Lance Thompson’s pursuit and experience helped Maryland land LB Keyari James

Maryland saw plenty of movement on its inside linebacker board over the last month after adding a pair of targets and losing one longtime commitment, but with the room currently stocked with stars like Jaishawn Barham, Ruben Hyppolite, Fa’Najae Gotay and Caleb Wheatland, the Terps get a chance to restock the room this cycle.

With two commitments now in the fold, Clearwater Academy International (FL) three-star linebacker Keyari James had been on Maryland’s radar dating back to the start of 2023, first picking up an offer back on February 16 before unofficially visiting campus with his teammates just two weeks later. James may not have had the recruiting profile when the Terps first scouted the 6-foot-1, 225-pound linebacker, but even Clearwater head coach Jesse Chinchar knew Maryland was serious about his rising linebacker.

“From the moment that I watched his film with coach [Lance] Thompson, coach was really impressed with his tape, how he fit in the system just in terms of being a good fit, I think, for the Big Ten. Just being a guy whose very physical, be very strong at the point of attack but also be able to run in open space,” Chinchar told IBG. “The cool thing about him and some of our other international kids is they’re new to the game at this level. Obviously, he played a bit in Canada but he’s new at this stage, at this level and he’s new to it at this stage and this level of coaching and defense so he’s grown every week, every month. He’s grown tremendously this offseason.”

In his first season at Clearwater, James’ sideline-to-sideline range and quick pursuit at the point of attack were apparent on film as the three-star linebacker finished with 90 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, five sacks and four forced fumbles. Still, Maryland was the lone Power Five school to extend an offer to the high-ceiling linebacker. “I think that’s a big mistake,” Chinchar added. “He’s good enough to play anywhere in the country. We’ve had some really good ones and he’s right up there on that list…it’s Maryland’s gain.”

While Maryland was impressed with James’ junior film, his poise and transcript impressed the staff beyond the gridiron. “I just think that all those factors, in terms of his physical skillset but also his intelligence. He’s a really smart kid, like 1300 SAT kid. Not just that, but a high football IQ kid. He learns the game really fast, so I think as he grows under that system, under those coaches, he’ll keep growing.”

Maryland was in consistent pursuit of James since his unofficial visit, setting the stage for his official visit the weekend of June 9 before going public with his decision at the end of his second trip to College Park. The pursuit from Thompson throughout this recruitment helped seal the deal on and off the field, along with Thompson’s 35 years of coaching experience instilling the trust that James heads to College Park in good hands.

“I think he’s just very real,” Chinchar said of Thompson. “He’s a great guy. He came in and he told the truth. I’ve known coach for a bit so I’m excited to finally connect on a player, have him school up one of our guys. He was at FAU for a bit, I’ve known him for a bit. We’ve always just gotten along well. He’s very good at his evaluation and trusts it and for Keyari, for that to be his first Power Five, I don’t really know how much once they got that relationship going, I don’t know how much other people would’ve been able to sway him away from Maryland even if they did get involved.”

Chinchar added what James can do to make the jump in his second and final season in College Park.

“He just needs to continue to grow and learn the game. He’s still newer, he still needs to learn how to play in a complex scheme so it’ll be year two of that for us and I think he can just continue to see and react even faster and be a little bit more reactive and loosen up a little bit in his game. He can be a little bit rigid at times, but again, I think it comes from lack of experience more than anything.”

James will graduate in December and enroll at Maryland in January.

James is rated a three-star prospect and an 84 overall by On3, sitting as the 219th-best prospect in Florida.

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