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Moving on

26 January 2014 By Matt Hamilton, Associate Sports Editor No Comments
TU aims to meet high expectations despite losing key players
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File photo by Abby Murphy, photo illustration by Danielle Frater and Abby Murphy

When Towson players and fans filtered out of Toyota Stadium on Jan. 4, following a 35-7 Football Championship Subdivision Championship loss, a new era was ushered in.

The excitement of making the school’s first appearance in the FCS Championship game was over, and the focus quickly shifted to getting back to Frisco, Texas again. However, with the loss of nine offensive starters and four defensive starters, Tiger fans want to know: where do they go from here?

In the month since the Championship game, Towson has watched as two key contributors to the 2013-14 season made decisions on their respective futures. Head Coach Rob Ambrose decided to sign an
extension until 2020, but Towson lost former running back Terrance West to the NFL Draft.

Tiger fans and students were treated to a great season in 2013-14, but changes to the program left many questioning its future. Seeing the leading rusher in school history leave the program did not shock some
fans, but some believe Ambrose will be able to work around the loss.

“[West] had a great career but it was time to move on to bigger and better things,” junior Ben Price said. “I think Coach Ambrose still has a few tricks up his sleeve and the program will be just fine.”

Ambrose could not be reached for comment on this story to say who might take over for some of the players who are leaving.

Towson saw glimpses of West in freshman running back Darius Victor, who rushed for 629 yards and seven touchdowns in the backup role. Victor, the Colonial Athletic Association Freshman of the Year and a
Freshman All-American, will join junior Trea Jones and freshman Sidney Ruffin as returning running backs.

Victor became a school-wide name after a 105-yard performance against Fordham in the second round of the FCS Playoffs.

“I think Victor is a good running back who will carry on the power running game like his predecessor,” junior Michael Pacas said. “[He] was very impressive in his first playoff game, which shows he can run well
against top quality FCS teams.”

Victor and West handled the Tiger rushing attack, while senior Peter Athens led the passing offense. Athens, a fifth-year player, started every game last season and amassed 3,461 yards and 19 touchdowns
through the air.

Athens’s departure leaves the job to two potential suitors who served as backups last season, sophomore Connor Frazier and junior Joe Brennan.

Frazier saw time as both quarterback and wide receiver this season, including the second-half comeback against Eastern Washington in the FCS semifinals, while Brennan did not see time. The two quarterbacks
battled for the starting job last offseason, so each should have experience in competing.

Athens had the luxury of throwing to two senior wide receivers, Spencer Wilkins and Leon Kinnard, for some of the 2013-14 season. Injuries ended their seasons, Ambrose and his staff did have a chance to survey the future of the receiver position.

The Tigers played the entire postseason with a committee of returning receivers, with the exception of senior tight end James Oboh. Juniors Brian Dowling and Derrick Joseph, freshman Andre Dessenberg and
sophomore Arione Scott gained valuable experience at the end of the past season that could help them going forward.

Despite losing a starting running back, quarterback and a tandem of receivers, the biggest loss is felt on the offensive line, where Towson will have to fill four starting positions. Four-year starters center Doug
Shaw and left tackle Eric Pike, along with right tackle Randall Harris and left guard Anthony Davis paved the way for West, Victor and Athens all season.

The offensive line may be the area with the least experience coming into the fall 2014 season.  Freshman right guard Sam Evans, who played 14 games this season, leads the returners along with sophomore Jake
Schunke.

Fans have realized that the Towson offense will look much different than in years past, but many believe it won’t take long to build a strong offense again.

“The loss of Terrance West, Athens and most of our offensive line will be difficult to overcome,” senior Brett Seeley said. “I think it will take a couple years to get back to championship level but the Tigers will
bounce back soon and be better than ever.”

The Tigers will lose their fair share of offensive starters, but next season will also mark a new era for the defense, which finished 43rd in the FCS. Starting linebackers and senior leaders Telvion Clark and Monte
Gaddis combined for 256 tackles in the past season, ranking first and second on the team.

Towson is in luck though, as sophomore Bryton Barr will provide instant leadership and talent to the linebacker position. Barr, who tore his pectoral muscle early in the season, finished second on the team in
tackles in 2012.

Barr was a vocal leader for the Tigers, as well as a co-captain, so it won’t take long for him to establish the same kind of role that Gaddis and Clark had this season. Defensive end Ryan Delaire and cornerback
Tye Smith, both juniors, will also bring veteran leadership to what could be another strong defense.

The immediate future for Towson can be found on a depth chart, but the long-term future will be paved on the recruiting trail. Ambrose and his staff began recruiting just a day after the FCS Championship
game.

The 2014 recruiting class will be announced on National Signing Day, Feb. 5, at Charles Village Pub.


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