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UT’s class is rated best in MAC

02/02/2017, 12:49am EST
By By BRIAN BUCKEY BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Experts agree Candle brings in diverse, talented group


University of Toledo coach Jason Candle likes his class, which includes 12 signees from Ohio. BLADE/ANDY MORRISON

The University of Toledo football team landed a 23-person 2017 recruiting class that is diverse and talented and one that the national recruiting services have identified as the top class in the Mid-American Conference.

Scout.com, 247Sports.com, and Rivals.com all list Toledo as the No. 1 class in the conference, with a mix of homegrown and national talent that both addresses positions of need on the Rockets’ roster and provides added depth to the overall makeup of the team.

“I feel this is a very fine class and a very solid class from top to bottom,” UT coach Jason Candle said. “A lot of position needs were addressed on the defensive front and the offensive line. Moving forward, we are losing some key guys there. It’s a class with some depth at every position virtually. I’m very excited about today and very excited about the future of our football program and where we are headed and where we are going.”

With a concerted effort to recruit the state of Ohio and the surrounding areas, this class features twelve signees from Ohio (Tycen Anderson, Mitch Berg, Bryce Mitchell, Dakari Carter, Tyrone Chambers, Jamal Hines, Reggie Howard, DeAmonte King, Nick Kovacs, Caleb Martin, Drew Rosi, and Victor Williams), two from Pennsylvania (AJ Crider and Saeed Holt), one from Michigan (Kelvin Ateman), one from Kentucky (Woodford Lankford), and one from Illinois (Devonte Dunn).

“Home base is home base,” Candle said. “If you get in a car and drive for four hours, I think you will see 15 guys that are added to this class that are from what we call our primary area. From there, it’s our job and our responsibility, if we don’t fill our needs from our primary area, to get on an airplane and go search to find the best players, because that is what we are trying to be. We are trying to be the best.”

For this class, which features at least one signee at every position, it was two southern states that served to complement the regional recruiting efforts. Four players from Alabama (Nicholas Sims, Tadarrius Patterson, Nate Givhan, and Jamal Turner) and two from Florida (Darius Corbett and Kedonis Haslem) rounded out the class.

RELATED: Full list of UT signees | Full National Signing Day coverage

Sims, a 5-foot-11, 205 pound running back from Mobile, Ala., is one of the prized recruits who the Rockets secured late in the recruiting process. Candle said UT star running back Kareem Hunt playing in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, gave Sims a glimpse of what a career as a Toledo running back could look like.

“We got in a situation towards the end of recruiting where this guy’s video tape comes across our desk and he has a great highlight film and you want to investigate,” Candle said. “Fortunately he played football in Mobile, Alabama, and we had pretty good player [Kareem Hunt] at Mobile, Alabama, sitting right down the street at practice. If you are in Nicholas’ case and you wanted to see how we use a running back and what our players look like, he could go walk down the street and watch those guys practice last week.”

Candle also pointed to some of the bowl games in the south as potential draws for the kids from southern states. The last three years, Toledo has played in Montgomery, Ala., Boca Raton, Fla., and Mobile, Ala., in its bowl games.

“I think our university and our administration has done a good job of putting Toledo as a national brand and getting us to bowl games in southern states and around the country and places where we can have exposure,” Candle said.

Three local players signed to play for the Rockets in offensive lineman Mitch Berg and defensive back Tycen Anderson of St. John’s Jesuit and wide receiver Bryce Mitchell of Bowsher.

“This is a part of the country that is passionate about high school sports,” Candle said. “If that passion filters down to the youth leagues and middle school leagues you are naturally going to get people more developed to play high school sports and be better at it. If there is a great player in our city, we are foolish not to recruit him. We are foolish to let him get out of here if we can help it. We have to do a great job of making Toledo our home base and working from here and spreading our wings to go outward from there.”

One thing that is unique about this class as a whole is the size of the players. Candle called it a “big-bodied” class that will help in the trenches in the future. 

“I think the first thing that really stands out when I look at it is just the sheer measurable size of some of the kids they are bringing in,” Scout.com recruiting analyst Allen Trieu said. “It can be tough sometimes at the MAC level to find those body types. For them to be bringing in these body types, guys that can develop, that is immediately what stands out to me is just a big group of kids.”

In what was his first full recruiting cycle as head coach, Candle said that for this year’s class he was able to focus on building relationships and identifying high-character recruits. Last season, taking over for Matt Campbell very late in the season, Candle was forced to scramble to put together a class with a short-handed staff and limited time.

“It was very different,” Candle said of this year. “You get a chance to spend 12, 13, 14 months with some of these guys and foster those relationships and really get to know the true person instead of just what you see on the videotape. As good as a highlight tape may look at times, I think sometimes in a short season like last year and the short recruiting time that we had, you don’t get a true feel for what you really are going to get. I really feel confident that we’ve put together a character class of good people and good young men who have a passion for football.”

Contact Brian Buckey at: bbuckey@theblade.com or 419-724-6110.

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Tag(s): College  Toledo