TOWSON, Md. - Coach Rob Ambrose and the Towson University football staff will welcome 46 letter winners, 14 "red shirt" freshmen, more than two dozen first-year freshmen and a handful of transfer students when the Tigers report for pre-season training camp on Sunday, August 8.
Starting his third year as the Tigers' head coach, Ambrose will run his team through their first official practice session on the afternoon of Monday, Aug. 8. Over the next three weeks, the Tigers will conduct 20 pre-season practice sessions before starting preparation for the season opener against Morgan State.
During the pre-season practice period, the Tigers are tentatively scheduled to have two scrimmages. They will have four days in which they practice twice.
The Tigers' pre-season practice sessions are not open to the public.
The Tigers enter their pre-season camp with the most experienced team that Ambrose has had in his three years at Towson. Among the 46 returning letter winners, there are eight returning starters on offense and eight returning starters on defense. However, just because a player is a returning starter, it doesn't guarantee that he will start again this season.
"We have a number of players who have been very anxious to get started with pre-season camp," says Ambrose. "These guys love to play football and they love to get better. They know that we are an improved football team and they want to start winning.
"Over the last two years, we haven't talked about winning very much," he adds. "We have been building team chemistry and competing and working hard. We promised that we would always play hard and we have.
"Now, we are a program and a family," he remarks. "It's time to start winning some games."
Despite the loss of defensive tackle Yaky Ibia, an All-Colonial Athletic Association performer last year, the Tigers' defensive line should be a strong point of the team. Senior co-captain Marcus Valentine returns as a third-year starter at defensive tackle while junior Frank Beltre is back at defensive end. A pre-season All-CAA selection, Beltre made 85 tackles last season and ranked second in the CAA among defensive linemen in tackles. Junior Matt Morgan (right) started all 11 games at defensive end last year. He had 27 tackles and led the team with four sacks.
The return of junior Danzel White has enhanced the Tigers' linebacking corps. White, who didn't play last season, led the Tigers with 105 tackles in 2009. He made 105 tackles in ten games because he missed the season finale with a knee injury. Senior Chris Patterson and sophomore Kyle Polk were regular starters at linebacker last season.
In the secondary, seniors Jordan Dangerfield and Nick Oates return at the safety positions. Dangerfield led the Tigers with 96 tackles in 2010. He also broke up five passes. Oates, who has battled injuries all during his career, made 30 tackles last season and intercepted a pass.
The Tigers do face a formidable task on defense as they seek to replace Jeremy Gardner and Ollie Thomas, a pair of four-year starters at cornerback. Senior Justin Harris, a converted wide receiver, has the inside track on one of the starting spots. He was moved to defense after the injury to Thomas last year.
On offense, the goal is quite simple for Ambrose. He says, "We need to get consistent, mistake-free play from our quarterback. That has been a problem for us the last two seasons."
On the positive side, the Tigers have an experienced offensive line, led by seniors Henry Glackin and John Esposito. Glackin, a 6-4, 280-pound tackle, is one of the Tiger co-captains and he is a three-year starter at right tackle. A 6-6, 305-pound guard, Esposito started all 11 games at right guard last year and has emerged as an outstanding offensive lineman.
Sophomore Eric Pike had an excellent 2010 season as the Tigers' left tackle. Pike, a 6-5, 280-pound lineman, started all 11 games and did very well. He will be one of the Tiger co-captains this season.
Due to a mid-season injury to offensive center Steve Jordan, Doug Shaw was forced in to start the final six games. The 6-1, 265-pound sophomore gained a significant amount of experience and that should benefit the Tigers this season. Another sophomore, Anthony Davis was fortunate to earn playing time at right guard last year. When Dan Hurley was injured, the 6-3, 300-pound Davis stepped into his starting role.
Juniors Alex Blake, Erron Banks and Tom Ryan return to lead the Tigers' wide receiving corps. Blake caught 17 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns last season while Banks led the team with 40 catches for 334 yards. Despite missing four games with an ankle injury, Ryan had 26 receptions for 245 yards and two touchdowns. Although those three have caught most of the passes the last two years, they are going to be pushed by a talented group of young receivers.
Junior tailback Tremayne Dameron has carried most of the offensive load the last two seasons. Dameron has 305 carries in two seasons and he has gained 1,065 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. His workload should be lightened this season because the Tigers have depth at tailback. Junior Dominique Booker and sophomore Nygee Carmichael figure to see more playing time, along with freshman Terrence West, who was very impressive in the Spring. The Tigers' running game will be enhanced by sophomores Sterlin Phifer and Trea Jones, a pair of transfer students. Phifer transferred to Towson from Boston College while Jones came from Colorado.
Junior Brian Potts and sophomore Peter Athens enter the pre-season as the Tigers' most experienced quarterbacks. One of the team co-captains, Potts has made impressive improvement during his career. Athens missed the entire 2010 season due to knee surgery but he started six games as a first-year freshman in 2009. He passed for nearly 700 yards and six touchdowns.
The Tigers open their season on Saturday, Sept. 3 against Morgan State at 7:00 p.m.
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