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Published: Monday, 1/30/2006

UT class keeps getting better


University of Toledo coaches can't yet comment on their recruiting class to be announced Wednesday because of NCAA rules. Even if they could, it would be hard to fit in time for small talk.

Coach Tom Amstutz and the Rockets are making last-minute efforts to strengthen their class, and it has shown in four solid commitments pulled in from the state of Ohio in the past week.

"They're finishing strong, and that's where you want to be," said Duane Long, Ohio recruiting expert for Scout.com. "Most of the top recruits are going to be making their decision at the end of the process."

The verbal agreements UT garnered in the past week that stood out to Long were as follows: Bruce Frierson, a running back from Cleveland Glenville; Nate Cole, a defensive tackle from Trotwood Madison; Jared Dewalt, an offensive lineman from Lyndhurst Brush, and Levi George, an offensive lineman from Warren Harding.

"Toledo's impressive class just got more impressive," Long said.

Frierson rushed for 1,428 yards as a senior and was named second-team All-Ohio in Division I. He also played wide receiver and returned kicks.

Cole was ranked the No. 9 defensive tackle in the Midwest by Scout.com. At 6-1, 278 pounds, he had 75 tackles and 7 1/2 sacks as a senior.

Dewalt, who changed his commitment to Toledo from Akron, is 6-5, 292 pounds. He is versatile, having played three positions on the line, and was Division I All-Ohio as a defensive lineman his senior year.

"Dewalt got his weight under control, and that may be one of the big coups," Long said.

George, 6-2, 295, was first-team all-district at Harding and can bench press 475 pounds.

That gives the Rockets at least 21 commitments, the breadth of which greatly impressed Long.

"I will go this far, this is a class that I think in the end I would pick over several of the classes I've seen in the Big Ten Conference schools," Long said.

Eleven of the commitments are from Ohio. An early commit for the Rockets who Long had high praise for was Fremont Ross quarterback Aaron Opelt. Opelt threw for 2,148 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior. He was named to the Division I All-Ohio first team.

"I've been impressed with him for some time," Long said.

Recruits that graded out the highest from Rivals.com were Dewalt, Barry Church, a defensive back from Pittsburgh Penn Hills, and Jan Gewont, an offensive lineman from Palos Heights (Ill.) Stagg.

Church committed at the end of last month and is ranked as the No. 42 safety by the recruiting Web site. Gewont, a 6-5, 295-pounder, was ranked the 24th-best prospect in the state of Illinois by Rivals.com.

Scout.com also mentions Apopka, Fla., wide receiver Joe Shuler, linebacker Alex Johnson from Lansdale, Pa., and Wooster offensive tackle Chris Meenan as some of UT's top commitments. Shuler was second-team All-Orange County in Florida, Johnson was second-team All-Pennsylvania, and Meenan was second-team All-Ohio.

"Everyone's going to have to keep pace with them to compete," Long said of the Rockets.

Contact Maureen Fulton at: mfulton@theblade.com or 419-724-6160.

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