Terps catch V. Davis windfall

Tight end's fame draws top recruits


One of the most glaring absences from the Maryland football roster this fall will be former tight end Vernon Davis, but his seemingly instantaneous fame has become one of the program's best recruiting tools to replace him.

Lansford Watson, a 17-year-old from Brooklyn, N.Y., is the latest tight end to commit to the Terps with the hopes of mirroring Davis, who was the No. 6 pick in the NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Watson said he committed to Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen yesterday, and cited Davis as one of the major reasons.

"Where's a better place to play tight end besides Maryland?" Watson said. "They just had Vernon Davis come out of there. He brought a different dimension to the game. I see myself doing that."

The mere mention of Davis' name to high school playmakers conjures dreams of following his highlight-reel route to a multimillion-dollar contract. Watson, who will be a senior at Abraham Lincoln High School this fall, is the second highly touted tight end the Terps have lured in back-to-back recruiting classes. Drew Gloster is a four-star recruit from Good Counsel who will be a freshman this year, and Rivals.com rates Watson the No. 3 tight end in the nation in his class.

Both were recruited by recruiting coordinator Dave Sollazzo and agreed that Davis' success - and the way he was used in Maryland's offense as a go-to receiver - influenced their decisions to join the Terps.

"He's so well known, we're reaping the benefits of it, and that's the way it should be," Maryland tight ends coach Ray Rychleski said. "Everybody is looking for an edge in recruiting. That's a big edge."

Gloster had lunch on campus with Davis last year and exchanged numbers. They sent text messages to each other throughout the recruiting process. Watson has never met Davis or talked to him because NCAA rules prohibit NFL players from recruiting. He has, though, seen Davis on television.

"I've been on the recruiting trail, and the NFL Network and combine has made Vernon a household name," Rychleski said. "We're getting noticed."

Watson and Gloster are poised to continue an overshadowed legacy of Maryland tight ends under Rychleski who have gone on to the NFL. Jeff Dugan is in his third season with the Minnesota Vikings, and Matt Murphy was drafted by the Detroit Lions and spent the past three seasons with the Houston Texans. Rob Abiamiri (Mount St. Joseph), who spent part of last season with the Ravens practice squad, re-signed with the team in March. Most recently, Derek Miller signed with the Oakland Raiders as a free agent.

The name probably most recognized, though, is Davis, who already has appeared in an Under Armour commercial.

Rychleski said Davis' ability to catch the ball "has glorified the position a little bit."

"When you get a guy who's an ex-wide receiver who his body develops like it has to 235 [or] 240 pounds, you can put him in formations like we did with Vernon," Rychleski said. "What that does is it saves you as a wide-out, and helps you blocking on the perimeter. There's ways to use more than one tight end in a game."

Maryland has at least three to choose from this fall. Baltimore native Jason Goode (Woodlawn) is ahead of Gloster on the depth chart. Joey Haynos and Tommy Galt - another Good Counsel graduate - are lesser-known players comparable to Dugan or Miller. Sophomore Dan Gronkowski originally joined the team as a quarterback, but has shown gradual improvement at tight end.

Next year, Maryland will add even more depth to the position.

"Competition is good," Watson said. "That's going to get you ready for the next level. It's a great chance for me to prove myself."


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