Maybe Al Davis, the late owner of the Oakland Raiders, was right about not being able to teach speed.
Towson football brought in 23 players to its recruiting class on the 2013 Signing Day, and what really stood out was the speed of this class. The video highlights shown of some of the skill players were simply dazzling.
The Tigers had a major need for speed and size at wide receiver with the losses of Tom Ryan, Gerrard Sheppard, Alex Blake and Erron Banks to graduation. The bottom line is Towson has to replace five of its top six receivers from 2012 (if you include RB Dominique Booker's 13 catches). This class had six players who could end up as wide receivers, assuming they don't change positions.
One of the most highly regarded recruits isn't necessarily the fastest on paper (4.58 in the 40). But he has great size (6-3, 190) and glides. Andre Dessenberg is a polished receiver from Virginia Beach (Ocean Lakes H.S.), who broke the Virginia Beach record for touchdown receptions held by Plaxico Burress and Percy Harvin.
"The love of my life and Coach Ambrose's," joked wide receivers coach Dassin Blackwell at Signing Day. "[He has] tremendous skills, tremendous speed, tremendous hands."
Isaiah Diaz-Mays (6-3, 185) is another big athlete who played quarterback, receiver and cornerback for Union City H.S. in Union City, N.J. Mays, who runs a 4.52 40, ran for 1,208 yards and 14 touchdown and passed for 909 yards as a senior.
"He can run and has a nice gait," said Blackwell. "He'll do some special things. Excited to have him come to Towson."
Brian Matthews (6-2, 175) is a local product from Perryville H.S. in Perryville, Md. He is another gifted athlete who won the Maryland state championship in the long jump. Like Diaz-Mays and Dessenberg, Matthews is expected to play wide receiver.
"He's intriguing and has huge upside," said quarterbacks coach Jared Ambrose. "[He has] big hands and long arms. He knows how to use the ground to create explosion. He just wanted to be here more than life itself. He's an excellent student, very teachable."
James Harrell (5-10, 160) was an all-state receiver at McDonough in Waldorf. He caught 64 passes for 1,116 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior.
"His best asset is his feet," said Jared Ambrose. "He is very polished. Runs great intermediate routes and can separate from the defender. He has huge upside and will do great things here. Tremendous punt returner."
Towson brought in size at receiver with Dessenberg, Diaz Mays and Matthews and tremendous quickness with Harrell. Then there's just flat-out speed.
Colby Grant (5-8, 180) and DeAngelo Stephenson (5-9, 170) could line up in the slot, running back, kick or punt return. At some point, they just need to be on the field.
Grant is listed as a running back from Susquehanna Township H.S. where he was named second-team all-state. He rushed for 1,439 yards with 25 touchdowns and also scored four touchdowns as a kick returner. He could start out in the slot, return kicks and eventually play running back as he physically matures.
"He came to our camps and ran a 4.33 in the 40 on our watch," said Towson running backs/recruiting coordinator Reno Ferri. "That's fast."
Stephenson was an all-state performer from Bishop England H.S. in South Carolina. He played slotback and defensive back. He rushed for 1,234 yards and scored two touchdowns and also returned two kickoffs for a touchdown.
Stephenson was one of the fastest players in South Carolina, who also ran track, finishing in the top three in the 100, 200 and 400 meters.
"Speed, speed, speed," said cornerbacks coach Derrick Johnson. "[He was] clocked as fast as 4.3 40. We recruited him as a corner. Brought him as a wide receiver. He's a physical kid. We're very fortunate to have him."
Rob Ambrose and his staff now have two Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Championship trophies and they're now starting to see the dividends pay off in recruiting.
"We have at least three guys that had Top 25 [FBS] offers," said the head coach. "When you sit in the room and the son says 'I don't want to go on any more visits. I want to play for you.' The mom picks up the phone and tells the Top 25 head coach, 'Sorry, we're not going to go on your recruiting visit next week. My son is going to Towson.'"
Ambrose mentioned on Signing Day that 11 of the recruits had FBS offers, 11 were honor roll students, six were members of the National Honor Society and 15 were team captains.
"Do you think our future is bright?" Coach Ambrose asked rhetorically. "We have kids that want a degree badly. Every kid wants to be here more than anything in the world. They wanted tovput their foot down and make history. You get enough people like that together and that's a revolution."
There are always going to be recruiting battles, and you can't win them all. In the past, Towson may have come out on the losing end when the Tigers were going up against FBS teams or their peers in FCS. Not this year.
"We won today," said Ambrose. "We won big. This is a blowout."