Recruits lifted UT from losing era

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

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.

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:


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