If the starters on the University of Toledo's offensive unit are looking for senior leadership, they need to look no further than center Kevin Kowalski.
That's a testament to Kowalski's guidance and experience, and to the simple fact that he's the only senior listed as a starter on offense according to the Rockets' updated depth chart released Wednesday.
Moreover, there are more freshmen - receiver James Green and right guard Zac Kerin - listed
No. 1 at their respective position than seniors.
"It's a good position to be in because we have a ton of young talent," Kowalski said. "Even though we don't have too many seniors, we have redshirt juniors and redshirt sophomores doing a great job leading, so it's not just us seniors bringing the younger guys along."
It's a similar story for the Rockets on defense as well, with just two seniors currently listed as starters - linebacker Archie Donald and defensive end Alex Johnson.
"We have a young team," Donald said. "We're just striving to get the younger guys better, on the field and mentally. They've come a long way already."
Although there are no freshmen slotted No. 1 anywhere on the defense, Donald said he's been impressed with several of the newcomers, including 6-3, 285-pound defensive tackle Elijah Jones and linebacker Ray Bush, a Rogers graduate.
"They're both playmakers," Donald said. "Elijah Jones, he's almost 300 pounds but the other day he got an interception and ran it for like 70-80 yards. That was real impressive to me."
UT coach Tim Beckman pointed out that 11 of UT's projected starters from both sides of the ball joined the Rockets within the last year and a half.
"That's just part of building a program," Beckman said. "These are guys that have come in and proven themselves. They've stepped up and done what they needed to do to gain the trust of the coaching staff and the team."
PRACTICE FIGHT: Sophomore cornerback Byron Best and sophomore wide receiver Julian Bellinger, both listed as starters on the depth chart, were ejected from practice Wednesday for fighting.
The altercation occurred about 30 minutes before the end of the session during a simulated game.
"That's the first one this camp," Beckman said. "Last year there had probably been 10 or 12 already, so they're learning. "
After being ordered off the field, both players exchanged some words and a shove, then stood silently outside the closed gates at the northeast corner of the Glass Bowl. Once practice ended and their teammates had left the field, Best and Bellinger ran several sprints from sideline to sideline as a disciplinary measure.
"If anybody gets into something that would get them kicked out of a football game, then I remove them from practice," Beckman said. "That's the rules of the game. If you get into a fight during the game, then we don't have you, and the next guy has to get ready. We're trying to teach them not to be selfish and to play under the rules."
INJURY UPDATES: Junior Taikwon Paige, a transfer from Georgia Military College who was expected to compete for a starting spot at cornerback, has missed time during camp with a knee injury.
Beckman said the injury isn't serious. and the move to keep him sidelined is merely precautionary. Paige is expected to be cleared to resume practicing in time for the Rockets' first scrimmage of training camp Saturday.
Also sitting out with injuries are redshirt freshman safety Ethan Kagy (leg) and sophomore wideout Jimmy Davidson (unspecified).
Junior wideout Tim Cortazzo and redshirt freshman center Erik Carlson were forced to leave practice early Wednesday with apparent leg injuries. Both walked off the field under their own power, and their injuries are not considered serious.
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