COLLEGE PARK -- The famous and not-so-famous.
That pretty much sums up Maryland football coach Ron Vanderlinden's fourth recruiting class as he continues to fight the Penn States of the world for top prep players who can help the school close the gap on national champion Florida State in the ACC.
Celebrated Seneca Valley quarterback Chris Kelley is tops on the list of the famous, with Mount St. Joseph's tall and talented wide receiver, Rob Abiamiri, not too far behind among the big names. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Kelley already has made some people forget last year's blue-chip freshman, Latrez Harrison, who never really had much of a chance to prove himself in 1999.
Abiamiri comes to Maryland with such a high profile that Vanderlinden couldn't help gushing yesterday when the 23 signees for the year 2000 were announced.
"Rob is a great athlete with so much size [6-3, 195] and leaping ability that his coach, Mike Working, said he has NFL potential right now," Vanderlinden said. "Rob is an example of the kind of player we're able to recruit now at Maryland. I'd say we're going head-to-head with the top 30 football schools in the country. We're continuing to make strides every year, and I have to believe we're going to get better and better talent the more games we win."
The not-so-famous? How about a 27-year-old former dairy farmer from Beltsville named Chris Earhart, who decided two years ago to give up milking cows and start playing football again. Earhart enrolled at Montgomery Junior College in Rockville, and now he's a 6-4, 300-pound defensive tackle who signed a letter of intent yesterday to play for the Terps.
"Anybody who knows anything about farming knows you have to milk cows twice a day," Vanderlinden said. "And Chris decided he didn't like doing that anymore and wanted to give football a try. That is a great story, isn't it? It proves you can never count anybody out, and it's not always the big names who pan out. I always say, 'It's not the recruits you lose that beat you, but it's the ones you take who never play that kills you.' "
In something of a surprise move, Vanderlinden decided to sign two quarterbacks this year, with junior-college transfer Shaun Hill (6-3, 225) joining Kelley in the Maryland fold. That gives Vanderlinden four quarterbacks to fight for the No. 1 job this season, as the two newcomers get set to duel Harrison and Calvin McCall.
"We weren't looking to sign two quarterbacks, but Shaun just had so much athleticism and played in an offense at Hutchinson Community College that is very similar to ours, that we couldn't pass him up," Vanderlinden said. "Plus it made sense to bring him in to provide experience and insurance at quarterback, when we found out that Calvin was going to play basketball."
There has been some speculation that Harrison's rough sledding during his few stints last season might have also had something to do with the Terps going after Hill.
In addition to St. Joe's Abiamiri, three other highly regarded Baltimore-area recruits officially signed national letters of intent yesterday to play in College Park: North Carroll's Steve Suter, Hereford's C. J. Feldheim and Calvert Hall's Lou Lombardo.
Terps football signings
Name Pos. Hgt. Wgt. Hometown (High school/last school)
Rob Abiamiri WR 6-3 195 Randallstown (Mount St. Joseph)
Cole Boykin DT 6-1 265 Jersey City, N.J. (IIudson Catholic)
C.J. Brooks OL 6-5 290 Rex, Ga. (Morrow)
Jamahl Cochran DE 6-0 220 Morristown, N.J. (Morristown)
Jon Condo LB 6-3 220 Phillipsburg, Pa. (Phillipsburg-Osceola)
Raymond Custis RB/DB 5-8 180 Germantown (Northwest)
Chris Downs TB 5-8 190 Philadelphia (Malvern Prep)
Chris Earhart DT 6-4 300 Beltsville (Montgomery JC)
Kevin Eli LB 6-4 230 Deptford, N.J. (Deptford)
C.J. Feldheim DE 6-3 235 Parkton (Hereford)
Ryan Flynn TE 6-4 235 Youngstown, Ohio (Cardinal Mooney)
Shaun Hill QB 6-3 225 Parsons, Kan. (Parsons-Hutchinson CC)
Chris Kelley QB 6-2 190 Germantown (Seneca Valley)
Reggie Kemp OL 6-4 300 Hyattsville (Northwestern)
Chris Linton LB 6-2 210 Chesapeake, Va (Oscar Smith)
Lou Lombardo OT 6-6 280 Baltimore (Calvert Hall)
James Lynch FB 5-11 250 Washington, D.C. (Dunbar of D.C.)
Ike Roberts WR 5-11 175 Staten Island, N.Y. (Tottenville)
Kyle Schmitt OL 6-5 275 Latrobe, Pa. (Derry Area)
Maurice Shanks WR 6-4 175 Hampton, Va. (Phoebus)
Steve Suter RB 5-9 175 Manchester (North Carroll)
Curtis Williams S 6-2 190 Huntington Station, N.Y. (Huntington)
Dennard Wilson CB 5-11 188 Upper Marlboro (DeMatha)