Christmas in February: Signing Day '09

Tim Beckman and his staff presented UT football fans with their very first Christmas in February present: the 2009 recruiting class. Rocket Digest reporter Karl Rofkar was in attendance for both the media press conference and the 2009 recruiting class presentation for Rocket fans. Read on for Karl's thoughts on the events.

Tim Beckman and his staff presented UT football fans with their very first Christmas in February present: the 2009 recruiting class. Coach Beckman appeared alone before a room full of media at 3pm, then brought the entire staff, along with most support personnel, to a standing-room-only presentation to Rocket fans in the Joe Grogan Room at Savage Arena.

Coach Beckman began his remarks to fans by telling them that next year, the event will need to be in the Arena itself, with highlights on the 4-sided video board. He also broke down the recruiting challenge the staff faced as they began their time as Rockets – from the day Beckman was hired, they had 37 days to recruit, with 23 of those days without a full staff of 7, leaving only 14 days with a full staff. The Rocket staff averaged over 1 recruit every two days, and Beckman complimented his staff on the huge effort that took.

In both the press conference and his remarks to fans, Beckman stressed the quality of people he and his staff brought in, not just the quality of football player (and there's plenty of that as well). The average GPA for this recruiting class of 19 is 2.81, with 9 carrying a 3.0 or better (at least 2 of those with 4.0).

There's an offensive lineman and a quarterback who want to be engineers; another QB who is already talking about getting his MBA; a LB who wants to be a physical therapist – all very challenging academic programs.

Beckman said, "as you read the bios of each one of these kids, you see winners. These guys played in 9 state championships, out of the 19 guys. So almost half of them have played in a state championship game, and six of them have won. They combined for 51 state playoff appearances. So we're looking for young men that know what it takes to win." Beckman then told the press about the GPA of the class in the very next breath. There is no doubt that he considers both to be very important.

Coach also addressed the importance of the former assistants from "that team down south" who are now on his staff. He credits those coaches with knowing the Rockets from playing against them, and giving them a good idea of what Toledo needed early in the process. While the staff spent a solid week reviewing films of all 12 games from last year, Beckman felt that the input from those coaches was invaluable.

Those assistants reinforced that view when they made their comments while addressing fans, saying that they had to be able to defend against the Rockets, or run an offense against them, so they had a good idea what the Rockets needed.

Naturally, the local media was very interested in the local players signed today, especially DE T.J. Fatinikun and Athlete Eric Page. As for Page, Beckman said "Oh, I think he's very versatile. He can do a buncha things. I think that we'll keep him on the offensive side of the ball and try to get the ball in his hands as much as possible."

Coach Beckman gave credit for Page's signing to former Rocket head man "Tom Amstutz and his staff because he was committed prior to our coming here. So a good amount of that credit goes to Coach Amstutz and we just kept him aboard and we're happy to have him. He can also return punts, kickoffs…he can do many, many things."

The Rocket coaching staff felt they needed more speed, and Beckman says that is the reason they signed 4 corners. They also addressed the DT position with this class, including a JC recruit, Johnie Roberts.

Beckman says that anytime you sign a JC player you expect them to be able to provide help immediately, and Roberts fits the bill. Coach says that "Johnie can play both inside and out. Johnie's very, very athletic and he's very competitive, and I can see him definitely being a guy that needs to come in here. And he knows that."

The highlight video shown to the fans shows that he is a solid DT prospect, and Coach is right…he CAN play inside or out. The staff also brought in a JC PK/P out of Texas, Ryan Casano. Roberts will have 2 years of eligibility, Casano 3.

Coach Beckman also complimented the prior staff's recruits who are coming in as true freshmen this fall, all of whom are in class now. Each of them brings speed and skill to their position and the staff has been pleased with their progress in conditioning so far.

"We grade each player each and every day, after every workout; they will constantly be graded, and they will always know where they stand with this staff. We film it, we grade it. They're going to grade out in 4 categories: They're going to be an All-American, All-MAC, Average, or they're gonna be another thing, and I'm not going to go into that. To tell you the truth, they've not gone up past that Average yet, but they've shown they can do some things."

The staff has winter conditioning in full swing, and a 6am workout tomorrow is on the schedule. Beckman talked a bit about what goes on during those sessions. "What we do in the winter is, it's a competition. You do all sorts of things. It's not strength. It's all sorts of things that have to do with being a student-athlete. They're going to get graded on many things. They're going to get points for being successful in school, they'll get points taken away if they're not successful in school. They're going to get points for competition in agility drills, in the weight room, running 40 yard dashes and 20 yard dashes. They're constantly competing. There's a game to it. There's 8 teams, with 10 players to a team, and we're going to have competitions every day. We might even take them out bowling…we also want to make it fun."

The Rockets will have a mentoring program in place for new players as well, something that Beckman experienced himself as a player. Each new recruit will be assigned to an upperclassman based on either his hometown location or position, so they'll have what Beckman referred to as his "big brother."

Coach Beckman closed the fan event at the Joe Grogan Room by reminding fans that spring practice begins March 18th, and the much-anticipated Spring Game WILL be played on Friday, April 17 at 7pm at the Glass Bowl. The practices will be closed, but the Spring Game is open to the public, and all are encouraged to attend and "get the Glass Bowl rockin'!"

This is a very energetic, very intense group of coaches with quick wits and intellect. It is apparent that they know exactly what they're after and have long-range goals. Coach Beckman said he is very happy with the way the current players have "bought in."

I asked him after the news conference about his impressions of some of the skill players that were already here and he said that they are very good. Some need to get a little stronger, and he'd like to see a little more leadership out of them, but overall he is pleased. He also said that he's been pleased with their work ethic, but that they don't know yet how hard they CAN work. Something tells me they're going to find out.

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