Let's put aside the New Jersey water supply for now and just concentrate on one of it's finest products instead, shall we? Linebacker Brian Toal debuts on the Insiders' Hot 100 as the 8th best linebacker in the country. That ranking tells you plenty on the surface, but without seeing him actually play, it gives you only a superficial look into just what makes this young man tick. Brian was good enough to put his strengths as a linebacker into simple terms, at least from his perspective. "My speed is my biggest strength." he said. "Side-line to side-line, that's probably where I am at my best."
Toal isn't a slouch at the fundamentals either, tallying 112 tackles and 12.5 sacks as a junior last season. Also, just throw in the fact that he was the starting running back last year, chalking up over 1,200 yards and he scored a total of 24 touchdowns.
No thoughts though of the offensive side of the ball for Toal though for a couple of reasons. One, every school that has offered him has done so as a linebacker and two, that's what he likes, because like most defensive players, nothing quite matches the experience of driving someone into the turf.
To illustrate Toal's mentality, two words come to mind when drooling over the idea of a wide-open hit on anyone. "Knockout shot." Toal stated. "Just take his head off. Hit him as hard as you can." I actually asked Toal if he liked for the player to see him right before he "layed the wood" so to speak, to which he laughed, replying. "No, he can see it later when he's watching film."
Brian really does fit the mold of your typical defensive standout. While some have their own way of tackling the game mentally, Brian chooses a variety of ways, but once he's on the field, that's when the thinking stops and getting physical and at times, verbal starts. "I watch a lot of film, so I am prepared for whatever they do." Brian said. "I think about everything they can do before they do it, but once I hit the field, I just kind of let it all loose."
Loose describes his physical nature, but again, his ability to be orally expressive isn't to be understated either. "Yeah, I talk a little bit." Toal stated, but when I asked him to elaborate on exactly what he said out there, he again laughed a bit, stating simply, "stuff".
Stuff, eh? Ok, let's talk about stuff. No, not that stuff. This is a G-rated update after all. The stuff I am talking about is the stuff you care about the most; rankings. Yes, those stars and how many of them are stapled to a kid's name. Amongst your friends, you say you don't care, they don't matter and it doesn't affect what you think about a player, but you know it does and you know you do. Not all recruits do though, especially not Toal. "I don't put much stalk into those things." he said. "It's not going to matter to me come my season, so it isn't something I pay much attention to."
The rankings however do indicate, at least to some degree what the impressions are of any particular player and with the ranking the Insiders gives Toal, even he will admit sometimes, he thinks about it. "It's good that people think that I guess, but I still have my senior year to play, so a lot can happen between now and then."
Nobody can predict what will happen for Toal during his season on the field, but you can feel pretty safe in assuming some things about what happens off of it, more specifically the offers. Already at a reported 32, Toal isn't expected to get any less popular this year. That kind of attention took a kid from a process he thought would be local when he was a bit younger to realizing that now, he's got a whole lot of choices ahead. "It was really confusing at first." Brian said of all the initial attention. "My freshman year, Boston College and Rutgers offered and it was easy then. My sophomore year, a couple more offered and now, after my junior year, it's like 32, I was like ‘Oh man, I'm bad at making decisions'."
"It's not going to be that easy anymore."
What is easy about all of this attention is knowing that he doesn't have to limit himself, but the obvious dilemma being who out of so many worth candidates can be part of even a narrowed list. The criteria is simple though for Toal. "Football is the main thing along with an education, so I will be looking really hard at that." he said. "Also, it's a place I am going to spend four or five years of my life, so the atmosphere and the coaches, all that is important to."
Right now, Toal has seen that, at least from the surface in what he says is his current top-eight list, those teams being Miami, Notre Dame, Penn State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Virginia Tech and Maryland, in no particular order, of course.
Oh yeah. They have all offered as well, but I figure you probably knew that. And, if you didn't know (I'm just pretending you don't giving me a reason to type more), Brian is in no darn hurry to make a decision. He's quite willing to play this thing out, all the way to the finish-line, so to speak in regards to signing day. Don't bet on it taking that long, but be prepared for that, because Brian is.
After all, you get 32 offers and let's see how fast you can make a decision.
Steve Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org 402-730-5619