Looking at a Towson State football roster, one cannot help but notice the lack of seniors. Where the normal complement might be somewhere between 15 and 20, the current squad has just seven players in their final year of eligibility. Five are starters.
"We've never had just seven seniors," 19-year head coach Phil Albert said yesterday. "Over the years, our freshman recruits normally run about 22, and with attrition, we wind up with maybe 16 as seniors."
Overall, there are 24 players who were underclassmen a year ago who will not be available Saturday afternoon, when the Tigers meet Bucknell in Lewisburg, Pa.
One was an academic dismissal and one was a disciplinary case, but, except for injuries, the remainder decided their own. Eight were likely starters.
The reasons were varied, such as passing up eligibility to graduate on time, quitting because the sport wasn't fun anymore, giving up the game because further injury might lead to permanent disability. Three junior college transfers who were in school last year decided not to return. Another went into the service.
Three players -- junior fullback John O'Neill, junior defensive tackle Todd Katovsich, and junior linebacker Jared Freeze -- went down with injuries in the first quarter of the opening game. All are out for the season.
It is easy to say these players would have made a difference in the team's 0-4 start, but after all, the Tigers were 2-8 a year ago, and even an optimistic projection would not have had them above .500.
George Mohring, a linebacker from West Chester, Pa., is an example of the unusual situation.
Mohring, 6 feet 3, 197 pounds and growing, graduated from West Chester East High School in June, turned 18 in July and was in Towson State's starting lineup at Indiana University of Pa. last Saturday.
"Hernando Mejia and Randy Pittman in 1979 were probably the last true freshmen to start for us," Albert said. "I believe that indicates the soundness of our program. In our Division II years, we had continuous success while allowing our freshmen to mature.
"When [middle guard] Rodney Smith [an All-American honorable mention last year as a fifth-year senior] was redshirted, he could have played, but we had good ones ahead of him and did not need him.
"In the past, we always had players waiting to play but who were not ready. Now, we are having to play these players."