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State By State: Maryland

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff

By Bill Wagner, Annapolis (Md.) Capital
August 23, 2004

Terps' Success, Rare Speed Element Attracting More Recruiters

ANNAPOLIS — College football recruiters covet speed, and this year they're finding it in a surprising locale: the Maryland/D.C region.

An area not known for turning out burners suddenly boasts three prospects who have caused a lot of scouts to double-check their stopwatches. Owings Mills McDonogh wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and Hyattsville DeMatha cornerback Anthony Wiseman are national-caliber sprinters whose times have drawn scholarship interest from major Division I track programs. Greenbelt Roosevelt athlete Derrick Williams doesn't run track, but he also has posted some eye-popping (and verifiable) 40-yard dash times.

Wiseman has the most impressive track times, having clocked 6.3 seconds in the 55-meter dash, 10.5 in the 100 meters and 21.5 in the 200 meters. He is the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference champion in all sprint events (indoor and outdoor). The solidly built 5-10, 175-pounder has participated in numerous major national meets, placing fourth in the 100 at the Golden Spike Invitational in California and fourth in the 200 at the adidas High School Nationals in North Carolina.

“I am certain Anthony could make the Olympics if he decided to pursue track as his primary sport,” said Bryce Bevill, the former secondary coach at DeMatha and now the head coach at rival Forestville Bishop McNamara.

Heyward-Bey is another high-level sprinter, having placed sixth in the 60-meter dash with a time of 6.83 seconds at the Nike Indoor National Championships. The 6-2, 190-pounder ran the fourth-fastest 40 time at the Charlottesville Nike Camp (4.38) and is just a tad slower than Wiseman in the 100 (10.53) and 200 (21.6).

“Darrius is a big-bodied kid with world-class speed,” McDonogh coach Dom D'Amico said. “I've never seen a kid of that size run as fast as he does.”

Remarkably, when it comes to the 40-yard dash, Williams is the fastest man in the state of Maryland, if not the nation. The chiseled 6-0, 190-pounder has amazed timers with his ability to consistently stop the watch between 4.3 and 4.4 seconds, and he reportedly clocked 4.28 twice at combines prior to his junior season. He ran 4.31 on grass at the Charlottesville Nike Camp, a performance that no other prospect in attendance, including Heyward-Bey, could touch.

“I've been working as a college coach for nearly 20 years and watched a lot of kids run, and Williams is as good as I've seen,” a veteran Big Ten assistant said. “What makes him so special is that he has tremendous acceleration and burst. He can change direction and be back to full speed in an instant.”

Not surprisingly, all three Maryland-based speedsters are ranked highly by the national recruiting services. Williams may be the country's consensus No. 1 overall player. Heyward-Bey and Wiseman generally are rated among the top 25 prospects at their respective positions.

Williams had 48 scholarship offers at last count, with most schools recruiting him as either a wide receiver or cornerback. He is a dangerous option quarterback for Roosevelt, having accounted for 2,910 yards of total offense as a junior. He was named MVP of the Elite College Combine this summer in East Rutherford, N.J., after a show-stopping performance that featured a 34-inch vertical leap and 22 reps of 185 pounds on the bench. He simply could not be covered in one-on-one drills.

“Derrick Williams is without a doubt the greatest player I've seen in my high school coaching career,” said Roosevelt's Rick Houchens, who has sent dozens of players to Division I-A programs and three to the NFL. “He is an absolute game-breaker who will make an immediate impact for whichever program he chooses.”

Williams, who intends to graduate from high school in December and enroll in college in January, still claimed to be wide open on his college choice in late August. He did narrow his list to 13 schools: Connecticut, Florida, Florida State, Maryland, Miami, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Southern Cal, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia Tech.

Wiseman committed to Maryland in June over offers from 15 schools, including Boston College, Clemson, Michigan, Nebraska, Penn State, Virginia and Virginia Tech. He's a rare three-year starter on both sides of the ball for perennial powerhouse DeMatha. As a junior, he rushed for 925 yards and 10 touchdowns while also recording five interceptions.

“I've taught Anthony coverage techniques that most corners don't learn until college,” said Bevill, once a standout defensive back at Syracuse. “He combines great natural instinct with a strong understanding of angles. He's also real physical and aggressive, no Deion Sanders. He'll get in your face, smack you coming off the line and attack the ball in the air.”

Heyward-Bey, who had almost a dozen full rides to choose from, picked Maryland over North Carolina and Virginia in mid-August. He also was high on Alabama, Boston College, Michigan State, Penn State and Pittsburgh. Heyward-Bey boards at McDonogh, a Baltimore County private school, but resides in Silver Spring, which is about 15 minutes away from College Park. He hauled in 38 receptions for 798 yards and nine touchdowns in 2003.

“Darrius is just too big and too fast for anyone in our league to cover,” D'Amico said. “His highlight film is amazing. … It's like a man against boys.”

Heyward-Bey was the fifth highly rated in-state senior to announce an early decision for the Terrapins, who previously received pledges from Wiseman, Indian Head Lackey running back Morgan Green, Joppatowne High fullback Jeremy Navarre and DeMatha safety Jeff Allen. The Terps also secured commitments from Good Counsel twins Tommy and Dwight Galt, defensive end-tight end prospects who are not considered among the state's top 20 prospects. Only a handful of other players in the immediate area have garnered scholarship offers from Maryland this year.

Maryland's ability to win 31 games in three seasons under coach Ralph Friedgen, with a roster comprised primarily of in-state products, has attracted recruiters from all over the country. As recently as five years ago, Maryland, Penn State, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech and West Virginia were the only major programs actively scouting Maryland-D.C. on an annual basis. Other teams occasionally landed a big-time prospect from the region, but for the most part it was the same handful doing battle.

Clearly, the landscape has changed, as such high-profile programs as Alabama, Florida, FSU, Miami, Michigan, Ohio State, Southern Cal and UCLA all pursued multiple players from Maryland-D.C. this summer.

For the third straight year, the area boasts the nation's top-ranked defensive end, and some analysts believe Randallstown High's Melvin Alaeze will be even better than Victor Abiamiri (Notre Dame) and Derrick Harvey (Florida).

Alaeze, the MVP of the State College (Pa.) Nike Combine, totaled 52 tackles and 15 sacks as a junior and simply couldn't be blocked during one-on-one drills at Maryland's summer camp. He is sorting through 28 scholarship offers and appears most interested in Virginia Tech, Florida, USC, Miami and Maryland.

“If I had to set visits today,” Alaeze said, “those are the schools I would choose.”

Alaeze is amazingly quick (4.55 in 40) and agile (4.3 in pro shuttle) for someone his size, while also extremely strong and powerful (can bench press 185 pounds for 24 repetitions). With a 2.3 GPA and a 790 SAT score, he must improve his academic credentials to qualify, but he's close enough that few recruiters are concerned.

Maryland got a big-time running back in Green, who had a phenomenal junior season, with 2,630 yards rushing and 26 touchdowns. He also had offers from Florida, N.C. State and others at the time of his early June commitment. A powerful between-the-tackles runner who does not go down on first contact, Green must improve his academic credentials (2.2 GPA, 710 SAT) to qualify.

Several ACC schools are pursuing Germantown Northwest's Ike Whitaker, by far the state's top quarterback and one of the best on the East Coast. Blessed with superb arm strength, quick feet and above-average athleticism, the 6-4, 205-pounder accounted for 1,950 yards of total offense and 34 touchdowns as a junior. Whitaker, who has yet to achieve a qualifying SAT score, is sitting at 19 offers, but many feel it's a two-horse race between Maryland and Virginia Tech.

Washington St. John's linebacker Rico McCoy rates Miami slightly ahead of Syracuse, where older brother Reggie is a redshirt freshman. A hard hitter who racked up 120 tackles as a junior, Rico may have to play strong safety at the next level.

Virginia Tech and Maryland are among the leaders for cornerback Jamari McCollough, who plays at Randallstown High along with Alaeze. Scouts rave about his swivel hips and ability to come out of a backpedal fluidly. Pittsburgh, Purdue, N.C. State, Virginia and Michigan State are among the more notable of the 14 schools that have offered McCollough, who also must upgrade his academics. He returned three of his six interceptions for TDs as a junior.

North Carolina appears to be one of the leaders for mammoth Waldorf Westlake defensive lineman Derrell Jones, a powerful prospect who can squat 510 pounds. Jones, who had 61 tackles and four sacks as a junior, also is considering Pittsburgh and Syracuse.

The Tar Heels also are interested in Upper Marlboro Douglass nose tackle Thomas Claggett, whose body type and playing style have drawn comparisons to NFL star Warren Sapp. Recruiters rave about Claggett's non-stop motor and workmanlike attitude in the trenches, which resulted in 16 tackles for loss and seven sacks in 2003.

Virginia Tech gained summer commitments from a pair of DeMatha standouts, offensive lineman Robert Norris and fullback Kenny Jefferson.

Norris is a naturally strong prospect, with broad shoulders and big hands. A hard-nosed type who can benchpress 335 pounds for five repetitions, Norris was recruited as a center by the Hokies. Jefferson is a tenacious blocker who finishes off defenders. He's an outstanding student (3.5 GPA, 1,120 SAT) and two-year starting linebacker who also projects as a top special-teams performer for the Hokies.

“Coach Billy Hite (Tech's Maryland area recruiter) told me Kenny was the best fullback they saw on tape,” DeMatha assistant Chris Baucia said. “He's a true I-formation fullback, and those are hard to come by these days.”

Duke gained a commitment from Baltimore Archbishop Curley running back-defensive back Glenn Williams, a top-notch student (3.9 GPA, 1,180 SAT) who also considered Northwestern. Williams, who is quick with good change-of-direction ability, rushed for 1,302 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior. He also had 44 tackles and four interceptions as a cover corner.