on a dime. Ali has that showy type of speed and it gives me early confidence that this is a guy you can put on an island and he won't get beat deep, even against the best of them.

In game footage, he's a ball hawk with speed who flies to the ball, breaks up passes and generally just makes football plays. In combine footage, he shows all the physical talents you want to see in a corner like footspeed, hip swivel, upper body flexibility and busy hands. His head is also good in two ways. First, he is alert and you can watch him being QB- and ball-aware and not keeping his head locked down on the receiver. Second, he's a gamer who plays with emotion and engages in mental battle with the receivers he covers.

2015 outlook: Part of Ali's 2015 outlook is still TBD. If Maryland continues its hot recruiting and reels in Ashton White and Marcus Lewis, then it increases the odds of Ali (or one of those other two exciting prospects) redshirting. But as things stand right now, Ali is a stud recruit who plays a position of need. In 2015, Maryland will likely have Will Likely locking down one side of the field, but the other side is a question mark. The book is still out on Alvin Hill and Undray Clark, who will be seniors. Same goes for Jarrett Ross, who will be a junior. None of those three guys have proven yet that they are (or aren't) capable of being an every-down type of corner. Then we've got Daniel Ezeakwu, an currently an incoming freshman, and Denzel Conyers, an imcoming JUCO transfer who will be a sophomore. Both of those guys are nice physical prospects, but neither have played a down of football at Maryland yet. We won't know until we know. Then we'll know. No?

I know this much: Kareem Ali Jr. is a better-looking prospect at his age than any corner on Maryland's roster except for Likely, who was lighting the world on fire down in The Muck when he was a Florida  high schooler but somehow slipped through the cracks and landed on our laps. Likely was ready to go on Day 1 as a Terp, and I think Ali projects at a comparable level. Ali doesn't look like a redshirt to me, he looks like an early player. Maybe Lewis and White join him in the Class of 2015 too and give him competition. Maybe Conyers and Ezeagwu will be game-ready studs by their second year in the program. Maybe Ross, Hill and Clark will make the leap and force Ali to fight harder for first-year snaps. If any of those things happen, it'll be a good problem for Maryland to deal with, but I think it's more probable that Kareem Ali Jr. will see action early and often in his Maryland career.

Longterm outlook: There's much to like about Ali. He's got speed, smarts and attitude and he plays a position Maryland is thin at, so Ali's longterm future in College Park looks terrific. There's recruiting-based reasons to love this commitment, too. It's a recruiting win for a coveted out-of-state kid who hails from an area regularly scoured by new B1G neighbors Penn State, Ohio State and Rutgers. It's Maryland's second big fish from NJ in two years along with Juwann Winfree. It's evidence that people are buying what Randy Edsall is selling, and not just from within the DMV. It's also an early domino that could set other commitments in motion, especially in the secondary. Kareem Ali Jr. is an out-of-state kid who could've gone to any number of exciting universities, many with better football reputations than Maryland's, but honed in on the Terps early and never let up. It's the type of transcendent recruiting coup that gives you hope beyond the individual player and the position he'll play. Maryland has exciting three- and four-star kids coming to visit from not just the DMV, but from Florida,  from Texas, from Ohio and elsewhere. Ali is a very nice looking cornerback, but is he a trend, too? I can't wait to find out!

How do you feel about Kareem Ali Jr.'s prospects for early playing time?