Defensive back Jalen Tabor's decision to commit to Arizona, consummated Thursday with the donning of a Wildcats cap and the signaling of "Bear Down" at the Under Armour All-America Game, was a somewhat surprising marriage. Not because Alabama had been spurned, mind you, but because the surprise hat in play was Arizona's, not Maryland's.
From the very start of his blink-and-you'll-miss-a-tweet recruitment, it was always accepted as fact that Tabor would end up somewhere like Tropicana Field, flanked by the nation's elite, cameras trained on him as he announced on national television his postgraduate plans. The Friendship Collegiate Academy (D.C.) star received his first college scholarship offer in his freshman year of high school. He had an offer from then-defending national champion Auburn before he was eligible for a driver's license in Washington. He was the only sophomore among The Washington Post's All-Met first and second teams in 2011. He was, no doubt, a stud.
A stud who seemed content with the idea of staying home for college, and not only for the sake of his social media footprint:
#Terpnation man it's looks like everybody Bouta Stay home I might be next but I need some more followers my terp nation give me a shoutout— #¿1¿ (@HesSuchATEEZ) January 11, 2012
Less than a week before that now two-year-old tweet, Good Gounsel running back Wes Brown had pledged to Maryland. A day later, Friendship Collegiate teammate Albert Reid would do the same. Stefon Diggs capped the class the next month.
And Tabor? The offers continued to pour in, and the visits came and went, but Maryland was always on his short list, and often atop it, as his suggestive retweets indicated.
Something changed within the past month. The Terps and Florida, once the leaders, now were trailing. Alabama and Arizona had overtaken them. How they got there was unclear. The uncertainity seemed to fuel rumors, which in turn fueled questioning, which then led to this revealing exchange between Tabor and a reporter this week, published in an unlisted YouTube video and passed onto me by a reader. Here's the transcript:
Has Maryland been eliminated?
OK. Why is that, do you feel?
Player influences. There’s a lot of stuff going on with the program right now. Can’t win, for real. I mean, they had a good season even though they lost their two best players, but just not where I wanted to be.
When did that come into your mind, that this was going on with Maryland?
About two weeks ago, a week ago.
Have you told the coaches that?
Nah, I haven’t really talked to anybody right now. I’m just waiting to make my decision and call everybody and thank them for recruiting me.
You’d seemed like Maryland was [the favorite] for the last several months. Was there any person or thing that set that off?
I just talk to the players. I talk to the players at every school, and they give me good feedback, some negative, some positive. I’m talking to the players that are actually going through the stuff where I’m going to be the next four years, so I feel like they know what they’re talking about. They’re not going to tell you nothing’s wrong. And all of the players at Maryland look out for my best interests. I know a lot of those players, so they’re not going to tell me nothing’s wrong.
Even though not much has gone right lately for Randy Edsall, what with him losing to Marshall and possibly losing a top commit who once looked like as much a sure thing as Tabor, the Terps are still in the running for arguably their top prospect. But you really have to wonder about those odds when players are saying that, at Maryland, you "can't win." And that's for real.