Four-star recruit Andre Sturdivant has drawn praise from teammates and coaches in camp, but UT's depth at defensive line may force the freshman to redshirt this year.
When Andre "Tank" Sturdivant signed with the University of Toledo last February, it sent shockwaves not only through the program but also throughout the entire Midwest.
Sturdivant, a 6-foot-3, 265-pound defensive lineman, was rated as a four-star recruit by Rivals.com coming out of Glenville High School in Cleveland, and several Big Ten teams, including Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan State, offered him a scholarship.
Yet Sturdivant chose the Rockets and immediately drew rave reviews from his teammates and coaches in the first few days of fall camp earlier this month.
Nonetheless, as the days have ticked away leading to UT's season-opener with New Hampshire next week, Sturdivant has remained buried on the depth chart.
"He's done great," UT coach Tim Beckman said. "He's just playing a position we seem to have a lot of depth at. We've got three seniors and some other guys [ahead] of him that have played."
Sturdivant was not listed on the two-deep depth chart that UT released Wednesday, and Beckman said Sturdivant could sit out as a redshirt this season.
"I'm not saying that's actually going to happen, but it's leaning that way," Beckman said.
The Rockets have three returning starters on the defensive line -- senior Malcolm Riley and junior T.J. Fatinikun on the ends and senior Johnie Roberts at nose tackle. Senior Johnathan Lamb is listed as the other starter at defensive tackle with junior Danny Farr backing him up.
That has left Sturdivant with little possibility of cracking the starting lineup or having much of an opportunity for playing time, at least early on.
Sturdivant was not available for comment this week and won't be all season because Beckman does not allow freshmen on the team to speak with the media.
"Tank is developing," Riley said. "He's young, but he's going to be something special here."
Freshmen who could contribute immediately for the Rockets, according to Beckman, are defensive backs Kishon Wilcher, Chris Dukes, and St. John's Jesuit graduate Cheatham Norrils, wide receiver Justin Olack, and kicker J.D. Detmer.
Freshmen grayshirts Keith Suggs and John James, along with junior grayshirt Phil Lewis, will be expected to contribute right away as well.
"The skill [position] kids will have a chance to jump out and play for us, because we have more openings there than on the defensive line and offensive line," Beckman said.
Tim Cortazzo has left the Rockets since he already has his degree and wants to be a strength and conditioning coach.
CORTAZZO DEPARTS: Tim Cortazzo has decided to forgo his final year of eligibility and will not be part of the UT football team this season.
Cortazzo was listed as one of three starting wide receivers on the preseason depth chart but had since been supplanted by sophomore Bernard Reedy.
After reporting for preseason camp, Cortazzo decided after two days of practice that he no longer wanted to play football, Beckman said.
"This would have been his fifth year and he already has his degree," Beckman said. "He decided that he wants to move on with his life and wants to become a strength and conditioning coach."
Cortazzo made 11 catches for 133 yards last season, including a career-high four catches for 55 yards in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
"He's a great kid and was an inspiration on the football team, but we totally respect his decision and wish him good luck," Beckman said.
PAGE HONORED: UT junior wide receiver and Springfield graduate Eric Page is one of 132 college football players nominated for the 2011 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.
Two 11-player teams will be selected and announced in late September.
During his time at UT, Page has volunteered for reading programs at local elementary schools, participated in wheelchair football at the Toledo Crash fund-raiser, and took part in the Rockets' visit to Bennett Venture Academy for the annual "Are you smarter than a fifth grader?" contest.
RIVALS SITE: Rivals.com will unveil a new Web site tomorrow dedicated exclusively to University of Toledo football and basketball coverage and recruiting news.
The site, therocketnation.com, will be operated by publisher Ned Wright and editor Brian Nowicki, who previously wrote for the Rockets' page for Scout.com.
Contact Zach Silka at: email@example.com or 419-724-6084.
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