Running back Terrance West's decision to skip his senior year and enter the NFL draft leaves the Towson football team without the program's career leader in rushing yards and total touchdowns.
But all is not lost for the Tigers, who had a school-record 13 wins in 16 games and earned their first appearance in the Football Championship Subdivision title game.
Darius Victor recently completed his freshman year with 98 carries for 629 yards and seven touchdowns en route to being named the Offensive Rookie of the Year in the Colonial Athletic Association. His 6.4 yards per rush was slightly better than West's 6.1 average and ranked third among rushers in the conference.
Victor's playing time was extended due to a season-ending knee injury suffered by senior Sterlin Phifer in the team's 32-31 loss to Delaware on Nov. 2. Perhaps that's why coach Rob Ambrose didn't sound particularly distressed about West, a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, leaving early for the NFL.
"There was a plan to recruit Darius to fit the shoes somewhat of Terrance," Ambrose said Tuesday. "We didn't plan on Terrance coming out, but we knew it was a possibility. We didn't necessarily plan on Darius playing, but with the injury to Sterlin, these two things coincide together. As Terrance walks out the door, so to speak, Darius walks in."
With soon-to-be senior Trea Jones (12 carries for 34 yards and one touchdown) the only other experienced tailback on the roster, the spotlight figures to be trained on Victor, a 5-foot-8, 210-pound player who also caught five passes for 71 yards and one touchdown.
Ambrose sounded confident that Victor can handle the increased scrutiny.
"Darius is an extremely mature and intelligent young man," Ambrose said. "As much as he has learned from Terrance, he knows he's not Terrance. He's Darius. He's going to work very hard to be as good as he can be and he'll do it as himself. He won't try to be anyone else. There's no pressure that an outside source is ever going to put on him. He's harder on himself than I could ever be, and that's a sign that he will be successful in the future.
"He's a self starter, internally motivated, extremely confident and competent young man, and we are really lucky. He's a good back and a great person, and I love saying that because I just said that about [West], and now I get to say that about this guy. Things for our program are definitely moving in the right direction."