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Published: Saturday, 8/3/2013

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

UT freshmen get 1st taste of practice

Football coach Campbell excited about prospects

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Toledo defensive back Jordan Martin runs drills during the Rockets’ practice on Thursday. It was the freshman’s first practice. Toledo defensive back Jordan Martin runs drills during the Rockets’ practice on Thursday. It was the freshman’s first practice.
BLADE/JEFFREY SMITH Enlarge

Acclaimed freshmen Kareem Hunt and Jordan Martin looked good at their first college football practices.

And that's before either actually practiced.

Headliners in the most decorated University of Toledo recruiting class in many years, Hunt and Martin passed the eyeball test walking onto the field Thursday at the Glass Bowl.

Hunt, who is vying for carries in a crowded backfield, is thick, strong, and explodes like the track star he was at Willoughby South in northeast Ohio.

PHOTO GALLERY: Freshman Rockets practice at Glass Bowl

Change the name to Martin, and the position to cornerback, and you're talking much the same. A champion hurdler in the Washington, D.C., area, Martin received the ultimate compliment from his new coach.

"Jordan Martin is maybe the best looking defensive back we've had here in a long, long time," Matt Campbell said.

Half the team practiced in the morning, a group consisting of first-teamers, key reserves, and touted newcomers like Hunt (5-foot-11, 200 pounds) and defensive linemen Daniel Davis and John Stepec. Hunt, a contender a year ago for Ohio Mr. Football after running for 2,685 yards, showed nice burst in 7-on-7 drills though praise on this day was qualified by the fact no one wore full pads.

"We're excited," Campbell said, flashing a grin like he stole something, which Toledo did with Hunt by outdueling Pittsburgh and Minnesota.

"He made things really exciting. Kareem Hunt had a really good showing and we'll see how he progresses."

Such effusiveness from his coach puts Hunt squarely in a competition with Cassius McDowell and Damion Jones-Moore to spell starter David Fluellen.

Freshman quarterback Logan Woodside (11) warms up with freshman quarterback Michael Julian (5) during practice. Freshman quarterback Logan Woodside (11) warms up with freshman quarterback Michael Julian (5) during practice.
BLADE/JEFFREY SMITH Enlarge

Quarterback Terrance Owens completed 10 of 12 passes in the morning with a bad overthrow resulting in a Chris Dukes interception.

Martin, who practiced in the evening, got lost at times in coverage but powered through blocks to make plays against the run. He moves well at 6-2 and 192 pounds. Martin earning a start for the opener at Florida is not implausible, as the secondary offers more uncertainty than any position on the team.

Campbell said on Monday he will finalize a two-deep depth chart. Martin and Hunt gave themselves a chance on day one to be in the mix.

CAPTAINS: Captaining the team will be five seniors including repeat captains Owens and center Zac Kerin. Joining them are defensive end Christian Smith, safety Ross Madison, and receiver Bernard Reedy.

"All five of those guys were picked by their teammates and none of their roads have been easy," Campbell said. "They've all earned everything they've gotten in the program up until this point. Probably as deserving of a group as we've had in a long time."

LEGEND AND PUPIL: Larry Kehres, the iconic former Mount Union coach, is enjoying retirement at ... the football field. Kehres, who won his 11th national title in Division III last season before announcing his retirement from coaching, joined a caravan of Purple Raiders coaches who traveled from northeast Ohio to attend practice.

Kehres spent 20 minutes or so chatting with his pupil, Campbell, who played and coached under him at Mount Union.

"He has a great young staff and we enjoy watching them get ready for the season," Kehres said. "We always love to come up and watch this staff work.

"We learn a lot while we're here. I'm enjoying it."

Kehres' son, Vince, replaces his father as head coach and is tasked with overseeing a powerhouse that lost just 24 games in 27 seasons under the older Kehres.

"His units, which are defense and several of the special teams units, have performed quite well at Mount Union, so I think he's earned the opportunity to be a head coach," said Kehres, who is continuing to serve as the school's athletic director.

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.



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