Pressed against his will, University of Toledo coach Matt Campbell announced Thursday his starter at middle linebacker.
Redshirt freshman Jaylen Coleman could be out for the season after injuring his knee this week in practice, clearing the way for sophomore Chase Murdock to win by default a competition that ranked among the tightest entering fall camp.
Coleman will undergo surgery today and will miss an "extensive period of time," Campbell said. That could mean the entire year, which if true would mark another setback for Coleman whose introduction to college football a year ago was delayed by academic hiccups.
Campbell did not go into detail on the nature of Coleman’s injury but did reveal it is not of the ACL variety.
"I feel bad for the kid because he’s worked so hard, but he’ll be back," Campbell said. "If we didn’t have a lot of depth there I’d be concerned, but we have great depth there."
Falling behind Murdock on the depth chart will be a cross section of linebackers transitioning from other positions. Star linebackers Trent Voss and Vladimir Emilien are in the mix, as is Will linebacker Junior Sylvestre. Dawalyn Harper, a linebacker as a freshman in 2011, returned to defense this week after opening camp at fullback.
"He’s done a great job the past two days in practice," Campbell said of Harper, who has nine career tackles in 15 games.
Coleman meanwhile can’t catch a break. A former three-star prospect from Pittsburgh, he did not become eligible last year until midway through the season because of confusion over academic transcripts. He later battled injuries, a setback that could ultimately be beneficial to him when Toledo petitions the NCAA for a medical hardship waiver to get Coleman a sixth year of eligibility.
"The silver lining for him is there’s still the ability to get the sixth year and this not being a total wash if he can’t come back to play this year," Campbell said.
The Rockets open the season at noon Saturday, Aug. 31, at the University of Florida.
ACADEMIC AWARD: Toledo was announced the winner of the 2012-13 Mid-American Conference Institutional Academic Achievement Award. For the academic year, UT's 358 student-athletes posted an overall athletic grade-point average of 3.200. It is the second straight year the Rockets won the award.
Western Michigan was second with a 3.158 GPA and Miami third with a 3.139 GPA. The GPA of other MAC schools, including Bowling Green State University, was not released by the conference.
BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION: Former Toledo coach Frank Lauterbur turned 88 Thursday and his friends took notice. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, who coached Toledo from 1991 through 2000, shipped Lauterbur a Missouri No. 88 jersey with "Lauterbur" printed across the back. Other past Toledo coaches such as Dan Simrell, Jack Murphy, and Tim Beckman, and assistant coach Carty Finkbeiner, along with several former players stopped by. Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel called. Current coach Matt Campbell and some of his players visited Lauterbur on Wednesday at his assisted living home. Lauterbur, who is battling dementia, was honored in April at Toledo’s spring game 50 years after becoming the Rockets’ coach.
RECRUITING TRAIL: The University of Toledo women’s basketball team picked up its fifth verbal commitment of the 2014 class in 6-foot-1 Minnesota forward Michaela Rasmussen.
The pick-up of Rasmussen means Toledo has maxed out its scholarship allotment for next year. The Rockets previously received pledges from wing Jada Woody (Canton, Mich.), point guard Mikaela Boyd (Hillside, Ill.), and posts Nancy Kessler (Ont., Canada) and Lindsay Dorr (Rogers, Minn.)