McDonogh's Lance Clelland, a 6-foot-6, 275-pound All-Metro first-team lineman rated No. 15 nationally by The National Recruiting Advisor, will make good on the oral commitment he made in November and sign a national letter of intent today with Northwestern at McDonogh.
Today is the first day of the signing period that runs through April 1 for football players and through Aug. 1 for soccer, women's volleyball, field hockey and water polo participants.
Two other All-Metro first-team picks have said they will sign today with Division I programs.
Wilde Lake running back Dain Lewis, who was Offensive Player of the Year in Howard County after rushing for 1,571 yards and 27 touchdowns, will sign with Southern University in Baton Rouge, La.
Place-kicker Tajiri "TJ" Smith of Oakland Mills will sign with Florida A&M. Smith converted on seven of eight field-goal attempts, including a state-record four in one game. Smith, whose longest field goal was 45 yards, has made 58 of 63 extra-point attempts over the past two seasons.
"The school is I-A now and plans to go Division I in a couple of years," said the kicker's father, Aldolphus Smith. "He had other offers from Temple and Howard and Maryland recruited him while [Mark] Duffner was there. He wants to major in computer science."
Two players chosen to all-county teams also will sign today. Howard All-County pick Josh Vanderwagen, a 6-6, 265-pound two-way lineman from Wilde Lake, will sign with Columbia. All-City/County selection Lucas Phillips, a quarterback from Mount St. Joseph, is headed for Bucknell. Phillips, 6-3 and 185, passed for 1,752 yards and 12 touchdowns last fall.
Clelland, the area's top line prospect, turned down ACC schools such as Duke, N.C. State, Georgia Tech, Virginia, Maryland and Clemson, in addition to Boston College, UCLA, Syracuse, Penn State and Virginia Tech.
"There were probably around 20 or so full scholarship offers, from some big-time schools," said Clelland, 17, who also was wooed by Purdue, Tennessee and Rutgers. "The two most busy months, without a doubt, were September and October. That's when I was lining up my visits and getting about two calls per night."
Clelland, who had 80 tackles defensively and yielded no sacks offensively, took just two formal visits -- to Boston College and Northwestern.
"The biggest thing that caught my eye was the team unity," said Clelland, who scored 1,140 on his SAT and has a 3.0 grade-point average. "There was a lot of closeness among the guys. To me, it was the best blend of academics and athletics of all the schools. I looked heavily at Syracuse, too, and I might have chosen them if not for Northwestern."
Dunbar running back Ali Culpepper was nearly the opposite. The two-time All-Metro pick was considering Northwestern, but will sign with Syracuse on Feb. 15.
"I know he'll get a fair shot," said Loretta Smith, whose son had 4,817 yards and 44 touchdowns in four seasons. "I'm confident that this program is the best for him both athletically and academically."
Another Oakland Mills player, Fardan Carter, will sign with Division I-AA national champion Marshall University on a full scholarship.
Shepherd College, a Division II school in West Virginia, will have four local standouts signing today -- Wilde Lake running back/linebacker Kyle Leibe, City quarterback Michael Johnson, City offensive guard Chris Perkins and Overlea quarterback Matt Davis.
Where local signees are going
Name, High school, Ht., Wt., Pos., College
Lance Clelland, McDonogh, 6-6, 275, OG, Northwestern
Ali Culpepper, Dunbar, 6-0, 206, RB, Syracuse
Dain Lewis, Wilde Lake, 5-11, 170, RB, Southern (La.)
Josh Vanderwagen, Wilde Lake, 6-6, 265, OL-DL, Columbia
Lucas Phillips, Mt. St. Joseph, 6-3, 185, QB, Bucknell
Tajiri Smith, Oakland Mills, 6-0, 175, PK, Florida A&M
Fardan Carter, Oakland Mills, 5-10, 165, RB-DB, Marshall
Sean Jefferson, Wilde Lake, 5-7, 190, RB, Towson State
Michael Johnson, City, 6-0, 200, QB, Shepherd
Kyle Leibe, Wilde Lake, 6-0, 215, LB, Shepherd
Chris Perkins, City, 6-2, 290, OG, Shepherd
Matt Davis, Overlea, 6-5, 200, QB, Shepherd
Pub Date: 2/05/97