Recruiting Class Breakdown: Defense

With just one month left before signing day, how is the Toledo 2009 recruiting class shaping up? Read on to find information on the prospects that have already verbally committed to the University of Toledo, how many players we should expect to see at each position, and who might fill out the rest of the class.

There is less than a month to go until football prospects can sign national letters of intent (NLI) with the collegiate football programs they will be joining in the fall. So what can we expect in Toledo's 2009 class? Here is a breakdown of the defensive postions.

The defensive line is a position of immediate need. The last few seasons Toledo has not managed to get much pressure on opposing quarterbacks. New head coach Tim Beckman and his staff want to change that with a mix of physical play and speed on the defensive line.

One prospect already committed to Toledo is defensive end T.J. Fatinikun. Fatinikun is from Perrysburg High School, right in the Toledo area. The 6-2, 230 pound defensive end originally committed to Bowling Green over the summer. However, he reopened his recruitment after the coaching change at Bowling Green and took an official visit to Toledo on December 12th. He eventually made up his mind to commit to Toledo. He told his family on Christmas Day that he was committing to Toledo, and then called the Rocket coaching staff to tell them the news. A very nice Christmas present indeed.

Ben Pike is another defensive end that is already committed to Toledo. He originally committed to Eastern Michigan, but the Eagles decided to go in another direction and pulled the offer. Pike ended up committing to Toledo three days before Christmas. Ben is 6-3 and 220 pounds. He is from Mentor High School in Ohio.

Along with the two defensive end commitments, Toledo would love to bring in 3-4 more recruits on the defensive line. One prospect very high on the radar is defensive end Christian Smith of Carl Albert High School in Oklahoma City, OK. Smith (6-2, 235) recorded 94 tackles with 7 sacks and 10 tackles for loss as a senior this past season. He has offers from Toledo, Ohio University, Northern Iowa, Missouri State, and Sam Houston State.

Rocket head coach Tim Beckman was recruiting Smith to Oklahoma State when Beckman was the DC there, and he continued to recruit him when he became the head coach at Toledo. Christian will be taking an official visit to Toledo this weekend (1/16/2009).

Another prospect the Rockets would love to sign is defensive tackle Tim Kynard. Kynard is a local prospect from St. John's Jesuit High School in Toledo, OH. Kynard visited Toledo on December 12th and has offers from Toledo, Illinois, and Miami (Ohio). The 6-3, 255 pound defensive tackle gave a soft verbal to Illinois back in December, but is still considering other schools, including Toledo.

Another key prospect that could land in this class is defensive tackle Chris Jones. Jones (6-2, 270) is from Brownsburg High School in Brownsburg, Indiana. He originally committed to Bowling Green over the summer, but when former Bowling Green defensive coordinator Mike Ward joined the staff at Toledo, Jones decided to give Toledo a look. He visited the Rockets on December 12th. "I liked Toledo a lot," Jones told Rocket Digest shortly after his visit. "I really liked the city. It was much nicer than I had heard it was. Mike Ward is there now, and he was recruiting me at Bowling Green before."

Chris has said he is still committed to Bowling Green, but he won't make up his final mind until after visiting BG this weekend (1/16/2009). The Rockets are definitely in the mix to gain his services.

Another defensive end with an offer from Toledo is Josh Jackson of Gainesville High School in Gainesville, Georgia. Jackson (6-1, 260) has offers from Toledo, Mississippi, North Carolina State, and UMASS. Arkansas is also close to offering Jackson. He has a visit to Toledo setup for this weekend (1/16/2009). Josh recently told that Toledo and UMASS are recruiting him the hardest. He plays defensive tackle in high school, but projects as a defensive end in college.

Anthony Shoemaker of Cincinnati Princeton recently picked up an offer from Toledo. The 6-4 and 245 pound defensive end has scheduled an official visit to Toledo for next weekend (1/23/2009). He has offers from Toledo, Miami (Ohio), Ohio University, Eastern Michigan, Eastern Illinois, and Tennessee Tech. He played both tight end and defensive end in high school. Toledo is recruiting him as a defensive end.

While those are the main prospects on the defensive line, there are others that have been hearing from Toledo. Those include DE Tyler Houska, DE Chikaobi Reid, DT Marjarvin Chapman, and DT John Steele.

Toledo has a couple offers out to linebacker prospects for the 2009 recruiting class. One longshot prospect is four star linebacker Dan Mason from Penn Hills SHS in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Mason is rated the #3 inside linebacker prospect in the 2009 class by He is favoring Pittsburgh and West Virginia. He has said that he is considering schools such as Toledo and Michigan for his final official visit, and has either taken or will take official visits to Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Penn State, and Boston College.

Dwayne Woods is a 5-11, 209 pound linebacker from Princeton High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. He originally committed to Bowling Green, but with Mike Ward coming over to the Toledo coaching staff he is now also considering the Rockets. He also has an offer from Air Force, and is rated the #97 inside linebacker prospect in the country by

Travis Freeman from Glenville High School in Cleveland, Ohio is another linebacker prospect the Rockets would love to sign. He is coming to Toledo for an official visit this weekend (1/16/2009).

One last linebacker that recently picked up an offer from Toledo is Damon Sims of Colerain High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. Sims has offers from Toledo, Indiana, Marshall, Kent State, and Wofford. Indiana is his favorite right now.

In the secondary the Rockets already have a couple of verbal commitments. Defensive back Ricky Steele committed to Toledo just before Christmas, after originally committing to Bowling Green last summer. He visited Toledo on December 12th. "Going into my visit I know the coaches were good and understandable with many things, but when I got there I felt comfortable and could really see myself playing for them in future years," Ricky Steele told Rocket Digest shortly after committing to Toledo. The 6-0, 181 pound cornerback expects to come in and make an impact at Toledo right away next fall.

The other current verbal commitment in the secondary is Jermaine Robinson. Robinson originally signed with Toledo last year, but ended up prepping at Milford Academy in New Berlin, NY after failing to get eligible. Robinson (6-3, 195) is a tremendously gifted athlete with excellent speed. He is expected to play safety at Toledo. Jermaine has enrolled in Spring classes at Toledo and is expected to be on campus starting school this week. At the time that this article went to print, Jermaine had not signed a NLI yet. However, Mid-year JUCO/Prep transfers have until Thursday, January 15th to sign (or wait until February 4th) and Jermaine cannot sign until he is on campus. Rocket Digest will bring you more on Jermaine's status as soon as possible.

There are some other prospects that could fill out the class in the secondary. A key prospect is Jason Pinkston of Cleveland Glenville. The 6-0, 175 pound cornerback is expected to take an official visit to Toledo with high school teammate Travis Freeman this weekend (1/16/2009). If Toledo could get a second cornerback commitment in this class, Pinkston is at the top of the list.

One more cornerback prospect with an offer is Troy Smith. Smith (5-10, 175) has excellent speed (4.40 forty) and has is considering Toledo, Iowa, Cincinnati, Louisville, and Ball State. He took an official visit to Iowa in December and was scheduled to visit Cincinnati last weekend. He is visiting Toledo this weekend (1/16/2009), and Louisville on January 23rd. He is from Pike High School in Indianapolis, Indiana.

That wraps up the defensive positions. Below is a breakdown of how many players at each offensive position Toledo could sign this February.

Defensive End -- 3-4
Defensive Tackle -- 2-3
Linebacker -- 2-3
Defensive Back -- 2-4
Safeties -- 1

The Rockets can fill up to 22 scholarships with this class, and are likely to take anywhere from about 18-22 student-athletes. Look for somewhere in the range of 10-15 on the defensive side of the ball.

For an offensive breakdown for the Rockets 2009 recruiting class, click here

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