One recruiting service called it the best class in the Mid-American Conference.
Another, in slight disagreement, ranked it second.
Thus, it seemed only a matter of time before Matt Campbell's first recruits as University of Toledo's head coach scrambled the depth chart.
With about two weeks to go before the season opener, Campbell this week rattled off the names of nine freshmen who could start or be a primary backup when his team heads to Arizona. Considering the Rockets -- picked to win the West division championship -- are rife with veterans at many position groups, Campbell cannot be displeased that one-third of the 27-player class he introduced in February has so quickly made an impact. Rivals.com, which awarded a solid three-star assessment to nine recruits, pegged the class best in the MAC. As is customary, the preseason depth chart was devoid of true freshmen.
That won't be the case when a revised edition is released in two weeks. Two of the most acclaimed defensive recruits, tackle Orion Jones and safety Chaz Whitaker, "are pressing to be in the two-deep," as are Jaylen Coleman and Chase Murdock -- linebackers looking to inject depth to a barren corps. Walk-ons were listed on the depth chart at all three positions. Cornerback Juwan Haynes has joined a vast competition with five others.
The shiftiness of running back Damion Jones-Moore has elicited glowing praise -- "He can do everything," running back Cassius McDowell said -- but others on offense have managed to excite.
Danny Larkins, a Parade Magazine All-American, is a viable option at receiver behind assumed starters Bernard Reedy, Dwight Macon, and Alonzo Russell. Another addition to the passing game, 6-foot-5 tight end Alex Zmolik, could seize an opportunity made available by the departures of 2011 seniors Danny Noble and Jerome Jones.
"Those are the guys impressing and challenging for spots," Campbell said.
He paused before mentioning the name of one more freshman, an unlikely challenger. With most needing an infusion of strength and skill development, most offensive linemen sit out their first season as a redshirt -- even blue-chip recruits at premier programs. UT's most decorated linemen in recent years took a year to mature, from John Greco to Mike VanDerMeulen to current center Zac Kerin.
Paul Perschon might be ready now. On a unit in need of quality backups, the 6-6, 310-pound guard is trying to elbow his way onto the field.
"He's had a great camp," Campbell said. "It will be interesting to see how he continues his development through the next couple of weeks."
PRACTICE NOTES: Macon has missed a few practices with a sprained ankle but is soon expected to return. ... Cornerbacks Kishon Wilcher and Jordan Haden are practicing without restriction for the first time since suffering spring injuries. ... Backup offensive linemen Rob Lisowski and Samuel Cherry have been limited due to minor injuries.
Contact Ryan Autullo at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.
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