In-state recruits elude Terps

UM hopes new assistant will help land more home-grown talent

College football

February 07, 2007|By Lem Satterfield and Heather A. Dinich | Lem Satterfield and Heather A. Dinich,Sun reporters

In the past, Maryland fans have seen some of the state's biggest high school football stars leave for schools such as Florida State, Notre Dame and Penn State.

Dunbar's Tommy Polley (Florida State), Edmondson's Jason Murphy (Virginia Tech), Eleanor Roosevelt's Derrick Williams (Penn State), Gilman's Victor Abiamiri (Notre Dame) and Friendly's Joe Haden (Florida) are just a few of the area blue-chippers who escaped the Terps.

After this year's recruiting class is announced today during National Signing Day, Maryland hopes to put an end to the defections. It will be Jemal Griffin's job to help keep in-state players at home.

FOR THE RECORD - In the Sports section yesterday, an article about high school senior athletes planning to sign national letters of intent gave the wrong school for Hereford's Les Delmont. He plans to accept a football scholarship to Elizabeth City (N.C.) State University. THE SUN REGRETS THE ERROR

Milford Mill coach Reggie White calls Maryland's newest assistant recruiting coordinator, "Mr. Baltimore," for his local ties to area football coaches.

A former Northwestern High quarterback who graduated from Coppin State, Griffin "is a grass-roots person from the Baltimore area, and the local kids, the local coaches and the local schools need that," said Dunbar coach Ben Eaton.

Of the Terps' 24 recruits expected to sign letters of intent today, just four are from Maryland. But that's because the state was somewhat devoid of talent this year, according to Bob Lichtenfels, a recruiting analyst for Scout.com.

Forestville tight end Devonte Campbell is the biggest in-state coup for the team this year. A Rivals.com four-star prospect who also can play linebacker, he's the only top-10 player in the state who chose the Terps. Haden, a wide receiver, is the No. 1 prospect in the state.

McDonough's Derek Drummond, a linebacker-wide receiver, is ranked among the top 15 players in the state. Gwynn Park's Taylor Watson, a fullback, and Quintin McCree, a wide receiver, have also given the Terps verbal commitments. McCree played last season at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va.

"This year I just don't think the overall talent level was there in the state," Lichtenfels said. "That kind of forces their hand to look in other areas."

Overall, Maryland's 2007 recruiting class was ranked No. 31 in the nation yesterday by Rivals.com and No. 43 by Scout.com. Terps coach Ralph Friedgen appears to have filled his team's biggest holes, as nearly half of the recruits are linemen.

"They lost out on a couple of big-name guys, but they filled the needs they had and they got some very good football players at a bunch of different spots they needed," Lichtenfels said. "There is a little bit of everything."

Griffin a `good move'

Hiring Griffin is a good first step toward securing the state's best football players, Woodlawn athletic director Michael Sye said. He said bringing in Griffin is "a good move to maintain a consistent pipeline of talented student-athletes" from Baltimore and the rest of the state.

"Obviously Maryland hired Jemal because he's a good judge of talent and character among local athletes," Sye said. "And he happens to know most of us."

Terps recruiting coordinator Dave Sollazzo acknowledged that Griffin, who served six years as an assistant to Woodlawn's Leonard Hart, should help prevent local talent from "leaving the state."

His hiring is already paying dividends for future Maryland recruiting classes.

White credits Griffin with helping facilitate the scholarship recently accepted by Milford Mill's 6-foot-3, 290-pound junior defensive lineman Teddy Dargan, who will be part of the Terps' 2008 recruiting class.

He could be joined in the class by McDonogh offensive lineman Lane Clelland, a 6-5, 270-pounder, who has been offered a scholarship. Eagles coach Dom Damico said the offer came after an hourlong film review session.

Maryland has already offered a scholarship to Dunbar sophomore Tavon Austin, The Sun's All-Metro Offensive Player of the Year. Eaton said the Terps "already had a feeling for what Tavon was about," academically - even before Friedgen and assistant Chris Cosh accepted Austin's transcript during a two-hour meeting two weeks ago at Dunbar.

"The fact that all of that information had gotten back to Maryland's coaching staff- I think that's because of Jemal Griffin being there," Eaton said.

Local connections

Because NCAA rules limit Griffin to on-campus contact with players and coaches, "Jemal does all of his work when a prospect visits campus for official or unofficial visits, and he does a great job of relating to them," said Sollazzo, a sixth-year assistant for the Terps.

"The fact that Jemal knows the high school coaches in Baltimore and can obviously communicate with them, he's instrumental in letting them know how good it can be here, what's expected here and what your player is getting involved in here."

Dargan and Clelland have indicated that they will attend the Terps' Junior Day on Sunday, when they will be hosted by Friedgen and Griffin, among others, and treated to an academic presentation as well as the Maryland men's basketball game against Duke.

Griffin lists White and former Randallstown assistant Evan Murray among his close friends.

"Even though we were at rival schools, we always tried to create a bond between our players," Griffin said. "So when Christian Varner, Jamari McCollough, Jason Goode and Scott Burley ... were being recruited, I was always involved in the process."

Randallstown graduates Varner and McCollough, as well as Woodlawn alumni Goode and Burley all wound up at Maryland - a fact that did not escape Sollazzo and Friedgen.

"Obviously, that was critical in the hiring of Jemal, who has a lot of contacts - especially in the Baltimore area," Sollazzo said. "Jemal's a very hard worker, he's very detail-oriented and has a great rapport with the coaches and players. You put all those things together, and that's going to help our recruiting."

lem.satterfield@baltsun.com heather.dinich@baltsun.com

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