WASHINGTON, D.C. – Aazaar Abdul-Rahim has a challenge. He has to maintain top-flight college football prospects.
As Washington (D.C.) Friendship continues to grow, its head coach is trying to make sure that early scholarship offers don't affect his young players.
Case in point, Jalen Tabor, the sophomore defensive back who had a handful of scholarship offers last fall. Fortunately for Abdul-Rahim, the tutelage seems to be working.
“He's maturing,” he said of Tabor and his recruitment, which includes nearly 20 scholarship offers. “It's not as new as before so he's not as excited every time he gets an offer. We try to keep him grounded. We have work to do that and he understands that.”
Abdul-Rahim's next challenge may be tailback Jonathan Haden. The sophomore already has two scholarship offers, from North Carolina and Ohio State.
“It's real exciting,” Haden said. “It really shows how much I have in me but I know I still have to work hard.”
Even though his recruitment is growing quickly, Haden is far from huge. He's just 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds, but Abdul-Rahim isn't worried about that however. He sees the underclassman growing a couple of more inches at least and weighing close to 200 pounds when he's a senior. Until then, Haden will rely on his speed.
“I would describe myself as somebody who is real quick, real agile and can get through the hole and make plays,” Haden said.
The two schools that have offered Haden are intriguing. North Carolina will utilize a fast-paced offense that would seem to fit Haden's skills. Ohio State will field a spread-option attack that has shown it can use small, quick players, just in case Haden doesn't grow much more. Jeff Demps is a prime example. He was a smallish standout for Florida when current Buckeye head coach Urban Meyer was coaching the Gators.
“I think he's above the curve for being a sophomore. I compare him to Albert,” Abdul-Rahim said of Haden while referencing Albert Reid, who signed with Maryland in February.
Haden said he's also being recruited by West Virginia, North Carolina State and Maryland but the three schools haven't offered him a scholarship yet. He's had the most contact with West Virginia and NC State. He said he doesn't yet know much about the Wolfpack but is sure he likes the Mountaineers.
“I like them a lot,” he said. “Their rushing attack is real good. They use small backs like me.”
Ohio State is worth keeping an eye on, even though Haden said he is in no hurry to make a decision anytime soon and plans on letting the recruiting process play out. Haden has a pair of strong football ties to the Buckeye state.
Haden's eldest brother, Joe Haden, plays cornerback for the Cleveland Browns after a standout career with the Florida Gators. His other brother, Jordan Hayden, is a sophomore defensive back for Toledo.
“I like them a lot,” the youngest Haden said of the Buckeyes. “I like Ohio State a lot because all my family is in Ohio too.”
Haden maintains he can be a 25-carry-per-game tailback even if Abdul-Rahim was a bit taken aback by that statement.
“I want a school that will run the ball and give me the rock and I want a family setting, like I feel like I'm at home,” Haden said when asked what he's looking for in a school.
As for Tabor, he's fielded nearly 20 scholarship offers. The latest two came from Notre Dame and Kentucky. He said he's fond of the Fighting Irish's tradition-rich program.
“Just growing up watching Notre Dame, it was a powerhouse,” Tabor said. “It fell off but they look to be good.”
Tabor said Kentucky offers the chance to play right away in the SEC. Immediate playing time, he said, is one of the most important factors in his recruitment, along with academics and a good relationship with his coaches.
Tabor said he has no preference concerning where he plays college football. Tabor said he plans to whittle down his list of schools to about eight before his senior season in 2013, then whittle it down to five after that fall.
Maryland has the benefit of closeness and a growing reputation among prospects nearby. Tabor recently attended the Terrapins' spring game.
“It's a very intriguing school,” Tabor said. “They're not going to surprise you with the facilities or the flashy plays but it's the hometown school. I feel as if a lot of the hometown kids go to Maryland. It will be a powerhouse in the ACC.”
When asked to list all the schools that have visited Friendship during the spring evaluation period, Tabor understandably struggled. After all, there's been a constant flow. He recalled Notre Dame, West Virginia, Nebraska, Florida, Pittsburgh and Clemson.
“I know I'm missing a lot,” he said.
Abdul-Rahim's message to his star sophomores is clear. Keep working.
“There are a lot of four-star and five-star busts,” he said.
That seems unlikely for Tabor and Haden. Still, Abdul-Rahim is quick to remind them that the doors of opportunity were opened partly by former ESPN 150 defensive tackle Eddie Goldman, who signed with Florida State in February.
“A lot of our kids have benefited from Eddie Goldman,” Abdul-Rahim said. “People come in and throw an offer out quicker than they would at other schools. That's good for the kids but if they don't go in with the right mind, it could be bad.”
Abdul-Rahim is quick to make sure that's not the case.