In recruiting, it's hard to judge a recruiting class until those players are (or very close to) graduation. Therefore, let's take a look back to the class that signed on the dotted line four years ago in Toledo. Matt Campbell, in his first season in the fall of 2012, signed a very solid class which was highly regarded. That class, was led by four-star wide receiver Corey Jones, who was the forty-first ranked wide out in the class according to Scout. After the landing After a lengthy recruitment and originally committing to Pittsburgh, Jones changed his mind and chose the Rockets. Jones would ultimately join the Rockets in 2013 and would play in ten games while not playing too much of a role.
However, in 2014, Jones exploded onto the scene, showing not only the Mid-American Conference, but the nation as a whole why he was listed a four-star recruit by Scout coming out of Penn Hills (Pennsylvania) High School. The five-foot, nine-inch wide out would lead the team in receptions with 68, good for 812 yards. In 2014, Jones would also return punts for the Rockets and was a very versatile player for Matt Campbell and then-offensive coordinator, Jason Candle.
In 2015, Jones would not disappoint as he would be named first-team All-MAC as a punt returner after leading the conference with 10.2 yards per return. Jones would once again lead the Rockets in receptions with 55 along with 577 yards and five touchdown grabs. As a senior going into 2016, Jones' final chapters have yet to be written at the University of Toledo as he looks to be a leader both vocally and mentally for the Rockets.
Aside from Jones, the Rockets also landed a stellar defense in the Class of 2012. Little would the Rockets know at the time, several of their signees would end up becoming starters and in most cases, leaders, defensively.
In the front seven, Orion Jones and Jaylen Coleman would end up becoming standout performers. In fact, both Jones and Coleman, were rated three-stars by Scout. Coleman, after choosing Toledo over Cincinnati Bearcats, would redshirt during his freshman season and would play as a reserve linebacker in 2013 and 2014 making 28 total tackles. However, in 2015, Coleman took control of the Rockets' defense. Coleman would dominate in the first few weeks of the season, recording 48 tackles in six games. Despite the stellar start to the season, Coleman would break his leg in the October 17 contest against Eastern Michigan and would miss the remainder of the season. This fall, in 2016, Coleman is ready to burst onto the season. Coleman, who has strength to anchor the middle of the defense for the Rockets, will be an obvious starter for the Rockets this fall.
Aside from Coleman, who will catch his groove this fall, Orion Jones has been another 2012 signee who has anchored the defense in Toledo. Jones, of Jenks High School in Oklahoma, was an under-recruited defensive tackle but has proved the Rockets were right to take a chance on him. After gaining Jones' commitment over an offer from Navy, the Rockets would play Jones in nine games as he would make six tackles in his freshman campaign.
In 2014, Jones would score second-team All-MAC selection after racking up 33 tackles and six sacks. In 2015, Jones made 46 tackles with six sacks for thirty-nine yards. This season, Jones will once again be a starting defensive tackle for the Rockets and will once again provide tremendous strength up the middle for the Rockets as well as agile pass rushing skills as well.
Aside from the brute strength of Jones, Treyvon Hester and Allen Covington were two other down linemen to be recruited by the Rockets. Hester, who was orignially seen as an offensive lineman, made the switch to defensive tackle and dominated. This past fall, Hester who made 34 tackles and two-and-a-half sacks, provided an anchor on the line with Orion Jones by his side. This fall, Hester and Jones will be back at it as the dangerous duo up the middle for the Rockets.
Allen Covington was another lineman in the Class of 2012. The Armwood (Florida) High School native was hardly recruited and struggled to attract attention out of high school. The eventual two-star from Scout would verbally commit to the Rockets on January 22, 2012 and would sign just two weeks later. Outside of the Toledo program, many wouldn't expect much from Covington, who more than exceeded his expectations with the Rockets after receiving second-team All-MAC honors as well as All-MAC Academic honors with a 3.25 GPA. Covington would make 44 tackles in 2015 as a senior and would make four-and-a-half sacks as well. Now, the dream into the NFL begins for a former Rocket who couldn't find recruitment.
Also on the defensive side of the ball, Chase Murdock provided a vocal leader in the 2012 class. Murdock, who was recruited by Northern Illinois and Wyoming was a raw linebacker out of high school but transformed into one of the best linebackers in the Mid-American Conference by the time he was a junior at Toledo. As a senior in 2015, Murdock would lead the Rockets with 88 total tackles and eight tackles for a loss. Murdock will be deeply missed in the 2016 season as Jason Candle takes over, Murdock was one of the players in the 2012 class that exceeded expectations with a chip on his shoulder.
Another Penn Hills (Pennsylvania) High School graduate, Chaz Whittaker would enroll at Toledo from the Class of 2012. Whittaker, who was originally seen as a wide receiver by many agencies, was always a safety in the eyes of the Toledo coaches. Whittaker would choose the Rockets over offers from Pittsburgh, Temple, and West Virginia and would start immediately for Toledo.
Whittaker, who made 31 tackles and two interceptions in both the 2012 and 2013 seasons would also have a productive season in 2014. The Pittsburgh native would record a staggering 56 tackles as a junior and would also record 49 tackles as a senior last fall along with two interceptions. This season, Chaz Whittaker will leave a hole in the secondary with his departure as DeJuan Rogers takes over as the leader in the secondary.
Cameron Cole would also add a lot of depth in the Toledo secondary over his years. The 2012 signee would deal with injuries throughout his career including missing all of the 2014 season as an injury in the season opener but would record 37 tackles in 2013 and provided a nice combination with Cheatham Norrils on the opposite side of the field throughout his career.
Back to the offensive side of the ball, where the Rockets would find production in two runningbacks from the 2012 class in Damion Jones-Moore and Marc Remy. The tandem has provided a tremendous amount of depth behind Kareem Hunt and eventually, Terry Swanson as well. This season, they will both be seniors and combine for nearly 600 yards as juniors in 2015 providing a stable of tailbacks for Matt Campbell and now, Jason Candle.
Aside from runningbacks, Toledo found two gems on the offensive line in Michael Ebert, who was originally a tight end and defensive end out of Sandusky (Ohio) Perkins High School. Aside from Ebert, Paul Perschon provided a tremendous season as a junior in 2015 and will look to be even better this year as a senior. The two will provide leadership and consistency to first-year offensive line coach, Mike Hallett's scheme.
Now, we get to the real anchor and the absolute beast of the Rockets' offensive line and likely, team as a whole in Storm Norton. Norton, a Toledo Whitmer High School graduate decided to stay home for collegiate football and it has been the right decision. The 2015 All-MAC First-Team selection was also on the official watch list for Rotary Lombardi Award, given to the best lineman in the country every year. Norton will be back this fall and will bring a proven leader to Logan Woodside's blindside as one of the top, if not thee top, left tackles in the nation.
Lastly, but not least, Alex Zmolik provided a consistent starter at tight end for the Rockets. Zmolik, a tremendous blocker with even better character off of the field, provided several productive starts for the Rockets offense, especially as a run blocked in several shotgun formations. However, it was off of the field that made Zmolik so popular. Year after year, Zmolik was making excellent choices in the community, visiting hospitals, and much more.
As a whole, the 2012 class at Toledo will go down as one of extreme production. Matt Campbell, Jason Candle and the staff at the time put together a dominant recruiting class in the Mid-American Conference that would ultimately win several games throughout their careers, some of which, are not yet over. Corey Jones, Storm Norton, and several others will look to get the elusive Mid-American Conference Championship this fall.