Terps' fast work yields crowd of football recruits Vanderlinden and crew manage to sign 22 players

February 06, 1997|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Roch Eric Kubatko contributed to this article.

COLLEGE PARK -- When Ron Vanderlinden was introduced as Maryland's football coach on Dec. 4, he said that he didn't anticipate signing a large group of players in his first recruiting class.

The letter-of-intent signing period began yesterday, and though the Terps won't be able to judge how they did in the quality department for several years, they scored big in quantity. The annual NCAA limit is 25 players, and Vanderlinden will bring in 22 who have four seasons to give to Maryland.

When the recruiting gurus pass judgment, this class will most likely be ranked in the bottom half of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Considering that Vanderlinden didn't assemble the bulk of his staff until January, did it qualify as a fire sale? Did he give out scholarships just to get bodies on campus?

"I really don't even care what the experts say," Vanderlinden said. "When I was at Northwestern, Michigan's class was rated better than ours every year. Heck, Michigan was rated in the top five nationally every year. Northwestern wouldn't even be rated in the Top 40.

"With the reduction in scholarships down to 85, it puts more emphasis than ever on evaluating talent, and I feel we did a pretty good job here."

Maryland signed two quarterbacks, Arundel's Erik Lipton and Gil Harris of Virginia Beach -- neither was offered a scholarship by another major-college program. Aaron Thompson, a running back out of Mount St. Joseph, was in a similar situation.

Some players came from unexpected sources.

Maryland did well on New York's Long Island, where defensive tackle Derrick Jones dominated and was named Gatorade's Player of the Year in New York. His coach at Comsewoque High was impressed with a rival from Dix Hills High, so the Terps nabbed Melvin Fowler.

Chris Sanders, a cornerback from Winter Springs, Fla., has a brother who's a policeman in Prince George's County. Mike Sherman didn't play football until he was a senior at Good Counsel, but blossomed at prep school. When three other quarterbacks turned down the Terps, Vanderlinden returned to Lipton a few weeks after telling him that he wouldn't be offered a scholarship.

"I didn't want to have the family going on and on, without a decision from us," Vanderlinden said. "Some people would have let pride get in the way and not let us get involved again, but they cared about what Erik really wanted in his heart."

At least nine of the 22 had been contacted when Mark Duffner was coach. Eight knew Vanderlinden or one of his assistants from the Big Ten.

Recruiting coordinator Chris Cosh said the coaching change meant that Maryland came in late.

"We basically didn't have any weekends in December to work with," Cosh said. "When it came to January, we had to spread out out evaluations. We can't bring everyone in that first weekend, and some of the kids we signed didn't even visit until last weekend.

"We did well in the Midwest, but in the future the bulk of this program has to come from this area."

Besides Jones, the other obvious coup was Suitland running back LaMont Jordan.

"There were three great running backs in the state," Vanderlinden said. "Two great running backs are going to follow each other. I would have been happy with any of the three, and I told LaMont, you can dictate what happens to the other two."

For the first time in memory, the Terps didn't bring in any junior-college transfers.

"I'm not a big believer in junior-college transfers," Vanderlinden said. "Before our first year at Colorado, Chuck Fairbanks had just had 16 junior-college players come in. Out of the 16, three stayed on and played. The ship was going down and he was trying to save it, but we had a hole in that class for four years."

Morgan State received letters of intent from 15 high school and two junior-college players. The only Marylander is Fernando Coleman, a 6-0, 175-pound defensive back from Suitland High.

Coach Stump Mitchell also received written commitments from receiver Mike Alford and running back Andre Bryant of Belle Glades, Fla.; receiver Derek Washington, defensive lineman Wakeem Davis and defensive back Chris Cunningham of Detroit; receiver Armon Waters of Harrisburg, Pa.; tight ends Joey Blake of McClellanville, S.C., and David Lewis of Far Rockaway, N.Y.; linebackers Sean Smith of Charleston, S.C., and Mike Washington of Tempe, Ariz; running back Bobby Wilson of Camden County, Ga.; quarterback David Hale of Sacramento, Calif.; offensive tackle John Dorcinvil of Sepauket, N.Y.; offensive guard Chris Johnson of Chesapeake, Va.; defensive back Antwane Johnson of Glendale Community College in Phoenix, Ariz.; and place-kicker Jerry Arguello of Rancho Santiago Junior College in Orange, Calif.

Mitchell also announced that two transfers from Glendale (Ariz.) Junior College who are enrolled at Morgan State, 310-pound offensive lineman Jonathan Hernandez of Richmond, Va. and linebacker Donya Mitchell of Phoenix, Ariz., will be eligible in September.

Pub Date: 2/06/97

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