When Tim Beckman took the head coaching job at Toledo two years ago, he stressed the importance of landing the best players from the immediate area to enhance the program, keep them away from his competitors, and to continue to cultivate a strong local fan base.
The next step after protecting the home turf would be to scour the ranks of the upper echelon of Division I, and offer opportunity to some potential stars that were in less than ideal situations.
The plan seems to be working. In his 2011 class, Beckman grabbed local standout defensive back Cheatem Norrils, who was one of five finalists for the state Player of the Year honors, and center Kyle Cameron, an outstanding prospect who comes from the same Toledo Central Catholic program that produced Ohio State 2010 MVP wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher.
With those two home-grown studs in the fold, Beckman moved on and landed talented performers from the Columbus area and from Michigan, and snagged receiver Justin Olack off the Pittsburgh commitments list after a coaching change with the Panthers had Olack wavering.
The Rockets also scooped up the two younger brothers of former Florida standout defensive back Joe Haden, who is now with the Cleveland Browns. Running back Josh Haden got out of an uncomfortable situation at Boston College, while defensive back Jordan Haden left Florida when things didn't feel right there. Both of them landed in Toledo, and should be big-time contributors in the coming seasons.
Beckman's "Father Flanagan" approach also helped him bring highly-sought-after S Vladimir Emilien to Toledo after Emilien was looking for a way out at Michigan. If Beckman can make this collection of great recruits, wayward soldiers and pseudo cast-offs work -- and not damage his team's chemistry -- there could be big things ahead for the Rockets.
TOP OF THE CLASS
DL Andre Sturdivant -- The football factory that is Cleveland's Glenville High sends the Rockets another top prospect. The 6-3, 265-pound Sturdivant has the size and speed that is coveted along the defensive front. Toledo head coach Tim Beckman said he expects Sturdivant to have an immediate impact on the depth chart and press for playing time. Sturdivant was a first-team all-state player on one of the top teams in Ohio, so he comes well-credentialed.
DB Cheatem Norrils -- This versatile athlete is 5-11 and a strong 185 pounds, and projected to play at safety for the Rockets. Norrils comes in as a prolific two-sport athlete at St. John's Jesuit, one of the top programs in the Toledo area. He's a hitter with great instincts who will find his way on the field quickly.
WR Justin Olack -- The Rockets have shown an infatuation with tall wideouts, and the 6-4, 190-pound Olack fits the bill. He turned down an offer from Pittsburgh after head coach Dave Wannstedt left, opening the door for Toledo. Olack has good outside speed, great hands, and the toughness to not shy away from catching the ball in traffic.
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