Fla. games could boost re­cruit­ment

Baltimore Sun - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - By Don Markus don.markus@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/sport­sprof56

COL­LEGE PARK — Given that col­lege foot­ball games are typ­i­cally sched­uled years — and some­times decades — in ad­vance, new Mary­land coach DJ Durkin had noth­ing to do with the back-to-back trips the Terps will make to Florida this month.

While Durkin might not have wanted to sub­ject his young team to two straight road games, he un­der­stands the long-term ben­e­fits of play­ing Florida In­ter­na­tional tonight in Mi­ami and Cen­tral Florida on Sept. 17 in Or­lando. It’s a chance to build a pro­gram with a re­cruit­ing foot­print stretch­ing south.

“Florida is def­i­nitely an im­por­tant area for us,” Durkin said Tues­day. “We have a good pres­ence in Florida. Our staff has good con­nec­tions down there. There are good play­ers down there, so we’ll al­ways con­tinue to re­cruit down there.”

Two com­mits for the Class of 2017 play high school foot­ball in Florida, in­clud­ing five-star de­fen­sive end Joshua Kain­doh, who grew up in Mid­dle River and is play­ing his se­nior year at the IMG Acad­emy in Braden­ton.

Mike Far­rell, a na­tional re­cruit­ing an­a­lyst for Ri­vals.com, thinks the Terps are po­si­tioned well to ac­quire tal­ent from the Sun­shine State.

“You’re not go­ing to win the big bat­tles [in Florida] too of­ten, with the big three [Florida, Florida State and Mi­ami] or the SEC un­less you’re Ohio State or Michi­gan, but you can find a lot of tal­ent down there,” Far­rell said. “If you do well play­ing those Florida teams, and show kids you’re a good op­tion for them if they don’t have Big Three of­fers, I think it’s im­por­tant.”

But right now, re­cruit­ing can take a back seat. Durkin is fo­cused on the Panthers (0-1), first and fore­most.

FIU, which plays in Con­fer­ence USA, lost its sea­son opener, 34-13, at home against In­di­ana.

“I don’t re­ally know how you can mea­sure the im­por­tance of a game played in Florida when it comes to re­cruit­ing down there,” Durkin said. “For us, no mat­ter where we’re play­ing or who we’re play­ing, it is game No. 2, and we have to find a way to win the game.”

Said of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Walt Bell: “Is Florida a huge piece for us? Yes. Is us play­ing a game there the end-all-be-all, and will it some­how man­age to help re­cruit­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties or will it some­how put us in a po­si­tion to re­cruit some of the blue bloods? Maybe. Maybe not. I think for us, we­need to go down, do well and be suc­cess­ful. I think if we do that, that will help us.”

Need­less to say, the 13 Terps on the ros­ter who grew up in the tal­ent-rich state are ex­cited about their home­com­ings. (One of them, sopho­more cor­ner­back JC Jack­son, who was raised in Immokalee, might not be ac­tive be­cause of an “aca­demic mat­ter.” He had not been cleared to play as of Thurs­day.)

“It’s go­ing to be a nice feel­ing to play back in Florida and play in front of my fam­ily,” said se­nior safety Den­zel Cony­ers, who grew up in St. Peters­burg. “This is go­ing to be their first game see­ing me­live since I was in high school.”

Only Will Likely, se­nior cor­ner­back and re­turn spe­cial­ist, who grew up less than an hour away in Belle Glade, has played a col­lege game in his home state. That was a painful 63-0 de­mo­li­tion at No. 8 Florida State in 2013.

Likely and oth­ers ex­pect­ing a large group of fam­ily mem­bers and friends at the game had to fig­ure out how to han­dle their ticket al­lot­ment. Each player re­ceives four com­pli­men­tary tick­ets to dis­perse.

“We ask guys around, ‘Can I get some of your tick­ets for this week­end?’ Ev­ery­body is MARY­LAND (1-0)@ FLORIDA IN­TER­NA­TIONAL (0-1) When: Tonight, 7:30 Site: Ocean Bank Field at FIU Foot­ball Sta­dium, Mi­ami Video: CBS Sports Net­work Ra­dio: 1300 AM, 980 AM, Chan­nel 81 on Sir­ius and XM Series: Mary­land leads 4-0 Line: Mary­land by 101⁄ What’s at stake: Af­ter an im­pres­sive first half in the sea­son-open­ing 52-13 win over Howard, first-year Mary­land coach DJ Durkin played a lot of fresh­men and oth­ers with­out much ex­pe­ri­ence in the sec­ond half. The depth should help the Terps against a Florida In­ter­na­tional team that wore down in the fourth quar­ter against In­di­ana at home last week, when the Hoosiers, de­spite the sus­pen­sions of six play­ers be­fore the game, scored 22 straight points to win, 34-13. Key matchup: The Mary­land de­fense will be tested a lot more than it was in the opener. FIU ju­nior quar­ter­back Alex McGough com­pleted 23 of 46 passes for 263 yards against In­di­ana but was in­ter­cepted three times. If the sec­ondary strug­gles with­out cor­ner­back JC Jack­son, who will prob­a­bly sit out again be­cause of an un­re­solved aca­demic mat­ter, McGough has some ca­pa­ble re­ceivers in se­nior tight end Jonnu Smith and ju­nior run­ning back Alex Gard­ner. Player to watch: Grad­u­ate trans­fer Trey Ed­munds had a ter­rific first game for the Terps last week, show­ing his speed and power in rush­ing for 48 yards and a touch­down on six car­ries, and his re­source­ful­ness in re­turn­ing a blocked punt 13 yards for an­other score. Given that the Panthers are not big de­fen­sively, the 6-foot-2, 223-pound run­ning back could be a load to bring down. — Don Markus un­der­stand­ing,” Cony­ers said. “We don’t get to Florida like — ever. It’s just like a code; it’s un­der­stood. Any­body from the state got first dibs on tick­ets. Ev­ery­body has been very gen­uine in help­ing us out.”

While it ap­pears as though Durkin and his staff have fo­cused their aim for 2017 and be­yond on try­ing to keep the best lo­cal tal­ent from leav­ing Mary­land and Washington, the im­por­tance of keep­ing ties to Florida are ob­vi­ous. Along with Cal­i­for­nia and Texas, it pro­duces the most tal­ent of any state in terms of col­lege foot­ball.

Cony­ers knows that winning the next two road games could be “a state­ment to the young prospects com­ing up in Florida that Mary­land is po­ten­tially, if not al­ready, a pipe­line and they should se­ri­ously con­sider com­ing.”

“This will put a stamp on a process al­ready that our coach­ing staff is re­cruit­ing the state of Florida,” he said. “I be­lieve that our show­cas­ing the dudes on the team, show­ing our tal­ent, the young kids will see that Mary­land is for real.”

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