COLLEGE PARK – Maryland head coach Randy Edsall didn’t get the Christmas presents he wanted. In fact, Edsall must have felt like Santa Claus left some coal in his stocking.
Edsall was hoping to secure a few crucial commitments during the holiday season. Instead, it was a whirlwind of bad news for the Terrapins on the recruiting front.
Maryland’s 2014 recruiting class began to unravel in mid-December when two of its top offensive line targets – Brock Ruble of Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha Catholic and Marcus Applefield of Weeki Wachee (Fla.) High – committed elsewhere in the span of two days.
Applefield picked Rutgers on Dec. 13 after listing Maryland in his final four. Two days later, Ruble chose Florida State and said Maryland was the runner-up. Those were some tough body blows because Edsall and staff had put considerable effort into both prospects. Losing Ruble was particularly painful because it means the Terps will not land a single member of a talented senior class at DeMatha, which is located about 10 minutes away from the College Park campus.
A sucker punch came on Dec. 21 when Jared Cohen of McDonogh reopened his recruitment and announced he was seriously considering Penn State. Cohen was Maryland’s first commitment, giving Edsall a verbal pledge way back in February.
“I really hope it turns out to be a really good legacy that I’m the first player to commit as part of the first class that’s going into the Big Ten,” Cohen said at the time.
Cohen enjoyed an outstanding senior season at McDonogh, which captured the MIAA A Conference championship and finished as the top-ranked team in the Baltimore-metro area. The 6-3, 275-pounder was such a force that he was elevated to a four-star recruit by Rivals.com.
There was no indication whatsoever that Cohen was wavering on his commitment until the bombshell dropped that he would be taking an official visit to Penn State on Jan. 24.
“I know the news may come as a shock to most of you,” Cohen wrote on Twitter. “When I first began my recruitment, Penn State was my top school. Recently, they told me they wanted to offer me. I told the Maryland coaches that I wanted to go up there for an official visit, but they said the only way that I could go was if I decommitted. I didn’t want to, but I was given no other choice. I need to this for myself so I can know in my heart which is the right decision for me for the next 4 or 5 years.”
Maryland’s scholarship offer was still on the table, and Cohen said he could ultimately wind up signing with the state school.
More Bad News On Doorstep
A brutal blow to the face came a few days before Christmas when five-star prospect Jalen Tabor, long considered the centerpiece of Maryland’s Class of 2014 recruiting efforts, posted on Twitter that Alabama and Arizona were his top two schools. Tabor did not specifically state that Maryland was out of the picture, but the Twitter post certainly implied that was the case.
Terrapins fans got nervous as soon as the Crimson Tide got involved and dynamic head coach Nick Saban personally visited Friendship Collegiate Academy to woo Tabor. Things got worse on Christmas day with reports that Saban was looking to hire Friendship Collegiate head coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim in some capacity.
Tabor is slated to announce his collegiate destination on Jan. 2 during the Under Armour All-American Game in St. Petersburg, Fla. Losing the 6-1, 186-pound lockdown cornerback would be a huge blow for Maryland, which hired ace recruiter Mike Locksley to control the talent-rich areas of D.C. and Prince George’s County.
It has been speculated for quite some time that landing Tabor would almost assure Maryland of also getting five-star offensive lineman Damian Prince of Bishop McNamara. It now appears quite possible the unthinkable could happen and the Terps could whiff on both of their top local targets.
Maryland thought it had discovered a talented tailback to replace Jonathan Thomas, who switched his commitment to Penn State in October. However, Linganore High standout Phillip Butler still has not achieved a qualifying test score and is not retaking the SAT again until late January. It is highly unlikely the Terps will offer until they are certain the talented but troubled youngster has the proper academic credentials.
Butler emerged as a big-time prospect two years ago when he rushed for more than 2,000 yards as a junior at North Hagerstown (Md.) High. However, Butler’s high school career was derailed in August 2012 when he was charged with armed robbery. He was placed under the jurisdiction of the Department of Juvenile Services and did not play football in 2012 while taking night classes.
Butler, who also fathered a daughter around that time, had to repeat his senior year of high school and transferred to Linganore, which has a strong football program. The 5-10, 180-pound speedster showed he hasn’t lost a step by rushing for 328 yards and five touchdowns in a 51-13 rout of rival Middletown in the playoffs. He wound up rushing for almost 1,000 yards in just eight games while leading the Lancers to the Class 3A state championship game.
Considering the magnitude of the losses and potential losses, Maryland fans weren’t exactly overwhelmed when Edsall received commitments from a pair of under-the-radar prospects – three-star offensive tackle Sean Christie and two-star long snapper Nate Adams.
Christie, out of Patchogue-Medford High in New York, jumped at the offer that came from Maryland after the staff learned Applefield and Ruble were headed elsewhere. Christie was considering a variety of FCS offers at the time.
Adams, out of Greenway High in Arizona, also did not need to think long before accepting the Maryland offer. The 6-2, 218-pounder, ranked as the nation’s seventh-best long snapper according to 247sports.com, was also considering Air Force.