When aspiring college football players used to consult Gilman Coach Biff Poggi for advice, the last school that came to mind was the University of Maryland. He ran the gamut of programs for his players. Gilman alums are at Michigan, Alabama and Penn State. But College Park was always Poggi’s final thought.
Now, it’s the first.
Running back Kenny Goins is a freshman at Maryland. Quarterback Shane Cockerille will join him next season. An avalanche of players from the Baltimore powerhouse could soon follow.
Long an inaccessible hotbed for Terps recruiters, a potential pipeline is forming along Interstate 95, coinciding with Randy Edsall’s assumption of Maryland’s head coaching position. Five Division I-caliber players are currently looking at Maryland, according to Poggi.
Gilman defensive backs coach Keith Kormanik played under Edsall in the early 1990s at Boston College, so the Greyhounds followed Edsall during his time at Connecticut. When he got the Maryland job, Poggi said, they were thrilled.
“He’s got two guys in a year and a half, and it looks like he’s going to get a lot more,” Poggi said Friday after Gilman thumped Charlotte Christian (N.C.) 37-14. “We have really, really good young players in our program. Now, when we talk to our players and their families, we start with Maryland. It’s our state school, and we really trust the coach, and it’s a great education. There’s some pretty good football being played at the top level in Maryland. I know Randy wants to keep those kids.”
Cockerille does too. An Elite 11 quarterback who committed to Maryland in April and seems to be an optimal fit for offensive coordinator Mike Locksley’s new pro-style offense, Cockerille regularly makes the short drive to Byrd Stadium to watch the Terps play, bringing his teammates along for the ride. Cockerille, a wrestler just like Perry Hills, grew up a Terps fan and fancied Maryland his dream school, so he’s acting as a de facto recruiter among fellow Greyhounds.
“He’ll go with a car-load of guys on the weekend,” said Poggi, whose son Henry is a Michigan commit. “It happens to be in the car, all four- and five-star recruits. And that really helps. The kids are friends, and they recruit each other.”
Poggi spoke very highly of Edsall’s “straight-shooting” as a recruiter, and the Terps’s in-state prowess was only enhanced when offensive coordinator Mike Locksley came on board and Good Counsel products Stefon Diggs and Wes Brown committed for Maryland’s Class of 2016.
“I think they’re up-and-coming with Coach Edsall being that new guy and turning things around.,” Cockerille said. “They got a great recruiting class last year and with my class. I just tell them it’s a great place to be. They’re one of the youngest teams in the country, so it’s just a great opportunity for the young guys to come in and play.”
And given what he views as a bright recruiting future for Maryland, longtime Gilman coach also had some strongly worded advice for the Terps going forward.
“I think the biggest thing for the University of Maryland is time,” Poggi said. “Don’t be impatient with this guy. Everybody’s coming into Maryland to get talent. Be patient, because those kids won’t leave in two or three years. Nobody’s going to be able to come in and get them. Nobody. Let this guy develop his system. Give him five years. When you do, Maryland is going to be dynamite.
“The Maryland people ought to be thrilled. If they do something stupid, like if they’re 4-8 and they panic, it will set everything back with the state kids.”
Here’s the rundown on Gilman players looking at or committed to Maryland:
QB Shane Cockerille (2013): Committed in April. Sixteenth-ranked dual threat quarterback nationally by ESPN.com. As a junior, had around 1,100 yards passing and 1,300 yards rushing. “Shane is a huge get for them,” Poggi said. “When’s the last time Maryland got an Elite 11 quarterback?”
DB Matt Tilley (2013): A dynamic kick returner with size, Tilley is between Michigan and Maryland. “Right now, I think Michigan is in the lead,” Poggi said. “But he really likes Maryland.”
DE Nick Fertitta (2013): The 6-foot-2, 255-pound end had two sacks in Gilman’s 13-6 win over national powerhouse Don Bosco Prep (N.J.), which ended the Ironmen’s 46-game winning streak. Fertitta burst onto the scene in 2010 when he had a strong outing against Good Counsel and offensive lineman Mike Madaras, who is now at Maryland.
DE Melvin Keihn (2014): With 4.5 speed, Keihn is projected as an outside linebacker in college, with offers ranging from West Virginia to Rutgers to seven ACC schools. “He’s got 50 offers, and he really likes Maryland a lot,” Poggi said.
CB Troy Vincent Jr. (2014): A “very, very, very good player,” according to Poggi, Vincent is the son of former Pro Bowl cornerback Troy Vincent, and has offers from Maryland, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Penn State, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, his father’s alma mater, among others.
WR Kai Locksley (2015): Son of Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, Kai received his Maryland offer in early September, his first collegiate offer. Said Poggi: “He needs to grow up a little, but he’s going to be a great player. He’ll obviously go to Maryland if his dad is still there.”