There are certain players who can completely change the direction of a football program the minute they step onto the field. On the offensive end, it’s a player like Stefon Diggs, the rookie receiver last year who put up gaudy numbers and kept the Maryland Terrapins in many a game thanks to his heroic efforts. But on the defensive end? Now so more than ever, in a pass-happy environment like today’s game, a shutdown corner could be the difference between winning and losing. Perhaps that’s why it feels so important that the Terrapins reign in a supreme talent like Jalen Tabor.
Tabor is a consensus four/five-star player, being ranked the 27th best player by Rivals, 28th best by 247, and 19th best by ESPN in the 2014 football class of recruits. His suitors include powerhouse programs like Alabama, South Carolina, Florida, and Florida State among others. But that is not to say that the 6’1, 185 lb. cornerback doesn’t have the Terrapins on his radar. On the contrary, you could argue that they are impossible to ignore given their proximity and recruiting efforts to land Tabor.
Last Sunday, Tabor competed against hundreds of different players at the Nike Football Training Camp, showing off his athleticism, length, and ability to lock down receivers. Tabor outclassed most of the kids there and ended up with the earning the distinction of being MVP of the defensive backs attending. And despite his efforts, Tabor told me he still wasn’t satisfied.
“I felt like I did good, but there’s always room for improvement,” Tabor told me at Redskins Park after the camp wound down. “I could’ve done a lot better. I had two balls caught on me today, and I felt like those were my mistakes. I could clean them up a little bit. So it was a good day, but it wasn’t a great day.”
You can tell from Tabor’s attitude that he isn’t one to rest on his laurels. He wants to be pushed to the next level by everyone around him, from the coaching staff to his teammates. When asked about whether he might look forward to playing with some of the members on the University of Maryland, Tabor spoke highly of a specific player:
“I’ve always wanted to play with Stefon [Diggs]. I would love that, he would make me better on the field.”
Diggs is already in a select group of receivers in Division I football that can be considered elite, Going up against him on a day-to-day basis, along with Deon Long and Marcus Leak, is something that can turn a great cornerback into a professional grade player. Tabor would, in turn, make the receivers themselves even better with his ability to cover just about anyone on the field.
Still, the recruiting process is about more than just playing against your teammates. It’s important to know that you’re going to a coaching staff and a school that values winning. Judging by recent success (or lack thereof) the Maryland Terrapins would decidedly be out of the running for a player like Tabor. The Terrapins are firmly in the rebuilding process right now, which sometimes doesn’t appeal to stud recruits. Yet Tabor, to that effect, was enthusiastic about his feelings towards the Maryland coaching staff and the school itself:
“I’ve been to the University of Maryland. It’s right near my high school so I get around there a lot,” Tabor said when asked about the school. “I’ve been there so many time. I love the coaching staff, they’re trying to rebuild. You can tell they want to work, get better, and win.”
The Maryland Terrapins have the advantage of being in a lot of recruit’s backyards, which means more exposure. But perhaps what’s most important about the close proximity is that some of the current players on the team can make their own recruiting pitch to their friends seeking out colleges.
” Definitely Derwin Gray [is pressing me the hardest],” said Tabor about who is recruiting him the most. “He’s always talking about Maryland. Always. You can’t get him to talk about no other schools but Maryland.”
While it may not seem like the Terrapins have any chance, at least on paper, with a guy like Tabor, I wouldn’t count them out right away. There is still plenty of time left to make a pitch, and it helps that the coaching staff doesn’t have to go far to do it. Still, a player like Jalen Tabor is a game-changer on the defensive end, and you should expect to go the extra mile for a player that will do the same for your team.