If you build it, they will come. At least, that seems to be the case for the Quince Orchard High School football program. Over the past dozen or so years QO has become one of the top football programs in Maryland, culminating in last season’s 4A state championship following appearances in the title game the previous two seasons.
And having been built, the QO program now has recruiters coming from near and far to visit players and offer them a chance to continue their academic and athletic careers at a wide array of colleges and universities, including some of the top football programs in the country from schools in the Southeastern, Big Ten and Atlantic Coast conferences.
Eleven graduating seniors from last year’s team will be playing at four-year colleges next year, while nine rising seniors and juniors on next year’s squad have already received offers from Division I schools.
“Right now we’re just fortunate enough to have a lot of good players,” said QO head coach John Kelley about why college coaches are beating a path to the Cougar football office. Part of that, he said, is QO’s reputation.
“The fact that we’ve always had good players in the past—when you always have good players … most of the college coaches … know in what areas what schools are going to have what.”
Among the college choices for recent graduates are Chris Webb, Lafayette College; Jack Williamson, Brown University; Kevon Carter, Bowie State University; and Aaron Green, Robert Morris University. Leading the way for current Cougars is rising junior linebacker Demeioun Robinson, whose burgeoning offer list includes Penn State University, University of Michigan, Ohio State University, Louisiana State University, University of Tennessee and Texas A&M University.
“He’s a national recruit,” said Kelley of the 6 foot 4, 210-pound Robinson, who transferred to QO last year as a sophomore and led the defense in sacks as his playing time increased during the second half of the season.
Rising senior defensive back Charles Bell VI also has offers from programs in major football conferences, including University of Maryland, Virginia Tech University and Syracuse University. Bell became a playmaker last year in the defensive backfield and showed his explosiveness late in the season as a punt returner, taking several punts for touchdowns.
Rising senior running back Marquez Cooper, who finished last season with over 2,000 yards rushing and was the consensus Most Valuable Player on offense in the county, has committed to Kent State University. He returns next season likely to become QO’s all-time leading ground gainer and touchdown scorer.
Other Cougars who have received offers are defensive lineman Steven Williams, offensive lineman Diego Turcios, and defensive back Toddreis Baltimore from the class of 2020, and quarterback Brian Plummer, defensive lineman Marcus Bradley and running back Jeremiah White of the class of 2021.
Kelley said that helping student-athletes navigate the college athletic recruiting process is an important part of his role.
“We take a lot of pride in that,” Kelley said, in “helping these kids facilitate the college recruiting process, because it’s tough. There’s a lot of stuff about college recruiting that a lot of parents and kids don’t know about. … So I try to do my best to help the parents and the kids navigate through that stuff.”
He said that the Hudl website, on which athletes can post their video highlights, has helped to simplify the recruiting process.
“Once the season’s over and I got time to handle recruiting stuff, I’ll reach out to as many (coaches) as I can,” said Kelley, who played and coached at Towson State University and was on the coaching staff at University of Maryland. “(I) send a lot of our kids’ film out, make sure that our kids are getting evaluated from these guys.”
There is, of course, a downside to young people getting so much attention from college athletic programs with one, and some cases two, years of school and sports ahead of them.
“You don’t want kids getting caught up too much in it, thinking that ‘I got an offer now. … I don’t have to do anything now. I can relax in the classroom, I can relax in the field,’” Kelley said. “That’s the wrong way to handle it. … It’s very important to get that first offer. But when you do get it, you can’t lose any drive or motivation.”
So far, however, Kelley said he does not see that as an issue for this year’s team. And as team members began their summer workouts Monday afternoon with the heat building, and four days a week of conditioning, speed and agility training, and weightlifting ahead of them, and QO’s college recruits panted and sweated their way through shuttle runs with second- and third-team members, one thing was clear: Kelley and his coaches aren’t going to let anyone on this team relax as they prepare to defend their state title and perhaps open the door to college to a few more members of the team.