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DeMatha freshmen have been ‘big time’ early for Maryland football

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The 2016 class was a breakthrough for the Terps at the local powerhouse.

High School Football: Under Armour All-America Game
Tino Ellis at the 2016 Under Armour All-America game.
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland football’s class of 2016 was its first in eight years to include a player from local powerhouse DeMatha Catholic High School, located just down the road from campus.

Running back Lorenzo Harrison was first to commit back in September of 2014, and pledges from D.J. Turner, Tino Ellis and Terrance Davis eventually followed.

The group was at Maryland all summer and has finished a week and a half of fall camp. Durkin had kind, if general, words to say about the group at Tuesday’s media day.

“The DeMatha guys are all big time,” he said. “We got what we thought we were getting. They have done extremely well all throughout camp. Those guys will contribute and help us play. They all have very bright futures here.

"Those are all guys that are top-notch football players who could have went to other places, but we kept right here at home, and they're going to contribute, probably early, for us," Durkin said on National Signing Day. "They're going to have that opportunity."

Now the four of them are making some history at Maryland, and they’re joined by walk-on classmate Seun Oluwatimi and transfer wide receiver Chris Jones, who graduated from DeMatha in 2014.

“It’s definitely made the transition to college a lot easier,” Ellis told Testudo Times on Tuesday. “Having those guys around me, it just feels like old times at DeMatha.”

Those old times have been spliced with a whole lot of running and practicing in the heat, as each player is getting used to college practices in the controlled chaos environment Walt Bell and DJ Durkin have put in place.

“The first, couple days it was tiring. It was so fast,” Ellis said. “But I’m getting used to it, I’m still learning the playbook, learning the calls, so once I get used to the system and really get it down pat, I’ll be fine.”

When the freshmen got a break from practice at Maryland, they spent some time down the street at their alma mater. And yes, they talked up the Terps to some of Maryland’s top 2016 recruits.

DeMatha defensive end Chase Young is No. 1 in the state, according to the 247Sports Composite, and running back Anthony McFarland is No. 2.

“I am talking to those guys, trying to get them up at Maryland,” Ellis said.

“It’s just normal talk, just recruiting a little bit. I visit up there a lot though, as much as I could,” Harrison added.

McFarland has Maryland in his top 10, but Young committed to Ohio State back in July. Ellis hasn’t given up on Young, though, and isn’t backing down in his recruiting efforts.

“I was a little disappointed, but you know, it’s still early,” Ellis said. “He didn’t sign, so I’m going to work on him, still talk to him, get in his ear, see if I can get him to flip.”

That’s good news for fans who want to see Young and Joshua Kaindoh, two blue-chip ends, clad in Maryland colors. Still, it’s going to be tough for the Terps to pry Young from Ohio State.

When it comes to recruiting DeMatha teammates. Harrison has the most experience of the group. Once he committed, Harrison started working his friends.

“Probably the most effort I put into was Terrance Davis,” Harrison said. “He’s my cousin, so I really wanted him to come with me, we’re really close. I was probably on him the hardest. But I was in Tino’s ear a lot, I was in D.J’s ear a lot, and they all eventually came. It was their own decision, but I’m glad they made it.”

The effect snowballed. By the time Harrison, Turner and Ellis all announced their commitments, Davis was their prime target. After the first three committed under Randy Edsall, Davis became second recruit to commit under Durkin, announcing his decision at the Under Armour All-America game in January.

“We were all in his ear, all three of us, we were saying, ‘You gotta come with us, you gotta do this. We can do it together,” Harrison said.

As teammates in college, Harrison now has a comfort level with them that’s impossible to get with the program’s other freshmen.

“It’s just nice to have people you already know and you’ve already bonded with to help you through the transition.”