By Bill Wagner,
Annapolis (Md.) Capital
August 25, 2003
Terps Again Faring Well Against Increasing Number Of Invaders
ANNAPOLIS It wasn't surprising when Maryland again extended numerous early scholarship offers to in-state prospects earlier this year.
The Terrapins have maintained a consistent strategy ever since former head coach Ron Vanderlinden made dominating the home turf a recruiting priority. The Terps evaluate junior tape, invite top prospects to summer camp, offer those the staff deems most worthy by mid-July, then push for preseason commitments.
Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen has kept that process in place, since it has helped his teams secure 21 victories and a pair of major bowl berths over the past two seasons. By late August this year, the Terps had offered scholarships to 12 seniors in the Maryland-D.C. region and picked up commitments from seven of them. Friedgen is on the fence about a few players, but he likely will not extend many more offers between now and February.
Already pledged to attend Maryland are Woodlawn High offensive lineman Scott Burley, Columbia Wilde Lake defensive lineman Dane Randolph, Greenbelt Roosevelt defensive end Tre Covington, Randallstown High defensive back Christian Varner, Ijamsville Urbana athlete Eric Lenz and Aberdeen High linebacker Erin Henderson. All are rated among the top dozen recruits in the region. Rounding out the Terps' summer haul was Millersville Old Mill defensive back Kevin Barnes.
What is surprising is that Syracuse has been equally active in Maryland-D.C. this summer, tendering just as many scholarship offers as the state university. No fewer than a dozen players report an offer from the Orangemen, who gained early commitments from Upper Marlboro Douglass defensive back Quinton Brown and Columbia Wilde Lake offensive lineman Steve Simms and were finalists for a pair of Forestville High standouts, wide receiver Richard Abney (Michigan State) and athlete Andre Jones (Boston College).
The fact that Greenbelt Roosevelt defensive end Derrick Harvey, the region's consensus No. 1 prospect, had the Orangemen in his top 10 as September neared was quite a coup for head coach Pete Pasqualoni's program and spoke to the inroads the staff has made in Maryland-D.C.
Syracuse figured out that there are good players down here and has been hitting this area hard for about four years now, said Greenbelt Roosevelt coach Rick Houchens, whose program regularly produces Division I-A prospects. Chris White does a fantastic job. He is very dedicated and relates well to kids. I've found that if the Syracuse staff focuses in on a player, they go after him real hard.
Early indications are that this year's class is not as strong as the 2003 crop, which produced two rarities for the region: eight national prospects and more than 35 Division I-A signees. The local talent level may be a bit better than projected, though, as no fewer than 25 prospects had received formal scholarship offers by late August. More than 15 of those players offered early commitments, including unranked Waldorf Westlake offensive lineman Tre Tonsing, who chose Connecticut.
Harvey and Washington Gonzaga wide receiver Douglas Dutch are the state's primary national prospects, as both have drawn offers from 20-25 schools in all of the major conferences. Hyattsville DeMatha wide receiver Derrick McPearson is the only other uncommitted recruit with double-digit offers.
Harvey, whom Houchens discovered on the basketball court, piled up 92 tackles and 14 sacks last season his first in organized football. The 6-5, 230-pounder blew up on the camp/combine circuit and is considered a top-25 prospect nationally, despite only one year of experience on the gridiron.
Derrick has a tremendous upside, Houch-ens said. It's almost scary to think how good he could be in a couple years. He's only 16 years old and just recently started seriously lifting weights.
Harvey, who will turn 17 on Nov. 9, runs the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds and boasts a 39-inch vertical leap. Blessed with an 82-inch wingspan, he already can bench press 315 pounds and squat 495 despite limited time in the weight room. He lists a top 10 that includes ACC programs Maryland, Virginia and Clemson, but his most recent top five consisted of Southern Cal, Oklahoma, Miami, Kansas State and Ohio State. Arizona State, Florida, Syracuse, Tennessee and UCLA also remain involved.
Dutch, who reportedly ran the 40 in 4.35 seconds at the Virginia camp, put up modest numbers as a junior, with 16 receptions for 337 yards and seven touchdowns. However, his electrifying speed and moves were on display in the form of a 75-yard scoring reception and a 99-yard kickoff return for a TD. A track sprinter who has been clocked at 10.5 in the 100-meters, he has started for the Purple Eagles since he was a sophomore.
Five ACC schools are pursuing Dutch, with Virginia leading Maryland, UNC, Georgia Tech and Clemson. There are four schools apiece from the Big Ten, Big East and SEC also in the mix. He has not formulated a firm list but admitted Florida and Miami are among his favorites because those programs are known for throwing the football.
Hyattsville DeMatha receiver Derrick Mc-Phearson is a multi-skilled player who possesses sprinter's speed, strong hands and a 38-inch vertical leap. The powerfully built wideout can bench 285 and squat 470. He played running back at Ellicott City Howard as a sophomore before transferring to private school powerhouse DeMatha. He had only 12 receptions for 335 yards and three TDs as a secondary receiver (to Maryland-bound Josh Wilson) in 2002 but is slated for an expanded role (including returns) this season.
Derrick came to us as a running back, so it took time for him to learn the subtleties of playing wideout and to get used to playing with his back to the ball, DeMatha offensive coordinator Chris Baucia said. He has dramatically improved his route-running and techniques. He has a great first step and tremendous acceleration.
McPhearson backed off a very early commitment to Maryland (November 2002), where older brother Garrick is a reserve cornerback. However, he recently indicated the Terps still lead Florida, Ohio State, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech, among others.
Abney generally is regarded as the best pure pass catcher in the state, having grabbed 23 passes for 571 yards and 11 TDs as a junior. He's not quite as fast as Dutch or McPhearson, but he may have better hands. Abney's highlight tape shows he has an ability to make the difficult catch, adjusting to poorly thrown balls and snaring anything within reach. Scouts love the way he gets upfield after the catch and his willingness to block.
Abney gave a silent commitment to Maryland in June but later reneged after learning Friedgen wanted him as a defensive back. He then chose Michigan State over Boston College, UNC, Purdue, Syracuse and Virginia in late July.
Burley, easily the state's best offensive lineman, was the first Class of 2004 prospect to commit to Maryland. The massive 6-4, 325-pounder was hearing from Penn State, Miami, Florida, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame before pledging to the Terps in early May. He is an outstanding student who possesses long arms, excellent strength, good footwork and impressive flexibility for his size. He went one-on-one with Harvey during the second session of the Maryland camp and more than held his own.
Burley did not allow any sacks as a junior and showed the ability to get out front on screens. He can smother defenders in one-on-one blocking situations and is noted for being tenacious in the trenches.
Scott is quick off the ball and has a bit of a mean streak on the field, Woodlawn coach Leonard Hart said. He's perfect at tackle because he takes protecting the quarterback personally. He hates to give up sacks.
Randolph is similar to Harvey in that's he's another 16-year-old who possesses tremendous growth potential, having been told by doctors he could wind up 6-8 and 280 pounds. Randolph moves well enough to remain at end, but most recruiters envision him as a pass-swatting tackle. The transfer from Florida racked up 75 tackles (15 for loss) and seven sacks in his first season at Wilde Lake. He already possesses a 79-inch wingspan but could stand to get stronger (310 bench).
The son of a single mother who serves in the Navy and is stationed at Fort Meade, Md., Randolph wanted to remain close to home. He turned away interest from many suitors and selected Maryland over finalists Virginia and Penn State in July.
Frederick Linganore defensive end Mike Lucian, a lifelong Penn State fan, was pining for an offer from Joe Paterno and didn't hesitate when it came. He committed to the Nittany Lions after a scholarship was tendered following camp in late June. He also had an offer from Georgia Tech.
I've been attending Penn State's camp for years, and I love the school and program more and more every time I go, said Lucian, a two-way starter for three straight seasons who had 80 tackles and four sacks as junior. Penn State is the only place I could imagine playing college football.
Covington, although overshadowed by teammate Harvey, is an elite-level defensive end who can bench 325 pounds and vertical leap 35 inches to go along with above-average speed. Covington, who registered 87 tackles and 12 sacks as a junior despite playing out of position at tackle, committed to Maryland over Virginia in early August.
Varner, who is projected to be selected in the top three rounds of the 2004 Major League Baseball draft, may be the top athlete in the state. He wowed college recruiters with his speed and athleticism at the Northeast Nike Camp, running the 40 in 4.41 seconds and displaying tremendous quickness and change of direction in the pro agility drill.
He chose Maryland in mid-June over offers from Penn State, Virginia Tech, Virginia and N.C. State. He was recruited as an athlete but likely will start off at cornerback, because the Terps love his closing speed and ball-hawking ability. He said he will consider turning pro if he's selected in the top four rounds of the baseball draft. Barring that, he's planning to play both sports at Maryland.
Forestville High defensive end Donte Woodyard is a dominant defender who would be loaded with offers if his grades were better. A big-time hitter who pursues aggressively and explodes on ball-carriers, he racked up 102 tackles, eight sacks and seven forced fumbles while playing middle linebacker as a junior. Maryland, Boston College, Syracuse and Purdue all have offered.
Lenz is a remarkably versatile prospect who plays wide receiver and defensive end for Urbana but was recruited as a tight end or linebacker by most schools. He also is a standout punter and may get an opportunity to compete for that position at Maryland, where he committed in June. Maryland intends to use Lenz at its Leo linebacker position, a hybrid that requires a player with end and linebacker skills. As a junior, he posted 69 tackles, eight sacks and four interceptions while hauling in 28 receptions for 352 yards and seven TDs on offense.
Henderson decided in early August to follow in the footsteps of his older brother E.J. and play for Maryland. Most scouts project him as an inside linebacker who ultimately will weigh 240 or 250 pounds, but the Terps have promised to give him a chance to play QB. Henderson passed for 1,005 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushed for 365 yards and six touchdowns as a junior. Virginia was the only other school to offer a scholarship to Henderson, who gave serious consideration to the Cavaliers.
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