By Bill Wagner
Annapolis (Md.) Capital
August 27, 2005
Is the Maryland-D.C. region in danger of being over-recruited? That's a legitimate question when an area that has never been known as a hotbed for football talent suddenly has more than 50 players hearing from major Division I-A schools.
On average, the Maryland-D.C. corridor produces 35-50 Division I-A signees per season, although that number has risen steadily in recent years. Fewer than 40 players from the area received I-A scholarships in 2000. In contrast, 57 prospects from the region landed with I-A programs in 2005, with about 30 of them signing with teams in BCS conferences.
There are various reasons why major conference recruiters have been drawn to a small state that never has been renowned for its caliber of high school football.
First, the recent success of the Maryland Terrapins (31 wins from 2001-03), and their roster loaded with local products, likely caught the attention of opposing programs. The growth of the ACC also has brought new schools into the region; conference foes always have recruited one another's states, since that's where youngsters typically grow up following the league.
Virginia Tech increasingly has become a major force in the region, in part because recruiting coordinator Billy Hite hails from Maryland and once was an assistant coach at prep powerhouse DeMatha Catholic. The Hokies have eight Maryland-D.C. products on their 2005 roster, and they already have received commitments from two more, Waldorf Stone defensive end Nekos Brown and Brandywine Gwynn Park defensive back Rashad Carmichael.
Syracuse also has established a major presence, largely because assistant Chris White has been recruiting the area for six straight seasons. The Orange have 11 players from Maryland-D.C. on their 2005 roster, and they added another (Baltimore Calvert Hall QB Andrew Robinson) this summer. In addition, Illinois is making a strong push into the region, based solely on the reputation of recruiting coordinator Mike Locksley, who held the same role at Maryland for many years.
North Carolina has become much more active in the region, ever since John Bunting took over as head coach in 2001. Bunting, who grew up in Maryland and played football at Springbrook High, has many long-standing relationships in the state. That helps explain why the Tar Heels have doled out more than a dozen offers around Maryland-D.C. this year. They already have received commitments from defensive end Darius Powell and tailback Aaris Reed of Waldorf Westlake, plus defensive back LeCount Fantroy of Ballou High in D.C.
Those factors aside, it was shocking that so many players in Maryland-D.C. received multiple offers from major conference schools during the summer evaluation period. By mid-July, a whopping 13 seniors had a dozen or more offers, a figure that normally qualifies one as a national prospect. By comparison, only a few players from Maryland-D.C., most notably DeMatha end Derek Wake (Penn State), fit that category back in 2000.
It used to be big news whenever a player from the region drew a scholarship offer from a Southeastern Conference school. Already this summer, three local prospects Snow Hill High tailback Ben Tate (Auburn), Wheaton Good Counsel linebacker Akeem Hebron (Georgia) and Gaithersburg Quince Orchard linebacker Ban Gbadyu (LSU) have committed to strong SEC programs.
They were among 16 seniors from Maryland-D.C. to make summer commitments to I-A programs, and at least 24 others had confirmed I-A scholarship offers. Interestingly, Maryland, which traditionally has been quite thorough in its evaluation of the home-grown talent, has offered only 15 locals.
The Terrapins, who may have only 16-18 scholarships to award this season, declined to offer eight players who went elsewhere, including all three UNC commitments, both Virginia Tech pledges and Duke wideout recruit Sheldon Bell of Baltimore City College.
On the other hand, Maryland did offer and accept a commitment from Germantown Northwest defensive back Brandon Jackson-Mills, a lightly regarded prospect who did not even start for his high school team as a junior and had no other I-A offers.
At one point, Maryland also held a commitment from Forestville High offensive lineman Antonio Logan-El, the consensus No. 1 prospect in the region. A mountain of a man with nimble feet, he has attracted 39 offers. After re-opening his recruitment this summer, Logan-El still has the Terps leading, but he also is considering Oklahoma, Penn State, Virginia, Ohio State and Tennessee. He is described as a rare combination of power (390-pound bench press) and mobility (4.75 shuttle time) who is versatile enough to play guard or tackle.
Brandywine Gwynn Park defensive tackle Phillip Taylor vaulted into the region's top 10 with an impressive performance at the Elite Combine in East Rutherford, N.J. The strong and powerful 6-3, 350-pounder was named Defensive MVP after running the 40 in 5.1 seconds and bench pressing 180 pounds for 25 repetitions. Taylor since has become one of the nation's top-rated linemen, a four-star prospect with 40 offers. He lists Maryland, Florida, Miami, Penn State, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Virginia and Virginia Tech as schools being considered for official visits.
Gwynn Park coach Danny Hayes said Taylor boasts tremendous speed and quickness for his size. He totaled 79 tackles (15 for loss), six sacks and seven pass knockdowns as a junior.
"Phil's desire to make the play sets him apart," Hayes said. "He gets great penetration because he can overpower people or beat them with his feet."
Ohio State (Sept. 10) and Nebraska (Oct. 28) appear to be the early leaders for Pomfret McDonough's A.J. Wallace, whose good size
(6-0, 195) and superb speed (4.45) make him a coveted cornerback prospect. Michigan. Florida, Florida State and LSU round out the top six for Wallace, who had 68 tackles and 10 pass breakups as a junior. He also rushed for 1,367 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Forestville Suitland linebacker Navorro Bowman has stated several times that he intends to head out of state. The tailback-linebacker recently listed UNC, Ohio State, Tennessee, Penn State and Virginia Tech as his favorites. Maryland nevertheless is still pushing hard for Bowman, the Associated Press state defensive player of the year after totaling 165 tackles and nine sacks as a junior. He also rushed for 1,250 yards and 22 touchdowns for the Class 4A state champions.
"Navorro's instincts and knowledge of the game are incredible," said Suitland coach Nick Lynch, adding that Bowman probably could have been the team's punter and kicker as well last season. "He's just a pure football player."
More than 20 schools have tendered scholarship offers to Bowman, who plans to graduate in December. Lynch said the opportunity for early enrollment will be a factor in Bowman's college decision.
Maryland received a July commitment from Waldorf Westlake defensive back Pha'Terrell Washington, whose other finalists were UNC, Florida and Virginia Tech. The Terps envision Washington, who has 12 career interceptions, as a lockdown cover corner.
"Pha has explosive speed," Westlake coach Dom Zaccarelli said. "He accelerates off the ball very quickly and has different gears. He's a skilled kid with excellent hands and field awareness."
Virginia Tech is the clear-cut leader for Wheaton Good Counsel wideout Drew Gloster, who also likes Miami, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Penn State. Projected as an H-back by some schools, Gloster had 25 catches for 362 yards and two touchdowns in 2004.
Ellicott City Mt. Hebron defensive end Aaron Maybin put himself on the map this summer with a strong showing at the Penn State Nike Combine. He blazed the 40 in 4.52 seconds, popped a phenomenal 41-inch vertical leap and displayed outstanding strength (230 clean, 315 bench, 434 squat). Auburn, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, UNC, N.C. State, Illinois, Penn State, Virginia and Virginia Tech are among the 15 schools that have tendered scholarship offers to Maybin, who piled up 84 tackles and 10 sacks as a junior.
Maybin's parents will be moving to South Carolina after his father retires from the Baltimore City Fire Department. He said that factor could help some southern schools but will not eliminate northern ones.
Maryland has a ready-made recruiter on its roster for Dunbar defensive back Vontae Davis, who has 10 scholarship offers. He is the younger brother of standout tight end Vernon Davis. Like his older brother, Vontae is a very impressive physical specimen. He can bench 300 pounds, and he reportedly ran the 40-yard dash in a sizzling 4.37 seconds this summer at the Illinois camp. He had 38 unassisted tackles and seven interceptions as a junior. Davis, who also shined at an Adidas seven-on-seven tournament held in June in Knoxville, Tenn., is strongly considering Maryland, UNC and Illinois. He also would like to be a mid-year arrival, if he can obtain a qualifying SAT score.
Logan-El and Walton may get most of the headlines, but North Bethesda Georgetown Prep standout Andrew Phillips is another very respected blocker. Phillips, known for his fundamentally sound play and solid understanding of the game, is holding steady at seven scholarship offers, with Maryland and UNC ranking high on the list. Academics are a major priority for Phillips, a 3.8 student who already has achieved a 1,300 SAT score. Stanford and Duke also are on his short list, ahead of schools such as Syracuse and Tennessee.
Westlake coach Zaccarelli believes the Tar Heels picked up a defensive end prospect with great potential in Powell, who runs well (4.65) for an end and has the potential to weigh 250 pounds. He recorded 68 tackles (13 for loss) and 10 sacks as a junior.
Brandywine Gwynn Park's Adrian Moten is a long, lean prospect who piled up 85 tackles, 10 sacks and three interceptions as an outside linebacker in high school, but he could convert to strong safety in college. He selected Maryland over offers from Tennessee, Syracuse, Penn State, Ohio State and Illinois.
Waldorf Stone's Nekos Brown caught the attention of the Virginia Tech staff with a strong performance at the Nike Combine in Blacksburg. The Hokies feel the 210-pounder has the speed (4.78) and strength to play middle linebacker at the next level.
Duke offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien discovered Bell last year, while recruiting the Baltimore area on behalf of Maryland. A possession-type receiver who runs precision routes and has soft hands, Bell committed to the Blue Devils following an unofficial visit on April 6. The big target (6-3, 180) had 35 catches for 650 yards and seven touchdowns in 2004.
MARYLAND / D.C.'S TOP 30
|No. Name||Pos.||Ht./Wt.||High School||College Favorites|
|1. Antonio Logan-El||OL||6-4/310||Forestville High||Md., PSU, Okla., OSU, UVa*|
|2. Akeem Hebron||LB/DB||6-1/195||Wheaton Good Counsel||GEORGIA|
|3. A.J. Wallace||RB/DB||6-0/195||Pomfret McDonough||Neb., OSU, FSU, Fla., LSU*|
|4. Benjamin Tate||RB||5-10/205||Snow Hill High||AUBURN|
|5. Navorro Bowman||LB||6-0/220||Forestville Suitland||PSU, OSU, UNC, VT, Tenn.*|
|6. Phillip Taylor||DT||6-3/350||Brandywine Gwynn Park||Md., PSU, VT, OSU, Fla.*|
|7. J.B. Walton||OL||6-3/275||Indian Head Lackey||PSU, Okla., FSU, Tenn., Neb.*|
|8. Pha'Terrell Washington||DB||5-11/185||Waldorf Westlake||MARYLAND|
|9. Drew Gloster||WR||6-2/215||Wheaton Good Counsel||VT, Ga., Fla., Md.*|
|10. Aaron Maybin||LB/DE||6-3/210||Ellicott City Mt. Hebron||PSU, Md., UVa, VT, UNC*|
|11. Vontae Davis||DB||6-0/185||Washington (DC) Dunbar||Md., UNC, Ill., UVa, Pitt*|
|12. Andrew Phillips||OL||6-4/290||N. Bethesda Georgetown||Stan., Md., UNC, Duke, Syr.*|
|13. Bani Gbadyu||LB||6-2/205||Gaithersburg Quince Orchard||LOUISIANA STATE|
|14. Darius Powell||LB/DE||6-2/205||Waldorf Westlake||NORTH CAROLINA|
|15. Nekos Brown||LB/DE||6-1/210||Waldorf Stone||VIRGINIA TECH|
|16. Adrian Moten||LB/DB||6-2/190||Brandywine Gwynn Park||MARYLAND|
|17. Andrew Robinson||QB||6-3/210||Baltimore Calvert Hall||SYRACUSE|
|18. Sheldon Bell||WR||6-3/180||Baltimore City College||DUKE|
|19. Aaris Reed||RB/DB||5-9/185||Waldorf Westlake||NORTH CAROLINA|
|20. Raynard Horne||RB/DB||5-11/195||Overlea High||VIRGINIA|
|21. Andre Smith||TE/DE||6-4/235||Germantown Seneca Valley||VIRGINIA TECH|
|22. Rashad Carmichael||DB||5-10/165||Brandywine Gwynn Park||VIRGINIA TECH|
|23. Nico Scott||DB||5-9/175||Greenbelt Roosevelt||BC, UNC, Syr., Rut.*|
|24. Sean Price||RB/DB||6-0/205||Baltimore Gilman||Md., Duke, UNC, BC, ND*|
|25. Reggie Gibson||DT||6-2/285||Hyattsville DeMatha Catholic||VT, Syr., UNC, Rut.*|
|26. Travon Bellamy||DB||5-11/185||Greenbelt Roosevelt||PSU, UNC, Ill., UCLA*|
|27. Brandon Jackson-Mills||DB||5-10/165||Germantown Northwest||MARYLAND|
|28. LeCount Fantroy||DB||5-11/170||Washington (DC) Ballou||NORTH CAROLINA|
|29. Blake Smith||DE||6-2/225||Greenbelt Roosevelt||Md., PSU, BC, Pitt, Syr.*|
|30. Ryan Bartholomew||OL||6-3/305||Hyattsville DeMatha Catholic||SYRACUSE|
NOTE: Preseason player rankings by the ACC Sports Journal.
* also considering other schools