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McDonogh's Ellis McKennie III set to sign with Terps, help improve offensive line

McDonogh's Ellis McKennie III set to sign with Terps, help improve offensive line
McDonogh's Ellis McKennie III will sign with the Terps on Wednesday for National Signing Day. (Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun)

The question to Calvert Hall coach Donald Davis: Did Maryland offensive line commitment Ellis McKennie III stick out on film when Davis was preparing his team to play McDonogh, featuring McKennie, in October?

Davis chuckled, then responded.

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"Does he stick out? Have you seen the film? He sticks out," Davis said. "He was the best interior player on the field probably eight times [out of 10] he took the field this year. I would imagine that he played in eight games this year where there was not a better big man on the field than him.

"He's an exceptional football player. He's going to play at Maryland. He's going to play there."

McKennie is one of 17 members of the 2015 recruiting class that the Terps will finalize Wednesday on national signing day, a big and physical offensive lineman who Maryland hopes will help improve a unit that was a consistent problem area throughout last season.

A three-star prospect according to ESPN, the 6-foot-3, 310-pound McKennie is projected to be a guard in college after playing left tackle as a senior at McDonogh.

"I think he's one of those tough guys that has a little bit of an edge to his personality, which I really, really like," ESPN national recruiting director Tom Luginbill said. "I think he can probably play both tackle and guard but is probably a better fit on the inside, in my opinion. He's got some strength, some natural strength, and he's been at a solid program, too."

The son of former George Washington basketball player Ellis McKennie Jr., McKennie grew up playing basketball and baseball before starting to play football in the seventh grade.

After beginning ninth grade standing 6 feet 1 and weighing approximately 220 pounds, McKennie grew and developed into a three-year varsity starter who leaves McDonogh bench pressing 325 pounds and squatting more than 400 pounds.

"It wasn't really until the end of my sophomore year, my junior [year] when I actually got a knack for playing football, and I got bigger and stronger," McKennie said. "And then it was my junior year when I had a good season and got offered by Maryland. I wasn't always a football guy. …

"My sophomore year was my first year on varsity, and it was a hard year. But my junior year was definitely my breakout year. It was my second year on the varsity team, so I knew the players, and I knew the scheme a lot better, and I had definitely been hitting the weight room a lot harder. I was a lot stronger and a lot bigger, and that definitely helped me."

Starting at right guard, McKennie helped McDonogh finish 11-0 and win the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship in 2013 while scoring an average of 36.4 points per game. With McKennie at left tackle this past season, the Eagles were 7-3 and scored 35 points or more against conference foes Calvert Hall, Loyola and Archbishop Spalding.

"He was the best offensive lineman we faced the whole season," said Davis, whose team lost to McDonogh, 35-7. "He's not only technically proficient, but somebody's got to be keeping score on pancakes because, if you watch film, he's laying on guys. He takes pride in putting guys on the ground.

"He's impressive. He's a big kid. He moves extremely well. And like I said, he's technically proficient. He can get to the second level. He can execute all the blocks you need a guy to make. … He is a complete football player."

An Owings Mills native, McKennie verbally committed to Maryland in May and plans to major in government politics.

"I think definitely being close to home is a big thing," McKennie said. "My parents can come see every game. I'm not too far from home if anything goes wrong, and I think Maryland was the best fit for me personally. I think I'm going to do well there football-wise and give me an opportunity to play.

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"And also being so close to [Washington,] D.C. and Baltimore, it opens up a lot of opportunities after college that a lot of schools couldn't offer."

Rivals.com rates McKennie as the 34th-best offensive guard prospect in the Class of 2015 and the 14th-best prospect from Maryland.

"They always tell you at Maryland that the best people are going to play," McKennie said. "I've just got to go there, work my hardest and try to get on the field."

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