Grades to be top concern for UM football recruits New NCAA standards for freshmen kick in

February 09, 1996|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Penn State's class of football recruits is supposed to be No. 1, and Wofford's is probably around 105. The experts are telling Maryland that it finished in the top 25, but until everyone is cleared by the NCAA, the raised standards for freshman eligibility have made recruiting a crazier process than it already was.

Coach Mark Duffner and his staff commented yesterday for the first time on the class that returned letters of intent Wednesday, and underneath the praise was a current of concern over whether all those All-Americans will be in school come Labor Day.

"A kid's academic background has always been critical," Duffner said. "Now, it's more important than ever. High school kids have got to improve their academic performance if they want to play in college. This didn't affect just us. It affected every I-A program in the nation."

A year ago, the NCAA freshman eligibility standards were a score of 700 on the Scholastic Assessment Test and a 2.0 grade-point average in 11 core courses.

This year's class will be the first to deal with higher standards: at least a 2.5 GPA in 13 core courses. The minimum SAT score is now 820, but in a recentered test this requirement is equivalent to a 700 under the old scoring system.

A sliding scale has made the whole process harder to fathom than the tax code, and one of its nuances is the category of "partial" qualifier, those lacking either the core GPA or the test score. They'll be able to practice but not play as freshmen, then have three years of eligibility remaining.

The Atlantic Coast Conference will allow its members to admit four partial qualifiers each year, two men and two women, no more than one per sport. Duffner said he hasn't discussed Maryland's allotment with athletic director Debbie Yow, but the norm in the ACC will be one partial qualifier for football and the other for basketball.

Damone Boone, the second Parade All-American ever signed by Maryland, has yet to meet the SAT requirement, but he has taken it only once.

Recruiting coordinator Jim Miceli estimated that 50 percent of the letters of intent that were signed nationwide Wednesday were by seniors who need to hustle this spring in core courses to qualify for four years of eligibility.

"Academically, this is by far the best class of kids we've brought in," said Miceli. "Vince Xantos had an SAT score of 1,400. Jason McCauley hasn't had a grade below A the last four semesters. Mike Hull is coming here to study engineering."

Nonetheless, the Maryland staff will be waiting to see how others do in their core courses this spring.

Besides high school report cards, another June event that will affect Maryland is the baseball draft. Baseball America rates Dermal Brown as the top high school outfield prospect in the nation, and a pro team with enough of a signing bonus on the line might require Brown to pass on college football.

That possibility scared off Penn State, among others, and recalled the case of Willie Wilson. In 1974, Maryland coach Jerry Claiborne signed Wilson to a letter of intent out of Summit (N.J.) High, but he was the 18th player taken in the draft and went on to a long career with the Royals.

Maryland is holding another scholarship for Al Hawkins, a quarterback from Elizabeth, N.J. A top pitching prospect, Hawkins didn't want to damage his draft chances by signing a letter of intent, but he has committed to play football for the Terps if he's not satisfied with his position in the draft.

Brown's baseball potential and Boone's academic status are reasons the Terps signed three other running backs. Maryland also scored big on the offensive line, where Xantos, Tim Howard and Brett Trammell were rated among the nation's top 50 prospects.

Players signed to Maryland

The following signed letters of intent to play football at Maryland:

Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Hometown/school Skinny

Damone Boone RB 5-9 200 Springfield, Va. Second Parade A-A to sign with Duffner

Dermal Brown TB/FB 6-0 195 Newburgh, N.Y. His future hinges on baseball draft

Tim Brown TE 6-3 245 Nassau (N.Y.) CC Brother Gary is RB for Oilers

Malik Campbell QB 6-3 175 Buffalo, N.Y. Wants to walk on in basketball

Omar Cheeseboro WR 6-3 175 East Orange, N.J. Super Prep's fifth-rated receiver

Moises Cruz WR 6-0 185 Seneca Valley Dangerous return talent; top h.s. program

Shawn Forte WR/DB 6-1 185 Poughkpsie, N.Y. "Slash" type produced 30 TDs

Julian Hambrick DE/LB 6-3 245 Elizabeth, N.J. Will Al Hawkins follow him down I-95?

Tim Howard OL 6-5 280 Leonardo, N.J. Super Prep and Blue Chip A-A

Mike Hull DL 6-5 225 South Hagerstown Three-sport star is a top student too Curtis Jones WR 6-4 200 Lancaster, Pa. Could grow into TE

Jason McCauley DL 6-3 265 Key West, Fla. 4A Player of Year in Sunshine State

Frank Mentzel FB 6-2 240 Clark, N.J. Also LB for unbeaten state champs

Ramon Olivares DL 6-5 280 Nassau (N.Y.) CC Expected to be third DT next season

Marcus Patrick CB 6-0 175 Nassau (N.Y.) CC Will practice this spring

Kenny Rogers RB 5-10 190 Monmouth, N.J. Could get look at DB

Lewis Sanders DB 6-1 185 Staten Island, N.Y. Second in national sprint indoors

Sean Starner P 6-0 180 Cedar Cliff, Pa. Most likely to play as true frosh

Ben Thomas OL/DL 6-2 275 Avoca, Pa. Will probably play in Big 33

Brett Trammell OL 6-5 330 Constantia, N.Y. Lemming A-A; All-state DL too

John Watkins LB 6-0 240 Perth Amboy, N.J. Could move to DT

Harold Westley RB/WR 5-8 170 Deerfield Bch, Fla. Originally signed last year

Vincent Xantos OL 6-4 265 Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Name a sport, he excels

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