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HomeSportsUT
Published: Tuesday, 11/20/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Recruits lifted UT from losing era

Several in 2008 class to play their final game at Glass Bowl

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
University of Toledo RB Cassius McDowell (19) celebrates scoring a touchdown with Terrance Owens (2) and Dwight Malcolm (17)  against Ball State Tuesday, 11/06/12, at the Glass Bowl in Toledo. University of Toledo RB Cassius McDowell (19) celebrates scoring a touchdown with Terrance Owens (2) and Dwight Malcolm (17) against Ball State Tuesday, 11/06/12, at the Glass Bowl in Toledo.
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It was early Decem­ber, 2008, and the new coach­ing staff at the Univer­sity of Toledo had a lot of work to do in a short amount of time.

Na­tional sign­ing day was only two months away, and Tim Beck­man and his as­sis­tants had to build a re­cruit­ing class from the ground up af­ter in­her­it­ing just two ver­bal com­mit­ments from the pre­vi­ous re­gime. All of the vari­ables were in place for a messy fin­ish. Coach­ing changes rarely yield pos­i­tive re­sults in re­cruit­ing — at least ini­tially — and the pro­gram was trend­ing down­ward fol­low­ing a third straight los­ing sea­son.

All of that fuss was un­founded.

Four years later, a class con­sid­ered me­di­o­cre by Mid-Amer­i­can Con­fer­ence stan­dards, is be­ing her­alded as sav­iors. Six of the 18 se­niors who will suit up to­day at 7 p.m. against Akron for their fi­nal reg­u­lar sea­son game were part of that crit­i­cal 2009 group that brought Toledo back to rel­e­vance.

"They’ve made a mon­u­men­tal im­print on the foun­da­tion of Toledo foot­ball, not only now but for the long fu­ture ahead of it," coach Matt Camp­bell, a key re­cruiter un­der Beck­man, said last week.

The class de­liv­ered sev­eral game-chang­ers, in­clud­ing quar­ter­backs Ter­rance Owens and Austin Dantin, line­backer Dan Molls, cen­ter Zac Kerin, de­fen­sive ends T.J. Fa­tinikun, Chris­tian Smith, and Ben Pike, and for­mer Rock­ets re­ceiver Eric Page. Fourth-year ju­niors Owens, Kerin, and Smith will be back next sea­son.

"It has been out­stand­ing, not only from a player stand­point of what their skill is on the field, but what their lead­er­ship abil­ity is and the type of char­ac­ter we have got­ten," Camp­bell said. "It’s go­ing to be a tough day for me."

Page and quar­ter­back Austin Boucher, who de-com­mit­ted and signed with Miami, were the only re­cruits on board when the coach­ing change oc­curred. The new staff worked fast to se­cure tal­ent, us­ing pre­ex­ist­ing re­la­tion­ships de­vel­oped at their pre­vi­ous jobs to make up for lost time. Camp­bell, who came from Bowl­ing Green, helped convince Fa­tinikun, a Fal­cons com­mit, to fol­low him. He also helped land Molls, who was tick­eted to Ohio Univer­sity. Former Rock­ets of­fen­sive as­sis­tant Scott Sat­ter­field had been re­cruit­ing Dantin at Ap­pa­la­chian State.

"Ob­vi­ously, there’s a lot of great play­ers in that class," said de­fen­sive end Hank Keigh­ley, a fifth-year se­nior who was a mem­ber of the 2008 class. "Cer­tain guys like Molls, like Page, like Kerin, it’s hard not to no­tice spe­cial at­trib­utes that those guys pos­sess. You could tell early they would be spe­cial play­ers."

Toledo’s se­niors, who have gone 30-19, will likely se­cure a third con­sec­u­tive bowl berth with a win against the Zips. The Rock­ets (8-3, 5-2 MAC) are an 18.5-point fa­vor­ite over Akron (1-10, 0-7).

Those to be hon­ored to­day are an eclec­tic bunch. Six came from the 2009 class, and five are part of the 2008 class; three be­gan their ca­reer as a walk-on; two be­gan their ca­reer at a ju­nior col­lege; and one, tight end Cordale Scott, trans­ferred into the pro­gram.

It can be de­bated where to put Jer­maine Robin­son. The fourth-year safety signed with Toledo in 2008 but de­layed en­roll­ing by a year.

The fifth-year se­niors, a group con­sist­ing of Keigh­ley, Danny Farr, Sam Gay­mon, David Pasquale, and Mark Singer, played for three head coaches. They too hold a place in Toledo lore.

"I think one thing that de­fines our class is we’re very per­sis­tent," Keigh­ley said. "I feel like that group is a very tough group. We’ve been through a lot to­gether. It’s made us a close-knit group."

Con­tact Ryan Au­tullo at:

rau­tullo@the­blade.com,

419-724-6160 or on

Twit­ter @Au­tul­loBlade.



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