Profiles In Terpage – A Countdown To The Football Season: A.J. Francis


A recurring series where we will profile every player and coach on Maryland’s roster, counting down to kick-off against Miami. Thanks to OBNUG for the idea.

Today we profile a former freshman All-American.

A.J. Francis, Junior (RS), Defensive Tackle


Height: 6’4″

Weight: 295

Ratings: Three stars, #4 in Washington D.C., #68 defensive tackle by Rivals; two stars, #82 offensive guard by Scout; unranked by ESPN; #9 defensive tackle in 2013 class by NFL Draft Scout

40-yard dash time: 5.06

High School Stats (senior season): 61 tackles, 26 for loss, 4.5 sacks, 71 pancakes

High School Stats (junior season): 71 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 60 pancakes

College Stats (through two years): 75 tackles (27 solo), 8.5 for a loss, 3.5 sacks, one fumble forced, one pass breakup

High School: Gonzaga College High School (Washington, D.C.)

How’d He Get To College Park?

As A.J. is oft to remind you on Twitter, he is the perfect case of recruiting agencies getting it wrong. Scout  had him as a two-star offensive guard, ESPN didn’t even have him ranked – Rivals was the only one who was remotely close to assessing his true talent level with their three-star ranking. As one of the top players in the District, Francis was named all-WCAC and all-Met, and played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. He was recruited to Maryland by Chris Cosh, and chose the Terps over Wake Forest. Here’s the story on why he committed, from Francis himself:

"When I went out to the All-American Combine last year … the first day I destroyed everybody and Tom Lemming went on ESPN and said I was the best defensive tackle there. So everybody had me as the best defensive tackle in the country. The next day we ran the 40 in the rain outside and I ran a slow 40 time. Even though I was the best defensive tackle there, just because I ran a bad 40 time [schools] didn’t recruit me. But [Terps defensive line] coach [Dave] Sollazzo and [defensive coordinator] coach [Chris] Cosh contacted me and said, ‘We don’t care about that. When’s the last time a defensive lineman had to run 40 yards to get to a quarterback?’ The Wednesday when I got back from the combine, that’s when I committed."

Francis redshirted his first year on campus, and then became a starting defensive tackle after Dion Armstrong left the program. He played very well that year, recording 31 tackles and being named a freshman All-American. Last year, he teamed up with Joe Vellano on the interior defensive line, with great success. Opposing lines double-teamed Francis consistently throughout the year, leading to Vellano’s All-ACC year. Even with the double teams, Francis was still able to post 44 tackles (seven for a loss) and 2.5 sacks.

A.J. writes poetry, raps, and was in all of high school’s spring musicals, including West Side Story as Office Krupke. We can’t explain why, but that’s the best thing we’ve ever heard, and it makes perfect sense. Someone needs to scout out the casting director at Gonzaga.

More after the jump.


“The Franchyze”, “Joe Diamond”, “Fat Man”, hell, even A.J. is a nickname. He’s got plenty.

Career Highlight:

Being named a freshman All-American, and making this pump-up song for the women’s lacrosse team:

Career Lowlight:

His position on the depth chart now. More on that in a second.

Arbitrary Top Five List:

WCAC players on Maryland’s roster:

1. Kenny Tate

2. Cameron Chism

3. A.J. Francis

4. Andre Monroe

5. Pete DeSouza

Dream season:

Francis wins back the starting defensive tackle job, and earns All-ACC honors in the process.

Nightmare season:

Francis inexplicably stays as a backup on the depth chart for the whole year.

2011 prospectus:

As it stands right now, Francis is second on the depth chart at one of the two defensive tackle positions, behind Joe Vellano. Now, Francis isn’t going to take the job away from Vellano, but the other starting defensive tackle is redshirt freshman Andre Monroe, who performed extremely well in the spring.

We’re as big of a fan of Monroe as anyone else, but there really is no reason that Francis shouldn’t be starting come fall. Not only was he one of the top freshmen in the nation in 2009, he actually got better in 2010, even with the added attention that came with being a freshman All-American.

Regardless of whether Francis is named a starter by fall, he will be playing a lot. There’s no doubt that he’s Maryland most talented defensive lineman coming off the bench, and if he stays as a substitute he can have a similar impact to the ones Isaiah Ross and Zachariah Kerr had last year.

This is one of Maryland’s bigger storylines headed into fall, and hopefully when it’s time to play Miami A.J. will be joining Vellano u the middle (sorry, Andre).

Up Next:

Our next player is the only starter on Maryland’s defense from the state of Florida.