For Penn State, Maryland delivers

Terps slowed in race for in-state recruits as success of Williams puts stamp on market


The letters came in the mail as frequently as credit card applications, sometimes as many as two or three a day. Each was addressed to Mount Hebron senior defensive lineman Aaron Maybin, handwritten and signed by Penn State assistant football coach Larry Johnson.

May 1, 2005

Dear Aaron,

Just a brief note to let you know how much I enjoyed watching you work out and run at Nike camp. I was really impressed with your attitude to be the best. Great job. I hope I get a chance to coach you. Hope all is well.

Hope to see you again soon,

Larry Johnson

When Maryland's coaching staff began recruiting the top football prospect in the Baltimore area as vigorously as Johnson was, Maybin already had about 10 scholarship offers from other schools, including Penn State, where he will play this fall.

"By that time, we were already trying to narrow it down," said Mike Maybin, Aaron's dad. "They [the Terps] weren't really being considered."

The bowl-bound Nittany Lions have gained instantaneous recognition for their 10-1 turnaround season and surge to No. 3 in the national rankings. Their recruiting efforts in Maryland have been bolstered even more so by the early success of standout freshman receiver Derrick Williams, a native of Greenbelt and graduate of Eleanor Roosevelt High, and the man who recruited him - Johnson.

Recruiting specialists say this is the first year in Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen's five seasons that Penn State has challenged the Terps for the talent in their backyard. Maryland's staff, though, is quick to point out it already has oral commitments from six players in the state, including highly touted tight end Drew Gloster (Good Counsel), whose first scholarship offer came from Penn State.

"Last year, Maryland won the job in-state," said Mike Farrell, a national recruiting analyst for who specializes in the Atlantic Coast Conference. "They kept a lot of kids Penn State was trying to get, except for Derrick Williams. He's had quite a bit of a ripple effect on everything that's going on in the state of Maryland. This year it's much more of a battle, and Maryland is losing ground.

"It's the perfect storm for Penn State. They got Derrick Williams last year, this year they end up going 10-1, they're in a BCS bowl. ... Things couldn't have laid out better for Penn State or worse for Maryland."

Dave Sollazzo, Maryland's recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach, disagreed.

"We're doing very well in-state," he said by phone, on a recruiting trip to New York. "We also have three commitments from the state of Pennsylvania. ... It's just a matter of how you spin it."

One of Maryland's biggest catches last year was Randallstown's Melvin Alaeze, who is rated a five-star defensive end by He is at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia, though, working on his eligibility along with Lackey running back Morgan Green. Though both have given oral commitments to the Terps, it's not uncommon for other schools to continue recruiting committed but unsigned players. It's possible, though, they could join Maryland's football program in time for the spring semester, which begins in January.

Other top players from the state among the Terps' commitment class of 2006 include: defensive back Pha'Terrell Washington (Westlake), linebacker Adrian Moten (Gwynn Park) and defensive back Brandon Jackson-Mills (Northwest-Germantown). Those kinds of commitments are why Sollazzo said the Terps aren't losing any ground.

"We're not concerned about it, and the reason we're not concerned about it is because we're targeting certain kids, and they're targeting certain kids," Sollazzo said. "It just depends on supply and demand, like any other big business. We can only take so many kids, and the ones we're targeting, we're doing very well with."

The three Maryland lost to Penn State, though, are considered among the best in the state. Linebackers Navorro Bowman (Suitland) and Bani Gbadyu (Quince Orchard) are both four-star athletes. And, of course, there's Maybin.

He said he was lured to Penn State by its recent success, by Johnson's persistence and honesty, and by Williams.

"I had been to Maryland a bunch of times," he said. "I could've had a very successful career there. I feel like that's a great school, but when it compares to Penn State, it really wasn't that hard of a decision for me. I was that sold on Penn State.

"There are a lot of guys in Maryland I talk to on a regular basis that are pretty high on Penn State and excited about what they've been able to do this year. I'm trying to get all of them to come."

Standouts undecided

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