Mike Laktash saw a change in DeShawn Dowdy, but couldn't quite put his finger on what was different about the 6-foot-4, 220-pound athlete after he returned from a late-October visit to College Park.
"He acted differently after the other visits," said Laktash, Dowdy's football coach at Akron (Ohio) North. "His other visits were to Iowa State, Purdue and Cincinnati. But his behavior that following Monday was a little bit different. The last two teams were Maryland and Cincinnati -- those were his top two choices. Obviously, when he got home from the visit, I kind of had some suspicions that it would be Maryland."
Laktash's premonitions were proven correct when Dowdy announced his commitment to the Terps during halftime of an all-star game on Thanksgiving. Dowdy, a three-star prospect and Scout.com's No. 53 outside linebacker nationally, picked the Terps over the Bearcats, Cyclones and Boilermakers, in addition to several MAC schools. The future Terp also received interest from Boise State and a few Big 10 schools.
Laktash was named Akron North's coach before Dowdy's junior year, but he was already very familiar with the Vikings' star player. Dowdy was a well-regarded basketball player, a standout on the track team, and a raw football player with plenty of potential. Before Laktash arrived at Akron North, Dowdy played on the defensive and offensive lines. As a junior, Dowdy stayed at defensive end and shifted out to tight end.
"He's very comfortable on the defensive line, maybe at the outside linebacker position," Laktash said. "But offensively, he's exceeded expectations because the first year playing an offensive skill position, tight end, he got first-team all-city. He's running kickoffs back for touchdowns, returning punts. At 6-4, 220 pounds, you don't see that. Last year as a junior and this year as a senior, he's done it all for us. Like I said, normally someone has that size and is strictly a defensive end. But with the tight end position, he never left the field."
Maryland's offer to Dowdy, according to Laktash, was for offense or defense. But Laktash believes Dowdy is slated for defensive end. Terps defensive line coach Greg Gattuso was Dowdy's recruiter, and he made it quite clear where he would like to see Dowdy.
"He loves DeShawn and thinks he has the potential to come in immediately as a pass rusher, even if it's just on third down or in passing situations," Laktash said. "DeShawn has all the potential in the world. He's gone from football to basketball to track to AAU. He actually has not had much experience in the weight room. So he's going to get big. He's going to get strong."
Dowdy stopped playing AAU ball last summer, and he's not going out for the basketball team this winter. Instead, Dowdy has loaded up on classes so that he can graduate next month and enroll at Maryland in January. Laktash expects big things out of his star player in College Park.
"He's exceptional end to end," Laktash said. "He has great instincts for a defensive lineman or the 'backer position. His potential is greater than what has already been seen. He has no experience in the weight room up until recently. We got him in the weight room last summer because he gave AAU basketball up. He's not playing basketball anymore. He wants to get prepared for Maryland. He's hoping to get some playing time as a true freshman. If something happens and he gets redshirted, he'll be fine with that also. Another year to get bigger, stronger and faster. I think he'll do well."