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Terps Trio: Danny O'Brien, signees at Big 33, hoops recruit rankings

Maryland TerrapinsFootballWisconsin BadgersESPNHersheyparkNFL

Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Barker and editor Matt Bracken weigh in on the three biggest topics of the past week in Maryland sports.

What do you make of former Terps quarterback Danny O’Brien leaving Wisconsin and looking for a new school?

Jeff Barker: First, a global comment. The NCAA rule allowing many graduate students to play immediately after transferring has had a noteworthy effect on the game. It has generated a class of college “free agents,” of which former Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson is perhaps the best known.

The graduate student needs to pursue a degree program not offered at the original school. Then they are generally free to play ball.

Providing college athletes additional motivation to graduate is a positive. Schools need to be monitored to ensure the graduate programs are legitimate.

Having the freedom to play immediately is essential to O’Brien, who graduated from Maryland. He had the misfortune to transfer to a school (Wisconsin) that – like the one he just left – found itself transitioning from one head coach to another. Those changes can be wrenching. O’Brien told me he spoke with incoming Badgers coach Gary Andersen and was left with the impression that he wouldn’t be in the mix for playing time.

Even under the previous coach (Bret Bielema), O'Brien had become a backup.

Now the onus is on O’Brien to prove himself at the next stop. He wants to show that his solid redshirt freshman season at Maryland was as much about him as it was about his situation. You’ll recall that his leading receiver that season was current Ravens star Torrey Smith, who caught 12 touchdown passes for the Terps that year.

O’Brien’s best statistics that season were 22 touchdown passes and only eight picks. He was proudest of not throwing a single interception in the team's five conference wins.

But that seems a long time ago. Since he retains NFL ambitions, O’Brien was correct to transfer. Towson is a possibility. More than anything, he needs to be on the field, even if it’s in the FCS. 

How are Maryland's football signees faring this week leading up to the Big 33 Classic on Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium?

Matt Bracken: Thirteen years ago, Derry Area (Pa.) offensive lineman Kyle Schmitt suited up for Pennsylvania in the Big 33 Football Classic. On Saturday, Schmitt will be on the opposing sideline as an assistant coach for the Maryland squad. The former Terps offensive lineman and first-year Archbishop Spalding coach has five College Park-bound players on his squad.

Under center for Maryland will be Gilman quarterback Shane Cockerille, who Schmitt said has "natural leadership ability" despite not being "overly vocal."

"As a quarterback, he can make all the throws," said Schmitt, who led Atholton to four playoff appearances before taking the Spalding job in February. "He has a strong arm, and then I think the element that Shane is going to bring is his running ability, No. 1 on designed quarterback runs, but also the ability to create out of broken plays. I think he's going to be able to do that very well. It's something you don't see as much in practice as [you will] Saturday night, and hopefully we will see at Maryland. I'm real excited for him at Maryland. He's a good kid and he's fun to work with."

The other offensive Terps commitment set to play Saturday is former Catonsville star DeAndre Lane, who is transitioning from running back to slot receiver.

"I think he's a guy that obviously has the raw materials, the speed," Schmitt said. "He's got a little bit of wiggle to him. He gets you real excited in the open space. But again, the move from tailback [is tough]. A lot of great slot receivers played tailback in high school. It's challenging for them to catch the ball and understand the passing game, things like stemming and stacking defensive backs and moving in and out of space, beating man coverage, all of those things. He needs to learn those things, especially in college. It's going to be a challenge, but again, he has the raw materials to be a very good football player. I think he'll be great in the slot. He can do a lot of different things."

Maryland's defense features three Terps signees: safety Elvis Dennah (Annapolis Area Christian School), cornerback Jacquille Veii (The Avalon School) and safety Milan Collins (Bishop McNamara). Schmitt likes the potential of all three future Terps.

"We have [Dennah] working at safety, but I see him as an outside 'backer, a WILL linebacker type of guy," Schmitt said. "He's a kid who has the ability to be physical and also play in space. He runs pretty well. He's got to put on weight, that's for sure. But I can definitely see him becoming a linebacker type rather than a safety.

"Jacquille has got all the tools to be a DB. He runs well, he hits, and his cover skills have been solid. These kids are playing all Cover-0, so it's going to be pretty clear if you can't run with guys. There's no sitting back on Cover-2, sitting in space and playing zone. I think we've seen his ability to break up plays. He's done a nice job from what I've seen. As far as corners, he's standing out as good as anyone in that bunch.

"[Milan is] a guy coming from playing quarterback in high school, and so all the physical skills are there, but he's very raw as a defensive back. … Milan has the ability to be a defensive back, safety type because he opens his hips well and has good coverage ability. Everything else is there. He's a good kid who I think is going to pick up that stuff pretty quickly and grow into a good defensive back."

Kickoff for the Big 33 Game is set for 7:06 p.m. on Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Pa. It will be televised on the NFL Network.

There's a bit of a break in AAU action with the spring circuit wrapped up and the summer session yet to begin. So at the midway point of the recruiting calendar, where do Maryland's top basketball targets rank?

Matt Bracken: After Dion Wiley's commitment last week, I wrote in Terps Trio about Maryland's remaining targets for the 2014 class. I'm guessing that more prospects will emerge this week and beyond, especially with the NBPA Top 100 Camp in Charlottesville underway. But for now, here's a look at where the Terps' top identified targets rank according to the four major recruiting services. 247Sports.com and ESPN.com appear to have been updated most recently.

NAME POSITION247SPORTS ESPN SCOUT RIVALSObi Enechionyiapower forward4 stars, No. 86 overall3 stars4 stars, No. 45 overall4 stars, No. 70 overallMartin Gebenpower forward4 stars, No. 97 overall3 stars3 starsunrankedDonte Granthamsmall forward4 stars, No. 81 overall3 stars3 stars3 starsTerry Larriersmall forward4 stars, No. 35 overall4 stars, No. 59 overall3 starsunrankedJared Nickenssmall forward3 stars, No. 153 overall4 stars3 stars3 starsGoodluck Okonobohcenter5 stars, No. 22 overall5 stars, No. 19 overall4 stars, No. 37 overall4 stars, No. 34 overallChinanu Onuakucenterunranked3 stars3 starsunrankedTrayvon Reedcenter4 stars, No. 54 overall4 stars, No. 84 overall4 stars, No. 46 overall4 stars, No. 59 overall

For what it's worth, Mount St. Joseph combo guard Phil Booth — who was offered months ago by Maryland but is probably unlikely now given the commitments of Wiley and Melo Trimble — is ranked a consensus four-star prospect with ratings of 68 (247Sports), 81 (ESPN), 55 (Scout) and 76 (Rivals). Here's where Maryland's two pledges stack up:

NAME POSITION 247SPORTS ESPN SCOUT RIVALSMelo Trimblecombo guard4 stars, No. 65 overall4 stars, No. 45 overall4 stars, No. 56 overall4 stars, No. 56 overallDion Wileyshooting guard4 stars, No. 37 overall4 stars, No. 26 overall4 stars, No. 42 overall4 stars, No. 49 overall

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

mbracken@baltsun.com

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