JC Shurburtt, National Recruiting Director, of 247Sports took the time earlier tonight to answer a set of recruiting questions concerning the Maryland Terrapins in advance of National Signing Day on Wednesday. As he is one of the top names in recruiting coverage, we want to thank JC for providing us, and in turn all you readers, with his insight on some of the newest Terrapins. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @jcshurburtt for timely and informative tweets on football recruiting.
TerrapinStationMD: The topic at the front of every Terrapins fans mind is, not surprisingly, Yannick Ngakoue’s recruitment. Maryland seemingly has positioned themselves well for the All-American to this point despite the silence from Ngakoue’s camp throughout the process, where do you see him ending up come Wednesday morning when he makes his decision public?
JC Shurburtt: I think he re-commits to Maryland and signs with the Terps. Yannick has a great relationship with the Maryland staff and I feel like in the end, staying close to home is important to him. He’s a terrific, versatile defensive prospect that is one of the better players in the entire country, so obviously he fills a need for the Terps or really any program that signs him. At this point, though, all signs point to Maryland?
TSMD: Following the same line of questioning concerning targets remaining on the board for the Terps, Jacquille Veii appeared to be down to Iowa and Maryland before Nebraska chose to throw their hat in the ring with a scholarship offer last week, how much of a threat should Terrapins fans consider the Cornhuskers as we inch closer to Veii’s decision?
JC: The Huskers made a big move and they already have landed four-star linebacker Marcus Newby from the state. Right now from what I hear, they are the team to beat. It would be a great get for Maryland if they were able to pull him in, though. I’ve always been high on Veii since I saw him at the Under Armour All-American Combine in January. He ran well and competed well that day and had he had more film at the time, he would have been more heavily-recruited.
TSMD: Last season was, unfortunately, highlighted by a series of injuries at the QB position for the Terrapins. With a plethora of QB’s coming back from injury this spring/fall what should fans expect out of incoming Elite 11 QB prospect Shane Cockerille?
JC: Maryland would have won more games last year had Cockerille been on the roster, I can assure you of that. I love the way Shane competes. He’s got a good arm and is athletic enough to get yards running the ball. He’s not the tallest, but he has good strength and it would not surprise me at all to see him become a multi-year starter for the Terps. If you are a Maryland fan, you just hope those multiple years don’t start next season after what happened in 2012.
TSMD: 247Sports lists incoming WR Deon Long as the #2 JUCO prospect in the country at his position after putting up record setting numbers at Iowa Western CC, what would be realistic expectations for Long next season as he lines up across super-sophomore Stefon Diggs?
JC: Long is the perfect complement to Diggs and as long as there are no catastrophic quarterback issues, he should be a big part of the Maryland offense next season. Teams know to stop Maryland they have to stop Diggs, but it gets precarious with Long lining up opposite him. It also will help that the Terps will have someone to get them the ball and that Wes Brown should make strides in his second year of college football at running back.
TSMD: Will Likely was named to the Florida Class 5A First Team today, a major honor considering the abundance of talent in that state, despite standing at only 5’7″. Since the vast majority of Terps fans haven’t had the opportunity to see him play in person yet, what about his game sets him apart as a big time prospect?
JC: Likely is a great, great football player. He’s just not very big. He’s the type of player that can help your program in a number of ways as far as just being a quality guy that brings his hard hat and lunch pail every day and sets the tone for others about how to play the game. We may not project him to play in the NFL, but we think he can be an outstanding college player, perhaps even at the All-ACC level in time.
TSMD: Derwin Gray was recently quoted in a story by the Baltimore Sun’s Matt Bracken as saying “What Stefon Diggs did as a wide receiver, I can be that for the offensive line,”. Stefon Diggs came in with a lot of fanfare as a five-star recruit but did not feel the need to make any sort of proclamations on his freshman season. Gray is clearly a very talented player but can he back up this claim?
JC: I do think he can make that type of impact, but probably not next season. If Gray qualifies and makes it to College Park next season, he’s probably still raw enough that he will need an extra year of development before making the type of noise that he is capable of. Make no mistake about it, though, he’s got as much upside as any of the elite offensive tackle prospects in the country, he just will need to be coached up, add strength and the various things that offensive linemen have to do before they approach their ceiling.
TSMD: Georgia Tech has gotten into the game late for Jacksonville, FL DT Kingsley Opara and, although he chose not to take an official visit to the Atlanta campus, the scholarship offer being extended certainly stood out to him. How strong do you perceive the Yellow Jackets to be in his recruitment as we head into the stretch run?
JC: Rarely has there been a situation where a prospect has been committed to a school for as long as Opara has been committed to the Terps and then switched to a school he did not take an official visit to. If Opara was an Atlanta-area kid, I probably would think it was possible, but he’s from Florida, so I am confident that he sticks.
TSMD: Maryland assistant Mike Locksley has made a name for himself by, for lack of a better term, locking down the Washington D.C. area to secure to top talent in the district. Can Terps fans expect Locksley to have the same kind of dominance on the recruiting trail in the state of Maryland as he does inside of Nation’s Capital?
JC: Inside of D.C.- absolutely. Locksley has proven to be a big factor at this point and as the Terps improve on the field, he will be even more of one. Where Maryland is struggling right now is with the in-state bunch. Losing players to Nebraska, South Carolina, Ohio State, West Virginia, Clemson, etc., is something that has to change in order for Maryland to reach its full potential as a program. I do think the move to the Big Ten is going to help with that to a certain extent and I don’t think that the Terps have to sweep the state, but they do have to start signing their share of the top Maryland players.
TSMD: Maryland will land at least three, and potentially four, recruits in this class from the talent heavy program at Friendship Collegiate Academy in Washington D.C., while the term “pipeline” isn’t exactly the case in this situation how important will it be for the Terrapins program to continue to have a presence at the Washington D.C. charter school?
JC: It seems every recruiting cycle, Friendship has elite prospects and I don’t see that changing anytime soon, so it’s very important. The coaching staff at that school does an excellent job of discovering talent and developing their players for colleges. I haven’t spoken to one college assistant that did not enjoy visiting with that staff, so it’s important for Locksley and the Terps to continue to have a great relationship with the coaches there.
TSMD: If you could pick out one player in this class as an “under the radar” prospect Terrapins fans might not be focusing on in advance of Wednesday who would it be and why?
JC: I really like Milan Collins from Bishop McNamara in District Heights. He is 6-foot-2, 190 pounds and was a high school quarterback, but will probably play safety or cornerback in college. He’s a terrific athlete and a smart kid, so I think his future is bright and as he develops in the secondary, he can become quite the player for the Terps.