MOBILE, Ala. — In a bit of a unique plot twist because of the new early signing period, University of Toledo coach Jason Candle and his staff found themselves not only preparing for a bowl game in Mobile, but also keeping a close eye on which commits signed a national letter ofintent during signing day on Wednesday.
“I think most of the guys that we anticipated signing, they are already done and they are in barn on that part of it,” Candle said. “It’s a great class. I’m proud of all the hard work and effort our coaches have had to put in the past few weeks to get this done. That’s not an easy task.
“You are wearing a lot of hats and juggling a lot of things to make them happen. Give our players credit. They are a part of recruiting weekends too. The last couple weeks have been full speed ahead trying to solidify a class. We still have more to go before February, but up to this point I think we have a great class.”
Toledo signed 18 players on Wednesday during the first day of the early signing period.
Blade/Katie Rausch Enlarge
In total, Toledo signed 18 players on Wednesday, including two promising quarterbacks.
Wheeling Park, West Virginia quarterback Cross Wilkinson committed to Toledo back in June and on Wednesday the Rockets signed another talented quarterback in Jacksonville, Florida product Carter Bradley.
“You can’t play winning football without good quarterback play,” Candle said. “If we have to sign 100 of them to get good quarterback play, then that is what we will do. We have a couple of really good young ones coming along in our program and we will continue to add to them, because the standard at that position has been set very high. We put a lot of things on that guy’s plate.”
The Rockets placed a large emphasis in the recruiting process on the offensive line with five who signed Wednesday — Sam Baker, Nick Carey, Lavel Dumont, Conor Head, and Springfield High School product Tyler Long.
“Equally as important as the quarterback are the guys that protect the quarterback,” Candle said. “You have to win with guys up front. We had eight guys ready to play this year and in some case nine. We had three guys who were lost for the season on the interior part of our offensive line. You can’t ever have enough of them.”
Long, a 6-foot-4, 295 pounder, is the lone local signee, and Candle said he has the potential to excel at Toledo as an interior lineman.
“Tyler has a promising future,” Candle said. “He’s a big powerful guy who can probably play all three positions inside. He can snap the football and does a really good job of understanding leverage in the run game, and I think he will be an adequate pass protector when it is all said and done. He should be a great Rocket for us.”
On the defensive line, Toledo added four defensive ends — Jamal Hines, Jake Hudson, Desjuan Johnson, and Terrance Taylor — as well as a defensive tackle in Devan Rogers. At linebacker, Toledo signed Daniel Bolden and Dyontae Johnson and in the defensive backfield, Toledo got pledges from Nate Bauer and Caleb Sutherland.
Offensively, the Rockets added wide receiver Jalin Cooper and tight end Alex Morgan.
“I think this is a very talented class,” Candle said. “It looks really good on paper. But as you know, that doesn’t mean anything until you see the product on the field. Sometimes in recruiting it can get confused that this is the end date and they are signed and you take a deep breath and everybody relaxes.
“This is really just the beginning. There is a lot of development for these young people, not only from a physical standpoint on the football field, but also academically adjusting, and the emotional piece of it is very critical in how fast we can get them on the field and ready to play.”
Candle said it was important to sign players during the early signing period so they won’t still be recruited by larger programs and also so some of them can get ready to become early enrollees at Toledo.
“You knock out some guys that have been committed to you for a long time,” Candle said. “I think that is important. It doesn’t make any sense for a guy who has made a decision to come here in late May or early June or July to sit around and be recruited into the month of January.”
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