NCF On The Trail: damian prince

ESPN 300 players announce decisions

February, 5, 2014
Feb 5
7:30
PM ET
The nation's top players announced their college decisions Wednesday. Here's a look at where the ESPN 300 committed:

No. 9 Adoree' Jackson: USC
No. 14 Lorenzo Carter: Georgia
No. 17 Malachi Dupre: LSU
No. 22 Ermon Lane: Florida State
No. 24 John "Juju" Smith: USC
No. 25 Solomon Thomas: Stanford
No. 26 Damian Prince: Maryland
No. 52 Rashaan Evans: Alabama
No. 60 Malik McDowell: Michigan State
No. 67 Damien Mama: USC
No. 75 Michiah Quick: Oklahoma
No. 87 Chris Lammons: South Carolina
No. 120 Wesley Green: South Carolina
No. 127 Braden Smith: Auburn
No. 138 Donte Thomas-Williams: West Virginia
No. 158 Roderick Johnson: Florida State
No. 163 Treon Harris: Florida
No. 164 Travonte Valentine: LSU
No. 174 Andrew Williams: Auburn
No. 179 Dexter Wideman: South Carolina
No. 194 Mattrell McGraw: Oregon
No. 243 Nifae Lealao: Vanderbilt
No. 249 Myles Autry: Georgia Tech
No. 253 Derrick Nnadi: Florida State
No. 264 Poona Ford: Texas
No. 286 Isaiah McKenzie: Georgia

You can watch ESPNU online via WatchESPN.

To see where we think these guys will go, check out the predictions on our Hot Board.

ESPN 300 OT stays home, picks Terps 

February, 5, 2014
Feb 5
12:15
PM ET

Maryland coach Randy Edsall and offensive coordinator Mike Locksley can breathe a sigh of relief. Top uncommitted offensive tackle Damian Prince (Forestville, Md./Bishop McNamara), the No. 26-ranked player overall in the ESPN 300, signed with the Terrapins on Wednesday in a televised announcement on ESPNU.

National signing day is a huge day for future college football stars. It's a crazy day for fans. And it's a very important day for college coaches.

Signing days can make or break programs, as those noisy fax machines provide an early glimpse into the future.

Some coaches make a killing on signing day, some kick back because their classes are already pretty much taken care of, and others sweat and grind down those nails. On Wednesday, the SEC should yet again bathe in the glory that is a successful signing day, but there are still some coaches who need to have big days as they guide their programs forward.

Who are some of those SEC coaches this year? Let's take a look:

Bret Bielema, Arkansas: It's no secret that Bielema's first season in Fayetteville wasn't much of a success, but a strong closing on signing day could provide this program with some much-needed momentum. What Bielema needed in this class was depth up front on both sides of that ball and help at receiver, linebacker and in the secondary. Getting eight total linemen helps, and ESPN 300 defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson (El Dorado, Ark./El Dorado) could make an immediate impact.

Still, the Razorbacks are looking to secure letters of intent from ESPN 300 defensive end Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell), who visited Fayetteville on Jan. 24. He'd be a major snag, as would be four-star linebacker Sharieff Rhaheed (Fort Pierce, Fla./Fort Pierce Central) and Florida State athlete commit JoJo Robinson (Miami/Miami Northwestern). Finding another receiver and getting any of these targets would certainly bolster a class that currently ranks No. 32 in the ESPN RecruitingNation class rankings and would provide Bielema with the quality players he needs to help get things going at Arkansas.

Will Muschamp, Florida: The Gators have been hot on the recruiting trail since the 2013 season ended. It's almost as if last year's 4-8 record didn't even happen. But Muschamp is still holding out hope on a handful of talented prospects who could help make an immediate impact for a Florida team looking to get back to national relevancy. Five-star defensive end Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross) would be a major get for the Gators, who need depth at the linebacker/defensive end hybrid Buck position. Florida is also looking for another playmaker on offense, and five-star cornerback Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Junipero Serra) could be that guy. Florida would let him play either side of the ball, and the Gators' track and field program is very attractive to Jackson.

Florida also needs another receiver and is looking to add depth at quarterback and on the offensive line. Former Florida State wide receiver commit C.J. Worton (Homestead, Fla./South Dade) could join this class, while current FSU quarterback commit Treon Harris (Miami/Booker T. Washington) is seriously considering the Gators. ESPN 300 offensive tackle Damian Prince (Forestville, Md./Bishop McNamara) is fresh off a visit to Florida and would be a big addition at a position that needs help going forward. Muschamp did really well in January, but there are still guys at positions of need that Florida needs to close with.

Derek Mason, Vanderbilt: He was way behind the 8 ball before he even stepped on Vanderbilt's campus, but Mason grabbed some major momentum over the weekend with six commitments. After dipping into single digits after Mason arrived, Vanderbilt is back up to 17 verbals in this class. Mason has already done a good job of filling this class back out, but he'd like to add some more quality bodies on Wednesday.

Keep an eye on ESPN 300 defensive tackle Nifae Lealao (Sacramento, Calif./Capital Christian), who is fresh off of a visit to Vandy. He's someone who could provide early help up front. The Commodores are also still in the hunt for Tennessee ESPN 300 defensive end commit Derek Barnett (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood Academy). Grabbing another wide receiver and running back would also be a nice way to close as Mason looks to provide Vandy's fan base with a little more excitement on signing day.

Bold predictions: ACC 

February, 4, 2014
Feb 4
10:30
AM ET

It is becoming a bit cliché, but the saying holds true every year on the first Wednesday of February: Expect the unexpected on signing day.

With the direction signing day and recruiting have been going, a prospect simply signing his letter of intent to the college he has been committed to for months qualifies as a mild surprise.

Here are five bold predictions for ACC signing day.


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Bold predictions: SEC 

February, 4, 2014
Feb 4
10:30
AM ET

With less than 24 hours remaining until the craziness that is national signing day, most recruiting classes are already filled up. There are, however, some key questions that need to be answered. Here’s a look at five bold predictions heading into national signing day.

1. Alabama will lose a commit

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Weekend recruiting wrap: ACC 

February, 3, 2014
Feb 3
8:00
AM ET
The first faxes will start rolling in 48 hours from now, so this last weekend was pivotal for schools as they look to finish their 2014 classes strong.

Biggest commitment: Miami needed some good news on the recruiting trail after a series of decommitments in January, and they received it when David Njoku (Cedar Grove, N.J./Cedar Grove) committed. The receiver/tight end decommitted from Rutgers during the season and began receiving interest from several schools late in the process, and he took a late official visit to Ohio State after it offered. Njoku decided to commit to Miami, which was on him the hardest.


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Key recruiting visits -- ACC 

January, 31, 2014
Jan 31
9:00
AM ET

Signing day is now officially less than a week away. Recruits can make their final visits to colleges this weekend, and then beginning Monday there will be no more in-person contact between coaches and recruits. So coaches better make these last visits count.

Here are the 10 biggest visits affecting ACC teams this weekend, although this late to signing day there is always a potential for a change of plans or cancellation.

1. WR Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis)
Visiting: UCLA
Florida State is feeling confident, but the Noles probably were hoping to get Dupre, No. 17 in the ESPN 300, for his last visit. Instead he visited Ole Miss during the middle of this week and now goes to UCLA. The Noles would have preferred to turn this into a FSU-LSU battle, but these last two visits could really muddy the waters for the nation’s top-ranked receiver.


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This is part of a series on the nation's top uncommitted recruits leading up to signing day. Click here for the full series.

FORESTVILLE, Md. -- The D & S General Store is the type of place you would expect to find Willie Prince. There was a charm in the worn-out shingles and the chicken-and-waffles special, a reprieve from the big, corporate gas stations throughout the rest of the Beltway. There are just two tightly packed gas pumps and payment is only accepted inside, a homage to the human touch of the local general store of Prince’s upbringing.

Nobody there called him Willie Prince, though. Nobody around town did, for that matter. He was Mr. Prince or Pops, Sgt. Prince or Dad.

“That was probably a daily routine for him, to stop at the gas station,” Damian Prince said.

[+] EnlargeDamian Prince
Jared Shanker/ESPNThe D&S General Store in Mitchellville, Md., is a throwback to a different era, and Willie Prince was a regular customer.
For?

He grins. “Playing numbers,” he said.

It was one of Prince’s fondest memories of his great grandfather -- Dad, as he knew him. Before Damian Prince turned into a hulking 6-foot-6, 305-pound offensive tackle and the 26th-ranked senior in the 2014 ESPN 300, the two might stop at D & S for a lottery ticket and some banter before practice.

Flashbacks to those memories were changed forever on Nov. 28, 2011.

A look in his eye

LaKeyia Chappell was determined to have a son. Her first three children were all girls, but she needed a boy.

“I wasn’t gonna stop until I got one,” she said.

She finally gave birth to Damian DeVaughn Prince II in April 1996. He looked just like Damian’s father, Mr. Prince’s grandson.

“[Mr. Prince] had this look in his eye that was just like, 'Wow.' I was giving them something that had been taken away from [them],” Chappell said.

Five months earlier, Damian DeVaughn Prince I, Damian’s biological father, was shot and killed. No arrests were made, and to this day, Chappell seeks clarity.

At the time, Chappell was living in southeast Washington, D.C., in one of the city’s roughest neighborhoods. She raised Damian as an infant, but without a male role model in the home and the inner-city streets only a few feet from her doorstep, beckoning to swallow another impressionable young son, Chappell sat down with Mr. Prince and Damian’s great grandmother, Jean. They offered to take Damian into their home in the Maryland suburb of Mitchellville.

“There wasn’t a whole lot for me to think about,” Chappell said.

Damian called Mr. Prince his "dad" from the time he was born. He is the only father Damian ever knew. He reflected several times on how lucky he was that Mr. Prince and his wife opened their home to him.

[+] EnlargeDamian Prince
Tom Hauck for Student SportsDamian Prince blossomed into one of the top offensive line prospects in the country, and will choose between Florida and Maryland on national signing day.
Whatever Damian needed, Mr. Prince was there. He would drop him off at school before going to work as a police officer at the Washington D.C. Veteran Affairs Medical Center. During basketball season, Mr. Prince would leave work and get home at 6:30 p.m. to have Damian back at the school by 7. A boxer in the military, Mr. Prince didn’t have any background in basketball. But Damian’s basketball coaches opened the floor to Mr. Prince at the end of every practice, begging him to address the team.

“Coach would ask, ‘Dad, you having anything to say?’ And he always knew what to say and how to say it,” Damian said.

A star basketball player in the youth ranks, Mr. Prince approached Damian about playing football before his eighth-grade season. Damian brushed it off, wanting to stick with basketball, as some of the area’s most prestigious basketball programs were recruiting him. Mr. Prince insisted.

“Ninety-five percent of the time he was always right,” Damian said.

Damian became a football player, and will commit to either Florida or Maryland at 10:25 a.m. on national signing day, Feb. 5, on ESPNU at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Md.

'Daddy gone'

Myron Jeter worked the same shift with Mr. Prince for a decade, and they were close. On the evening of Nov. 28, 2011, Mr. Prince’s shift ended at 7 p.m., but he stuck around, trading fishing stories with Jeter, joking he’d bunk with Jeter’s family in Amelia, Va., to fish for Atlantic croaker.

“He said, ‘Don’t be surprised if I’m on your porch when you get there,’ ” Jeter recalled.

It would be one of the last times anyone would talk to Mr. Prince. When Jeter came in the next morning, a co-worker met him at the gate. “Daddy gone,” he told him.

Mr. Prince left an hour after his shift ended, prompting a call from his daughter to Jeter at about 8:20. He told her Mr. Prince had just left and should be home in the next few minutes. On his way home, Mr. Prince made a stop at the D & S General Store. As he left, a car was stalled across the street of Maryland Route 193, a two-lane highway aligned with horse barns and lavish two- and three-story homes.

[+] EnlargeDamian Prince
Jared Shanker/ESPNWillie Prince was struck by a car when helping a stranded motorist on a Maryland road on Nov. 28, 2011.
The oldest of 13 kids and a Korean War veteran, it was Mr. Prince’s nature to help, “even if you weren’t blood,” Damian said. He helped the owner of the disabled vehicle jump-start his car, but as Mr. Prince walked back across the street, an oncoming vehicle struck the altruistic 78-year-old.

Damian was at home playing video games when his best friend and neighbor knocked at his door.

“Is Pops home?” It was more prayer than question.

The neighbor saw Mr. Prince’s car outside D & S, with him nowhere to be found and an ambulance speeding toward Prince George’s Community Hospital.

Damian and his Aunt Donna were the first to arrive, where they saw the car that hit Mr. Prince.

“It looked like they had hit a wall,” Damian said.

Willie Prince was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Devastated their beloved patriarch was lost, there was comfort among family and friends that Mr. Prince died the way he lived.

“He’s been taking care of people his whole entire life,” Damian said.

Said Jeter: “The thing that eased my mind was he pretty much died doing what he did. He didn’t care who needed it -- if he had it, you got it.”

“That wasn’t a fluke or anything; that was just him,” said Tommie Boozer, another VA officer.

The hospital allowed family members to go into the room and say their goodbyes to Mr. Prince. Damian never got out of the waiting room chair, though. He lost the only father he ever knew, 15 years after losing the one he never met.

“Me, I couldn’t do that. I wasn’t strong enough for that,” he said.

‘I wouldn’t attribute it to anything else’

The death came at the end of Prince’s sophomore season. The summer before a prospect's junior season is an important one for football recruits as they look to build a national profile and offer sheet. But Damian wasn’t interested.

“Losing Mr. Prince, it was different. It changed him for a while,” Chappell said. “He didn’t want to play football anymore. He was losing his drive.”

After all, it was Mr. Prince who guided Damian to football. By bringing Damian into his home, it kept Prince away from the D.C. streets that often turned teenagers into troublemakers. With Mr. Prince, the only time he called Chappell to tell her Damian was giving him trouble was when Damian would spend his weekly lunch money allowance by Wednesday.

“I wouldn’t attribute [Damian staying out of trouble] to anything else other than Mr. Prince,” Bishop McNamara athletic director Anthony Johnson said.

Damian returned to the football field in August 2012, knowing that’s what Mr. Prince would have wanted. And the first game of the season happened to fall on Mr. Prince’s birthday. He wore No. 79 instead of his normal No. 55 to honor him.

Damian wishes his great grandfather was once again there to mentor and offer advice. He could use his wisdom to whittle more than 40 scholarship offers to the only one that matters.

“Anyone who knows me,” he said, “knows he was the dearest person to me.”

ACC class rankings analysis 

January, 29, 2014
Jan 29
2:00
PM ET

National signing day is one week away, so this is the time of the year when schools hope to be trending up in the class rankings. As the final elite uncommitted prospects wrestle with decisions, another highly-rated recruit picking a particular school could influence others to do the same.

Momentum works both ways, and any bad news could snowball in the final few hours.


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Most important targets: ACC 

January, 28, 2014
Jan 28
8:00
AM ET
This is the time for schools to make final visits and final pitches to recruits. Only a select number of prospects remain uncommitted, as most programs’ classes are close to completion, which means coaching staffs are focusing their attention on the final big pieces to the puzzle.

Here are the top targets remaining for each ACC school:

Boston College
DT Oseh Saine (Worcester, Mass./Worcester)
6-foot-4, 295 pounds
Not rated
It is possible Boston College will add another commitment between now and signing day. Coach Steve Addazio is hoping for a quiet signing day, as his first full class at BC is a good one, and any unexpected news on Feb. 5 could be bad news for the Eagles. Postgraduate defensive lineman Oseh Saine could sign, however, and he made an official visit after the Eagles had offered. There are academic hurdles, but if Saine is playing FBS football next season, it likely will be with the Eagles.


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Most important targets: SEC 

January, 28, 2014
Jan 28
8:00
AM ET
video
The Southeastern Conference already has commitments from six of the top 10 players in the country and has a real possibility of landing two more before signing day. With several key targets still remaining, here’s a look at the top remaining targets in the SEC.

Alabama
CB Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover)
6-foot-0, 180 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 15


Humphrey is a big, athletic cornerback with great size and would be a natural fit in Nick Saban's system. FSU is also very much in the picture for the five-star defensive back, but with the Seminoles losing defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt to Georgia, the Crimson Tide might have a slight advantage. Alabama will have to fight to keep this dynamic defensive back from leaving the state. With his skill set, Humphrey has a chance to play early in his college career.


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Video: No. 3 OT Prince talks finalists

January, 27, 2014
Jan 27
12:35
PM ET

ACC recruiting reporter Jared Shanker interviews No. 3 offensive tackle Damian Prince (Forestville, Md./Bishop McNamara). Prince says his college decision will come down to Florida, Maryland, Penn State, LSU and Auburn.

Weekend recruiting wrap: ACC 

January, 27, 2014
Jan 27
8:00
AM ET

Signing day is just 10 days away and this past weekend was one of the last times that coaches could get prospective student-athletes on campus. There were a handful of commitments and official visits from some of the nation’s premier prospects.


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ACC class rankings analysis 

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
2:00
PM ET
NC State coach Dave Doeren told ESPN colleague Jeremy Crabtree that the Wolfpack would finish the 2014 recruiting cycle strong despite a winless ACC campaign. Raise your hand if you believed him.

NC State was one of the few risers in the updated class rankings this week. A look at the Wolfpack's rise and other trends across the ACC:


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5 to watch: ACC signing day preview 

January, 21, 2014
Jan 21
8:00
AM ET
Signing day is a little more than two weeks away, meaning the next 15 days are going to be very interesting. Here are five storylines in the ACC to keep an eye on come signing day on Feb. 5.


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