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September 16, 2011

Mid-Atlantic mailbag: Terps rising

MORE MID-ATL: Notes | Dawson chat replay

Does Maryland have a shot with in-state talent?

Which Don Bosco Prep prospect will be best in college?

And is Syracuse improving its presence in New Jersey?

These questions and more are addressed by Rivals.com analyst Mike Farrell in the Mid-Atlantic recruiting mailbag.


More interest in Maryland

Maryland's recruiting class is not the most impressive at the moment, but it looks like it has made up a lot of ground with most of the top in-state talent since the big win over Miami. How realistic of a chance does it have with players like Stefon Diggs, Cyrus Jones, Wes Brown, Ronald Darby and Eddie Goldman?

- Sebastian from Annapolis, Md.

Maryland went into the season opening home game against Miami knowing that it was a fantastic opportunity to make a huge impression on the top in-state targets, many of whom the Terps were struggling with until that point. The primetime ESPN game on Labor Day night, the new uniforms, the loud atmosphere, the new coaching - it all created the perfect scenario for Maryland, and the staff took advantage of it by rounding up all of the top in-state talent.

With Diggs, Jones, Brown, Darby and Goldman all attending the game, along with a host of other top recruits, the Terrapins did enough on that Monday night to make up substantial amounts of ground with every player. Currently, I think Diggs has Maryland in his top three with Florida and Auburn, I think Jones has Maryland in his top three with Auburn and Alabama and I think Darby has Maryland in his top two with Notre Dame. Maryland is also running in the top two for Brown along with Miami while Goldman has not cut down his list as much, but Maryland is firmly entrenched in his top seven.

The victory over Miami also opened the eyes of several younger recruits, such as Kendall Fuller, Dorian O'Daniel and Jalen Tabor who were all equally impressed by what they saw from the Terrapins on Labor Day night. Getting into the mindset of the younger recruits is almost as important as it is with the class of 2012, because it continues to lay the foundation in the region for Maryland.

Aside from the Labor Day victory, another major reason for the recent recruiting upswing at Maryland is the hands-on approach that has been taken by new coach Randy Edsall. Edsall was not necessarily known as a hands-on recruiter while at Connecticut and neither was former coach Ralph Friedgen during his stint at Maryland. This new approach is being very well received by recruits and it was important for Diggs, Jones, Darby, Brown, Fuller, O'Daniel and others to see Edsall on hand this past weekend at the Patriot Classic. But while all of this positive press is obviously great, the next step for Maryland is to actually reel in one of these big fish, as that will create a stir among the rest of the top in-state talent.


Bosco's best

There is obviously a lot of talk in New Jersey about the great senior class at Don Bosco Prep, but which player do you think will make the biggest impact at the college level?

- Rudolph from Tenafly, N.J.

It is hard not to have defensive lineman Darius Hamilton as your top choice for this answer. Possessing a very unique combination of size, speed, athleticism and football smarts, Hamilton has developed himself into one of the top class of 2012 recruits in the country. Hamilton has an extremely high ceiling and after he finds a strength and conditioning program in college, and specialized college coaching, the sky will be the limit.

After Hamilton, you still have Yuri Wright, Leonte Carroo, Elijah Shumate and Mike Strizak. Depending on who you ask, you will likely receive a different answer as to who the next most likely player to excel will be, but my choice is Wright. He has all the tools to be a top-level cornerback in college. He has the size of a safety, but the hips, feet and quickness of a top cornerback. He also plays an aggressive style of football and is a hard hitter. Overall, he's the complete package.

Shumate is still somewhat of a mystery because his future position is still up in the air. At Bosco he plays safety, but he finds himself closer to the line of scrimmage during a good portion of the game. He will likely start at safety in college, but a move to outside linebacker or a hybrid position between the two is also not out of the question. Either way, he is another hard hitter who is physically impressive and has a great nose for the ball. He may take a little longer to develop because of the position question mark, but either way he will make his mark in college.

Carroo, who already committed to Rutgers, is in the big, strong receiver mold that has recently excelled in the Scarlet Knights' offense. Starting with Kenny Britt and now with Mohamed Sanu and Mark Harrison, Carroo has a chance to continue this trend. Carroo did have some questions regarding his hands, but he worked very hard in the off-season on this issue and it seems like he has definitely improved that facet of his game.

Finally we have Strizak, who is the least heralded of this group, but has steadily improved his game to a level where he is being mentioned by some with the "big four" and could end up as a Rivals250 prospect with the rest of them. The linebacker, and Boston College commitment, is a relentless player on the field and with that he also has quick feet, great technique and moves very well from sideline-to-sideline. The Eagles have a good history of developing big linebackers, and if Strizak continues to develop his game he can definitely join this list.

Helping each of these players is also the coaching that they receive at Don Bosco Prep on a day-to-day basis. The Bosco program is run and organized like a mini-college already, so the transition to the next level is not as drastic for these players as it is for some other top prospects.


Little Orange in Jersey

Syracuse used to recruit really well in New Jersey, but as it struggled on the field over the last decade, the recruiting in the state also dried up. Is there any chance for improvement for Syracuse in New Jersey?

- Stuart from Islip, N.Y

I briefly mentioned this topic a few weeks ago, and I really think it is an important issue for Syracuse and its future success. The Orange used to be a major contender for most of the top talent in New Jersey, but now they are mostly of an afterthought by most. An example of this can easily be seen in this week's depth chart for the USC game, where only four New Jersey players fill out the two-deep, plus starting kicker Ross Krautman. Zack Chibane is an important part of the offensive line and Dyshawn Davis and Marquis Spruill are both young and talented linebackers, so the Jersey talent in the two-deep is an important part of the roster, but more is needed if the Orange want to take that next step.

The last three-star recruit the Orange grabbed out of a New Jersey high school was defensive back Grant Mayes back in the Class of 2008, who never really panned out. Other than that, a huge majority of the talent brought in from New Jersey in the last five years were two-star prospects who most of the time were not going to make an immediate impact. As of right now, this trend does not seem like it will stop with the Class of 2012, as two-star defensive tackle Marcus Coleman is the only current commitment from New Jersey and no other top recruit is considering the Orange.

When coach Doug Marrone took over, one of his recruiting goals was to try and keep as much of the top in-state talent home as possible. While he has managed to do a decent recruiting job in-state, a bigger goal should have been to bring Syracuse back into New Jersey. Despite its size, the state produces substantially more talent than New York, both in numbers and in quality, so it should be an obvious target for Syracuse.

The lackluster play on the field during the 2000s obviously did not help this issue, but more of an effort needs to be made. And while the play on the field under Marrone is improving, and the team is coming off of a bowl victory last season, the efforts in New Jersey remain the same and so are the results.


O-line is the Pitts

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the Pitt offensive line looks below average through two games but it's still concerning. Are there any chances of bringing in some top offensive line recruits in this class?

- Carlisle from Scranton, Pa.

Pittsburgh already had some depth chart concerns at the position before coach Todd Graham took over, but the problem definitely was not resolved in his first recruiting class when the Panthers only brought in two offensive linemen.

With limited time to recruit, it is understandable how Graham was quickly filling holes instead of planning a long-term strategy with his first class, however it is more surprising that his current class only has one offensive lineman at this time.

There is always the chance that some defensive line recruits get moved over to the offensive side, but usually that's more like putting a bandage on a bullet hole. What Pittsburgh needs in this class are a couple of high quality offensive linemen who at least have the potential to step in and contribute early. The offensive line is not an easy position to step in as a true freshman, but it would be nice for the program to grab a couple who at least have the potential.

That brings me to four-star Adam Bisnowaty, who is a local four-star lineman, and continues to have Pittsburgh and Florida as his top two. No recruit is more important in this class as Bisnowaty is for Pittsburgh, not even running back Rushel Shell. He is talented enough to at least push for time as a true freshman, plus it would keep another top local prospect at home. Another quick fix possibility is four-star JUCO lineman Tavon Rooks from Texas, who took an official visit to Pittsburgh this past weekend, and has the Panthers contending with West Virginia, USF and Kansas State. Rooks will enroll in January, so that is an additional bonus to the school picking him up.

With three-star Adam Pankey of Hamilton, Ohio, currently the only other offensive line target that Pittsburgh is in solid shape with, it is safe to assume that a few more offers could go out at the position in the next month or two after senior highlight tapes begin to roll in. Either way, the offensive line position is a top level priority for Pittsburgh and should not be ignored any longer.



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