Last February, at the news conference announcing the largest recruiting class in the history of Towson athletics, football coach Rob Ambrose spoke at length about the would-be Tigers. He lamented the commits who had never signed. He accused poachers from Power Five conference schools of using Towson’s evaluation and recruiting abilities to enrich themselves.
And, he said, it was only getting worse.
“It is what it is,” he said. “Clearly something that we're going to have to give a little more thought to in the future as this is becoming more of the norm, that our status is pulling attention. And it can negatively affect the bottom line in the end. You lose human beings that you expected to have."
On Wednesday, Ambrose’s class was smaller, but the stress was lighter, too. During the sport’s first early signing period, in late December, the Tigers signed eight players. From then until national signing day, when they added another 12, there was no re-recruiting of unsigned commits necessary.
Ambrose characterized the class, which he said likely will add three to six more players in the coming weeks, as one of “great character.” But he acknowledged that the new recruiting calendar was hugely beneficial to programs such as his.
“Because what you come to find out is, having an early signing date, you find out the kids who want their college experience,” he said. “They have done research. They know what they want out of college. They know who they want to play for. They know where they want to play, or at least they have a general idea. And then there are the young men that love to be recruited. Well, recruiting ends when college begins, and the early signing date, you find out a lot about people, about commitment.”
The early signing period had a trickle-down effect on the Tigers’ recruiting efforts and philosophy. The pool of recruits available in January, Ambrose said, was smaller this year. Which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Instead of worrying about 15 unsigned prospects in its “11th-hour” recruiting, the program had to focus on only three or four.
And none of them were holdover commits, either.
“Truth be told, if they were committed and they declined to sign early, they wouldn't be coming here, because clearly they don't understand the meaning of the word,” Ambrose said.
Morgan State athletic director Edward Scott was less certain of the accelerated schedule’s value. Scott said Wednesday that the new signing period was a boon to recruits resolute in their pledges, but a potential inconvenience to others.
“’I’m a little cautious when we start to move things up too early because you’re dealing with very young prospective students and asking them to make one of the most important decisions of their life so early is difficult. Some folks know where they want to go and it’s easy for them. But there were a couple of student-athletes whom we weren’t sure of, and a couple more that we’re still trying to get. It all depends.”
Note: The Tigers’ recruiting class features four players from Maryland: St. John's College High (D.C.) defensive back and Beltsville native Jamal Gay, Fort Hill fullback Luke Hamilton, Fork Union Military Academy cornerback and Reisterstown native Jirhe Love and Howard linebacker Ryan Kearney. Kearney was named the Howard County Defensive Player of the Year by the Howard County Times.
Baltimore Sun reporter Mike Klingaman contributed to this article.
The signing class (Source: Towson Athletics)
Sean Bryan, RB, 5-7, 175, Westbury, N.Y. (St. Anthony's HS) Played for head coach Rich Reichert at St. Anthony's High School…rushed for 915 yards and 14 touchdowns on 137 carries as a senior…added nine catches for 63 yards and a score…opened senior season with a career-best 254 yards in a victory over Delbarton…ran for 467 yards and six scores as a junior.
Reese Clarke, DB, 5-11, 190, Belle Mead, N.J. (Montgomery HS) Played for head coach Zoran Milich at Montgomery High School…earned first-team all-conference honors as a senior after posting 65 tackles and one interception…registered 38 stops and three interceptions as a junior.
Ronnie Fox, FB, 5-11, 245, Vernon, N.J. (Pope John XXIII HS) Played for head coach Brian Carlson at Pope John XXIII High School…carried the ball just one time as a senior…added two catches and a touchdown…posted 24 tackles and a sack on the defensive line.
Jamal Gay, DB, 6-1, 180, Beltsville (St. John's College HS) Played for head coach Joe Casemento at St. John's College High School…helped the Cadets to an 11-2 record and the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) championship as a senior…earned Second-Team All-WCAC honors…member of the National Honor Society.
Charles Garrett, DL, 6-2, 297, Norfolk, Va. (ASA Miami) Played for head coach Chris Boden at ASA Miami…appeared in four games as a sophomore, posting 13 tackles, one sack and one interception…returned an interception 63 yards for a touchdown…recorded season-best seven tackles against Georgia Military College…registered five tackles in three games as a freshman…played for head coach Dealton Cotton at Norview High School…helped the Pilots to three-straight playoff appearances…four-time all-region, all-district and all-conference honoree…two-time All-757 Team selection…finished career with 77 tackles, five forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, three sacks, two pass break-ups and two blocked extra points.
Luke Hamilton, FB, 5-11, 230, Cumberland (Fort Hill HS) Played for head coach Todd Appel at Fort Hill High School…helped the Sentinels to a 12-2 record and a berth in the state championship game…selected as the Times-News Defensive Player of the Year as a junior after recording 207 tackles, 15 tackles-for-loss and 13 sacks…earned first-team all-area accolades as a sophomore…first-team all-state selection as a tight end…finished career with more than 500 tackles…member of the National Honor Society.
Robert Jadick, ATH, 6-0, 225, Bear, Del. (Appoquinimink HS) Played for head coach Brian Timpson at Appoquinimink High School…named third-team all-state fullback after rushing for 563 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior…earned first-team all-conference laurels as a fullback and defensive end…selected as the team's defensive MVP after making 84 stops, 16 tackles-for-loss and 11 sacks as a senior…selected to play in Delaware's Blue-Gold All-Star game …amassed 932 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns in career …tallied 151 tackles and 25 sacks in career…academic all-conference selection.
Logan Justice, WR, 6-3, 197, Lewes, Del. (Fork Union Military Academy) Played for head coach Mike Hooper at Fork Union Military Academy…earned All-Prep League honors as a senior after catching 34 passes for 529 yards and six touchdowns…VISAA all-state selection as a junior and senior…added 38 tackles, three interceptions and a fumble recovery as a defensive back…finished career with 82 receptions for 1,117 yards and 12 touchdowns…member of the 4x200m school record relay team that currently holds the fifth fastest time in the USA…ranked No. 1 in the 400m and No. 3 in the 200m in the VISAA…National Honor Society treasurer.
Ryan Kearney, LB, 6-1, 210, Ellicott City (Howard HS) Played for head coaches Ross Hannon and Bruce Strunk at Howard High School…forced third-quarter fumble to help propel the Lions to the 4A North regional championship …selected as the Howard County Defensive Player of the Year by the Baltimore Sun…finished season with 50 tackles, 33 solo, three tackles-for-loss, one interception and one forced fumble on a defense that allowed less than five points per game…helped the Lions to a 48-5 record, including 38-1 in county play in his career.
Bryce Lauer, DL, 6-3, 240, Murrysville, Pa. (Franklin Regional HS) Played for head coach Greg Botta at Franklin Regional High School…two-time first-team all-state selection…named to the AAAAA Big East Conference team by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette as a senior…led the Panthers with 161 tackles, 105 solo and nine tackles-for-loss…added two sacks, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries …posted 139 tackles and 16.0 tackles-for-loss as a junior, after registering 67 tackles and 11 tackles-for-loss as a sophomore…finished career with 368 tackles, 254 solo, 36 tackles-for-loss, six sacks, five forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and three interceptions.
Jirhe Love, CB, 6-0, 180, Reisterstown (Fork Union Military Academy) Enrolled at Towson for the spring semester…played one season for head coach John Shuman at Fork Union Military Academy…ranked second on the team with four interceptions…added 20 tackles, two sacks and three pass break-ups…played for head coach Randy Trivers at Gonzaga High School.
Michael Wilson, Jr., CB, 5-10, 155, Middletown, Del. (Middletown HS) Played for head coach Zach Blum at Middletown High School…led the state with six interceptions as a senior…selected to play in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl and Blue-Grey All-American Bowl…posted 22 tackles and five interceptions as a junior…also recovered a fumble and blocked an extra point…made 15 stops as a sophomore…member of the National Honor Society.
Conrad Brake, LS, 6-6-0, 230, Fairport, N.Y. (Pitt) Brake joins the Tigers after spending one year at the University of Pittsburgh…three-year letterwinner for head coach Chris Battaglia at Aquinas Institute…helped the Little Irish to a 13-0 record and a New York Class AA state championship as a senior…team finished 31-5 and captured two state championships during career…selected to play in the NUC All-American Game and Eddie Meath All-Star Game.
Alex Desire, OL, 6-5, 290, Burlington, N.J. (Burlington Township H.S.) Played for head coach Tom Mederia at Burlington Township High School…three-time first-team all-conference selection for the Falcons…garnered first-team all-county accolades as a junior and senior…selected to the South Jersey Third Team as a senior.
Colin Hirschmann, TE, 6-6, 235, Chalfont, Va. (La Salle College H.S.) Played for head coach Jack Steinmetz at La Salle College High School…played along the offensive and defensive lines for the Explorers.
Robert Javier, CB, 6-0, 170, Bronx, N.Y. (Cardinal Hayes H.S.) Played for head coach C.J. O'Neill at Cardinal Hayes High School…selected to the All-Catholic League as a senior after recording 23 tackles and two interceptions in eight games…named CHSFL All-Star MVP.
Jeff Miller, QB, 6-6, 248, Murrieta, Calif. (Murrieta Mesa H.S.) Played for head coach Darrel Turner at Murrieta Mesa High School…set school record by throwing for 3,725 yards and 40 touchdowns in leading the Rams to their first California state semifinal game and a 9-4 record…threw for 508 yards and seven touchdowns in a quarterfinal victory…earned All-CIF and All-Southwest League honors as a junior and senior…finished career with 6,007 yards and 61 touchdowns as a two-year starter…selected to the US U19 National Team…three-star prospect by 247Sports.
Mantriel Reaves, DB, 6-2, 200, High Point, N.C. (Louisburg College) Played for head coach Trevor Highfield at Louisburg College…finished season with 43 tackles, 3.5 tackles-for-loss and two interceptions in helping the Hurricanes to a 9-0 record…posted seven tackles in a game twice during the season…intercepted a pass in each of the last two games…played for head coach Eric Rainey at Southwest Guilford High School…posted 41 tackles and an interception as a senior.
Daniel Thompson, WR, 6-3, 198, Ashburn, Va. (Stone Bridge H.S.) Played for head coach Mickey Thompson at Stone Bridge High School…earned first-team all-region and all-conference honors after leading the Bulldogs to a 12-1 record as a senior…finished with 57 catches for 1,454 yards and 21 touchdowns…had over 200 yards receiving in two games…registered three touchdowns in five games…garnered first-team all-state honors at tight end as a junior…also named all-region, all-county and all-conference following junior season.
Chizurum Umunakwe, LB, 6-0, 205, Bronx, N.Y. (Trinity Pawling) Played post graduate season for head coach Nick LaFontaine at Trinity Pawling High School…selected as the offensive MVP…earned All-League NEPSAC and Erickson League Team honors…played for head coach Augustine Tieri at Kennedy High School…rushed for over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns in 10 games as a senior.