From Two-Stars to First-Year Starters - The Toledo Football Program Develops Talent

The Toledo Rockets have become a consistent College Football program. How? Recruiting players that other schools don't see the potential in.

In the Mid-American Conference, the world of recruiting can be cruel. Coaches in the conference must evaluate talent and trust their instincts on that specific player. For the Toledo Rockets, they’ve always been one of the first programs in the country to discover talent. In fact, over the past few seasons, the Rockets have been able to find diamonds in the rough, so to speak, with players that weren’t receiving a whole lot of attention.


“When I committed to Toledo going into my senior year of high school, Toledo ws my only Division-One offer and was the only Division-One offer that I got,” Toledo wide receiver, Cody Thompson stated.


Thompson, a two-star by every major recruiting website, was an under-recruited wide receiver from Huron High School in Ohio. The Class of 2014 prospect says nobody really took a chance on him, other than the Rockets.


Toledo took a chance on me,” Thompson told Toledo Scout, “I am grateful for that and blessed to have the opportunity to attend this great university while playing the game I’ve loved all of my life. I’m getting a top notch education at the same time (as playing football) and I wouldn’t change anything if I had the chance,” Thompson added.


The six-foot, two-inch wide out led the Rockets in receiving yards in 2015 as a sophomore with 37 catches for 825 yards and five touchdowns. Thompson, who has seen the field ever since stepping foot on Toledo’s campus, found his role in the Rockets’ football program.


“One of the biggest things with Toledo is they were real and still have been real with me to this very day,” he said.


Thompson isn’t the only Rocket who feels like they were under-recruited coming out of high school. Toledo starting quarterback, Logan Woodside, says coming out of Franklin County high school in Frankfort, Kentucky.


“I felt like I was under-recruited just due to the fact that I transferred schools after my sophomore year of high school and only got to play varsity quarterback for two years,” Woodside stated.


Woodside, who only held Division-One offers from Ohio, Troy, Western Kentucky and Toledo prior to his commitment, says Toledo was one of the first schools to show him interest.


“Yeah Toledo was one of the first schools interested because they saw me at a Northwest camp and Ohio State, then they offered me,” Woodside added.


For Woodside, though he felt under-recruited, he says Toledo recognized the talents he had and he wouldn’t change a thing.


“Had I played three to four years of varsity quarterback, I would have gotten bigger offers but I ended up at the best place possible for me. I wouldn’t trade anything or go back on my decision at all if I had the chance to redo it,” he added.


Woodside, who led the Rockets to a 9-4 overall record and a win in the 2015 GoDaddy Bowl game, threw for 2,263 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2014. The former three-star recruit who was overseen by Power Five football programs still found a home in Toledo and continues to thrive. Woodside will look to lead the Rockets to a Mid-American Conference championship this fall as well.


As for Toledo runningback, Terry Swanson, it’s the same basic situation. Swanson, an Aliquippa, Pennsylvania native, was a two-star by every scout agency coming out of high school. However, the under-recruited tailback still found a home.


“I had FBS offers from Akron, Ohio, Temple, and Toledo,” Swanson stated, “And Toledo was interested from the very beginning until the end. They told me I would simply have a chance to play early but would have to compete.”


And compete he would. Swanson would step onto Toledo’s campus and see the field immediately. As a freshman in 2014, Swanson would rush for 732 yards and six touchdowns. Aside from the team accolades, Swanson would finish his rookie campaign averaging 6.5 yards per carry, good enough for second in the conference.


Swanson, who also rushed for 923 yards and seven touchdowns in 2015, has provided Toledo with one of the best one-two backfield combinations in the country with himself and Kareem Hunt electrifying The Glass City.


For the Toledo Rockets, stars simply don’t matter. Two-star, three-star, or no stars, the Rockets evaluate players and are consistently one of the first programs to offer and show interest in top prospects. Scout Midwest Football Recruiting Manager, Allen Trieu, says the Rockets have definitely stood out over the past few years in recruiting.


“I think finding talent first comes down to working at it,” Trieu stated, “You have to not follow the crowd and turn over every stone, that’s what Toledo does. Toledo also trusts their evaluations, they aren’t afraid to be the first to offer a kid where sometimes other schools wait for others to offer first.”


From there, it comes down to developing their prospects, which Trieu says the Rockets do extremely well. “Then of course (in recruiting), you have to cultivate that talent, which is something they do,” Trieu continued.


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The Toledo football program has been one of the most consistent College Football programs in the country over the past decade. For the Rockets, it all begins on the recruiting trail and finding recruits that other schools maybe don’t see the potential in. However, the Rockets take these prospects in and develop them, which has allowed the program to win several big games over the past few seasons.

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