As National Signing Day approaches, we're cranking up our football recruiting coverage. We're going through the ACC's six key states (for this year at least, we still consider Maryland to be one of those six) checking in on how the league's schools are faring in the race to bring in top talent.
We started on Thursday with South Carolina. Today, Bill Wagner checks in on how the ACC fared chasing talent in Maryland.
NOTE: Obviously some of this is - particularly the On The Table section - subject to change over the next few days.
DeMatha Catholic, a private school located in Hyattsville, Md., is a perennial powerhouse that annually produces a slew of Division I recruits. However, DeMatha recently went through a down period following the sudden resignation of long-time head coach Bill McGregor. The Stags did not crank out their usual volume of major college prospects from 2011 through 2013 while being overtaken by rival Good Counsel as the premier program in the Washington Capital Athletic Conference.
Part of the problem was the manner in which McGregor left the parochial school following a remarkably successful 29-year tenure. It was McGregor that put DeMatha football on the map and made it one of the strongest programs in the country.
Under direction from school officials to fire a long-time assistant, the ultra-loyal McGregor refused and shocked the entire DeMatha community by resigning instead. McGregor and former offensive coordinator Chris Baucia are now assistants at The Gilman School in Baltimore.
DeMatha turned to one of its own to pick up the pieces and restore the program’s luster. Elijah Brooks, a two-sport standout who played football at William & Mary, was already working for the school – having returned as a world history teacher and running backs coach under McGregor.
It took Brooks a while to get the ball rolling, but there is no doubt that DeMatha football is back in a big way. The Stags boast nine of the top 40 prospects in Maryland for the Class of 2014, as ranked by Scout.com. That marks a major step forward since the program did not have a single major conference recruit in the Class of 2013.
Brooks, who just completed his fourth season as head coach, retained long-time assistants Tim Breslin and Deno Campbell as offensive and defensive coordinator, respectively. Hiring in-house and holding the core of the coaching staff together clearly hastened DeMatha’s recovery.
Why all the background about DeMatha? Well, the school is located about 15 minutes from the University of Maryland campus in College Park. However, head coach Randy Edsall and staff were shut out in their pursuit of several Stags.
Maryland still has not signed a running back for this class, but saw DeMatha’s Taiwan Deal sign with future Big Ten Conference rival Wisconsin. The Terrapins tried hard to land massive offensive tackle Brock Ruble, but the 6-foot-9, 322-pounder committed to ACC rival Florida State instead.
Ironically, DeMatha’s other top prospects – defensive end Deonte Holden (N.C. State), wide receiver Cameron Phillips (Virginia Tech), wide receiver Chris Jones (Wisconsin), middle linebacker JaWhaun Bentley (Purdue) and running back Mark Allen (Penn State) – also signed with ACC or Big Ten programs.
MAJOR ACC SCORES
RICKY LEONARD, DE, 6-7, 250, MIDDLETOWN, MD.
Tall, rangy pass rusher has the athleticism to play either defensive end in a 4-3 alignment or outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Standout lacrosse player is relatively new to football, but has all the measurable major college recruiters seek. Has run the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds and is also fairly strong (330 max bench) for being so lean. Has the frame to add at least another 30 pounds of muscle through a collegiate strength and conditioning program. Committed to Florida State in mid-August after also seriously considering Clemson and Maryland. Grew up rooting for the Seminoles despite growing up in western Maryland. Frederick News-Post Defensive Player of the Year and Consensus All-State selection by Associated Press.
JESSE ANIEBONAM, DE, 6-4, 240, GOOD COUNSEL, OLNEY, MD.
Maryland recovered nicely from missing on Leonard by landing the state’s other deluxe defensive end about a week later. Relentless pass rusher with a high motor chose the hometown Terrapins after also taking unofficial visits to Notre Dame, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Georgia Tech. Son of Nigerian natives grew up playing soccer, basketball and baseball and did not take up football until arriving at Good Counsel as a freshman. Credits defensive line coach Kevin McFadden for his development. Named first team All-Metro by Washington Post and Consensus All-State by Associated Press.
TROY VINCENT, CB, 5-10, 175, GILMAN SCHOOL, BALTIMORE, MD.
Son of the former Wisconsin and NFL standout of the same name. Starred as a wide receiver for Gilman, but projects as a corner at next level. Very fundamentally sound and understands game. Very instinctive in coverage and aggressive in run support. Extremely physical for size and a sure tackler. Initially committed to Penn State in late June, but wavered following the departure of head coach Bill O’Brien. Reopened recruitment and wound up choosing N.C. State, a program with which he was familiar from having taken two unofficial visits to Raleigh in the summer. Participated in the Blue-Grey All-Star game in Florida.
JARED COHEN, OT, 6-4, 290, MCDONOGH, OWINGS MILLS, MD.
First member of Class of 2014 to commit to Maryland. Had no other major scholarship offers at the time. Enjoyed a superb senior season and saw stock rise significantly, going from a three-star to a four-star recruit by Rivals. De-committed from Maryland in late December after receiving a scholarship offer from Penn State. Wanted to take an official visit to Happy Valley and was told by head coach Randy Edsall that he could not be committed to Terps if he did so. New Penn State head coach James Franklin was not as enamored with Cohen and that opened the door for North Carolina, which gained Cohen's commitment in late January. Dominant and aggressive run blocker was named first team All-Metro by The Baltimore Sun and Consensus All-State by Associated Press.
JUSTIN FALCINELLI, OG, 6-5, 300, MIDDLETOWN, MD.
Powerfully-built prospect committed to Clemson in August after seriously considering Stanford and Maryland. Two-time Consensus All-State selection played tackle in high school, but projects as a guard in college. Practiced every day against four-star defensive end Ricky Leonard and the two reportedly had epic battles. Helped lead Middletown to three consecutive Class 2A state championships.
MELVIN KEIHN, LB, 6-3, 225, GILMAN, BALTIMORE
Disruptive force operated as a defensive end or outside linebacker for Gilman and recorded 85 tackles (16 for loss) and nine sacks as a senior. Named first team All-Metro by The Baltimore Sun and Consensus All-State for second straight season. Selected to play in the Under Armour All-American Bowl. Committed to Virginia Tech on Nov. 15 over Maryland and Virginia. Born in Liberia and moved to United States at age eight. Possesses outstanding speed for size and runs sideline-to-sideline. Will play outside linebacker for the Hokies.
MAJOR ACC MISSES
JALEN TABOR, CB, 6-2, 195, FRIENDSHIP COLLEGIATE, D.C.
Rated among the nation’s top three cornerbacks by most recruiting services. Five-star prospect has great size and is very physical. Real ball hawk was rarely challenged, but earned first team All-Metro by The Washington Post for ability to shut down one side of field. Committed to Arizona in a live announcement during the Under Armour All-American game, but a week later flipped to Florida in order to be closer to home. Was very impressive in practices for Under Armour All-American game, dominating opposing wide receivers and showing great and ball skills. Displayed superb instincts and ability to tackle in space during the game. Graduated early and enrolled at Gainesville campus in January.
SAM MUSTIPHER, OG, 6-3, 286, GOOD COUNSEL, OLNEY, MD.
Impressive physical specimen with long arms and great feet was named an Under Armour All-American. Dominant one-on-one blocker was impressive in both running and passing situations as a senior in being named first team All-Metro by The Washington Post. Extremely strong youngster projects as a guard for Notre Dame, which secured his commitment in mid-April. Maryland, Michigan and Ohio State were the other finalists.
D’ANDRE PAYNE, CB, 5-10, 165, WOODSON, D.C.
Rated the No. 2 prospect in D.C. behind Jalen Tabor by both Rivals and Scout. Played alongside Tabor at Friendship Collegiate before transferring to H.D. Woodson for senior season. Committed to Tennessee in April over Florida State after also considering Clemson, Maryland, Virginia and Georgia Tech among others. Raised stock with strong performance at the Rivals Five-Star Challenge in June. Graduated early and enrolled at Knoxville campus in January.
FREDDY CANTEEN, WR, 6-3, 170, EASTERN CHRISTIAN, ELKTON, MD.
Tall, lengthy four-star prospect with blazing speed picked Michigan in late June over Rutgers. Was a package deal for the Wolverines along with teammate Brandon Watson, a three-star cornerback. Earned offer from head coach Brady Hoke with strong summer camp performance. Consensus All-State pick by Associated Press after making 48 catches for 879 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior.
WILLIAM CREST, QB, 6-4, 190, DUNBAR, BALTIMORE
Tall, athletic quarterback with great running ability and a strong arm. Ranked as a four-star prospect and fifth-best prospect in Maryland by Rivals.com. Gave verbal pledge to West Virginia in mid-April after also considering Ohio State, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Maryland, Vanderbilt and Virginia. Fits the mold of a mobile quarterback with strong arm that is preferred by head coach Dana Holgorson. Has been compared favorably to former WVU great and current New York Jets starter Geno Smith in terms of size, athleticism and throwing ability. Performed well at the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl, passing and rushing for touchdowns to lead the National team to victory.
STILL ON THE TABLE
DAMIAN PRINCE, OT, 6-5, 295, BISHOP MCNAMARA, FORESTVILLE, MD.
This five-star prospect is the only uncommitted recruit of note in the Maryland-D.C. region. Rated the region’s No. 1 prospect and the nation’s No. 2 offensive tackle by most services. Has narrowed choices to Florida and Maryland and will announce decision on National Signing Day. Took official visits to College Park in November and to Gainesville in late January. Is very close with Jalen Tabor, who is already enrolled at Florida and is stumping for Prince to join him. Also seriously considered South Carolina before eliminating that SEC school from contention. Selected as an Under Armour All-American, but could not play in the game due to a hand injury.
THE WINNER IS …
With Maryland moving to the Big Ten, the Free State becomes a fresh battleground for the remaining Atlantic Coast Conference schools. Of course, the Terrapins will continue to recruit their home turf hard, but the Maryland-D.C. region remains ACC territory (at least for the time being).
Any player currently in high school grew up following ACC football so there is going to a natural attraction to schools in that conference. The ACC will continue to have a television presence in the area based on natural geography. However, the Big Ten Network is going to begin broadcasting in the state of Maryland and District of Columbia, so it will be interesting to see if allegiances change among residents.
What is not in question is that current ACC members are recruiting the Maryland-D.C. region hard and several had success with the Class of 2014. No school did better than N.C. State, which secured commitments from four of the state’s Top 25 prospects – Gilman cornerback Troy Vincent Jr., DeMatha defensive end Deonte Holden, Henry Wise tight end Micah Till and Quince Orchard cornerback Elliott Davis.
Florida State landed two big-time prospects in Middletown defensive end Ricky Leonard and DeMatha offensive tackle Brock Ruble while Virginia Tech also came away with two gems in Gilman defensive end Melvin Keihn and DeMatha wide receiver Cameron Phillips.