UT head coach Jason Candle said the Rockets will need to rely upon their talented incoming freshmen class, which includes three local high school products. BLADE PHOTO
University of Toledo football coach Jason Candle is in a bit of an awkward place, because in a perfect world, he would redshirt every freshman. But he knows realistically he will have to count on some of the freshmen from the top-ranked 2017 class in the Mid-American Conference to play this season.
So during camp, he and his staff must evaluate which freshmen can contribute immediately and which would benefit the most from a year of physical and mental development.
“Ideally you’d like to redshirt every freshman,” Candle said. “That would be key, but there are a lot of guys that in the next two weeks here we are going to know if they are going to be able to help us now or if we’ll have to redshirt them and let them develop. But ideally you would like to redshirt them all and give them a year to adapt to college life and adapt to college football. But sometimes that is not a reality and it won’t be a reality this year. Some of those guys will have to play for us.”
Candle said it is important to identify which freshmen to push harder and which may need more of a long-term developmental approach.
“Each guy in the freshman class is at a different stage in their development,” Candle said. “You have to be more patient with some and you have to be more aggressive with what you put on their plate with others. You have to keep making them feel like each day is important, instead of feeling like they have been here for six years already, because camp can be grinding for a young player.”
Three players Candle will evaluate in camp are St. John’s Jesuit graduates Mitchell Berg and Tycen Anderson, and Bowsher graduate Bryce Mitchell.
Berg is a big 6-foot-6, 300 pound offensive tackle, who should fit in well with UT’s hulking offensive line. Anderson is a versatile athlete who is listed as the third-string strong safety on the first fall depth chart. Mitchell is a physically gifted wide receiver who won the state long jump title at Bowsher this spring and is behind Jon’Vea Johnson and Diontae Johnson at the X-receiver position on the initial depth chart.
Candle has been impressed with the attitude and potential that the local trio has demonstrated in camp so far.
“Those three guys are really promising players,” Candle said. “It’s refreshing to see that they come in and they are really competitive guys. They are doing a good job of paying attention to the little things we are asking them to do. Those guys are three players that I feel can be really good ones here at Toledo.”
Candle has had success with local players and hopes that will continue to be the case this year and in the upcoming years. In the class of 2018, UT already has a commitment from offensive lineman Tyler Long from Springfield High School.
“You would like to have as many players as you possibly can from our local area,” Candle said. “Every year, the recruiting classes and the numbers that you have, sometimes that dictates who you can sign from this area. At the end of the day, you have to get the best players. But when you are able to do that, like with an Eric Page or a Storm Norton or a Marquise Moore on our team now or like Cheatham Norrils, if you can do that, it’s a really special thing in your own community and this city. I know how well our community and our city wrap around those guys.”
INJURY UPDATE: Candle said that freshmen tight end Jamal Turner and defensive end Nate Givhan will require season-ending surgeries. Turner injured his leg, while Givhan suffered a shoulder injury. Turner and Givhan were teammates at Carver High School in Montgomery, Ala.