With recruiting effort, Terps developing a presence in Tampa, Fla.

Maryland hasn't signed a player from that area since 2003, but has one commitment already this year

September 25, 2014|By Matt Zenitz | Baltimore Sun Media Group

Shawn Taylor has been on the football coaching staff at Robinson High School in Tampa, Fla., since 2001. The school has produced former Alabama star Javier Arenas as well as other successful Football Bowl Subdivision players.

For years, Taylor said, dozens of colleges would stop by and check in about players during the spring. Maryland wasn't really a presence, he said.

This year, in particular, is different. The Terps have been down there. They are coming up in conversations.

No player has signed with Maryland from Tampa since Jermaine Lemons and Donnie Woods in 2003.

But after years of not landing players from Tampa, Maryland coach Randy Edsall and the Terps are competing with power schools like Florida, Florida State, Miami and others for some of the top players in that area.

The Terps already have received a verbal commitment from Robinson wide receiver Jahrvis Davenport. They made a scholarship offer to four-star offensive lineman Jake Fruhmorgen. They apparently finished second to Florida State in the running for four-star wide receiver Auden Tate.

They received interest from five-star athlete Ray Ray McCloud III. And they are in the mix for four-star wide receiver Ryan Davis, as well as defensive end Byron Cowart, whom Rivals.com ranks as the top player in the Class of 2015.

"They're coming up in conversations more, so they're doing something right," said David Mitchell, Tate's coach at Wharton High School. "They're giving these guys something to think about and discuss."

It's not that Maryland hasn't gotten players from other parts of Florida.

Starting cornerback Will Likely is a Belle Glade native who picked Maryland over offers from Florida, Florida State, Miami, Southern California and others. In all, seven players from the state of Florida have signed with the Terps since Edsall became coach in 2011.

"Florida is a talent-rich area that our coaches have recruited before," Edsall said.

But Maryland has become much more of a presence in Tampa. Coaches like Taylor and Mitchell notice that. So do players like Davenport.

Davenport took an unofficial visit to Maryland in June and heard about McCloud taking a trip to College Park around the same time. He also knew about Tate being interested in the Terps, and Davenport said one of his coaches saw Cowart wearing a Maryland hat at a seven-on-seven tournament during the summer.

Taylor also has received phone calls from other coaches in Tampa asking about the Terps since Davenport committed after his visit in June.

"[Maryland] may have been down here before, but this is the first time I've really heard their name being thrown around a lot," Taylor said.

Taylor pointed to three things in particular working in Maryland's favor: the Terps' facilities, the recruiting prowess of Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, who is the team's primary recruiter in that area, and Maryland's uniforms, which are designed by Under Armour.

Davenport is wearing a Maryland uniform in his Twitter picture, and Cowart posted a picture of himself on Instagram wearing a Terps uniform during his official visit to College Park earlier this month.

"I know the kids dig the Under Armour thing — all the jerseys and all that kind of stuff," Taylor said. "Under Armour is with Maryland like Nike is with Oregon with the uniforms and shoes and things like that, so I think that has a lot to do with it."

Mitchell said it also helps that the Terps have Keenan McCardell on their coaching staff.

McCardell was a wide receiver in the NFL for almost two decades. He has experience coaching in the NFL, and he is a "household name" in Tampa, according to Mitchell. McCardell played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002 and 2003 and helped the Buccaneers win a Super Bowl.

"Guys want to play for a guy like that," Mitchell said.

Time will tell whether the Terps land players like Cowart and Davis in addition to Davenport. But Maryland is at least in the conversation, much more so than the Terps have been with other top players from the Tampa area during the last decade.

"They're trying to build some ties and get some more guys from the Florida area up there to Maryland," Mitchell said, "and they may have something good coming if they're able to get those guys to go up and commit to them. Maryland might become a big-time program."

mzenitz@tribune.com

twitter.com/mzenitz

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