Towson State gets boost from Big Ten Purdue transfer aids running game

September 10, 1992|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

It was Towson State's good fortune that Harry Van Arsdale happened to be at Denbigh High in Newport News, Va., that spring day in 1991.

Then a Towson State assistant coach, Van Arsdale was visiting Denbigh coach Bob Schmidt to recruit one of his defensive backs.

"By the way," Schmidt said, "Tony Vinson wants to leave Purdue."

Van Arsdale's ears perked up. A few years before, when he wascoaching at Richmond, Van Arsdale had recruited Vinson, then a Denbigh senior, but the running back chose Purdue.

Vinson started 16 games in two years and was the leading rusher with 198 yards as a sophomore on a Big Ten team that finished 2-9, but he was not content with his role. He was as much receiver as rusher.

"It was a run-and-shoot offense with a lot of passing," Vinson says now. "The pass opened up the run. We had five different running backs and receivers running a lot of reverses. No one guy ran that much."

Clearly, Van Arsdale was in the right place at the right time. Vinson also considered Virginia, Howard, Virginia Tech, Arizona and Maryland, but chose Towson State.

Van Arsdale has since left Towson State. Vinson is his legacy.

"He's a blessing," said Gordy Combs, in his first year as Towson's head coach after 19 years as an assistant. "Purdue's track coach said he'd give him a scholarship if he'd stay. Tony's that good an athlete."

After sitting out last season as a transfer, Vinson will start at runningback ahead of returnee Brian McCartywhen Towson opens its season Saturday at Rhode Island. The Tigers lost by 20 to Rhode Island last year en route to a 1-10 season.

Combs saw little of Vinson last fall, because the coaches thought it senseless to "let him get beat up by playing him on the scout team." It was at a track meet with Morgan State and Coppin last January that Combs began to think he had something special.

In fast company that day, Vinson won the 60-meter --. On another occasion, he broke the school indoor record in the 200-meter -- with a 22.92 clocking. In spring practice, he was most impressive.

"We would have been good at tailback without him," Combs said. "With him, we add another dimension to our offense. We'll give him the ball 20 to 25 times a game, either handing off or throwing to him."

Because he wasn't a running back in high school until his senior year, and was used as a receiver as well as a back at Purdue,

Vinson looks at his Towson experience as a chance to develop at tailback.

"Being from the East Coast, Purdue was a culture shock for me," Vinson said. "Towson is smaller, which I like. It's a credible institution.

"Plus, I wanted to carry the ball more. Here, it'll still be against quality competition."

When he arrived at Towson from the Big Ten, Vinson didn't bring a big-time complex with him, much to Combs' relief.

"He has blended in nicely," Combs said. "He never says, 'This is the way we did it at Purdue.' He's just pleased to be here. We're very pleased."

Inevitably, people will compare Vinson to David Meggett, the whippet who transferred from Morgan State to Towson State, and is in his fifth year with the New York Giants. At 6 feet 2, 214 pounds, Vinson is considerably bigger than 5-7, 180-pound Meggett.

"Tony has a bigger body to hit than David," Combs said. "He has the ability to wear people down with his size, especially in the third and fourth quarter."

Combs can hardly wait to witness that.

Towson State at a glance

Last year's record: 1-10.

Affiliation: Independent, Division I-AA

Top returning players: Dan Crowley, Soph., QB; John Loch, Jr., OT; Greg Lohr, Sr., OG; Karl Nieberlein, Jr., OT; Kevin Howard, Sr., WR; Joe Kreisher, Sr., LB; Mike Arbutina, Soph., LB; Aaron Bates, Jr., FS; Julian Blair, Sr., CB; Mike Curcio, Jr., DT; Doug Irvin, Sr., DT.

Top newcomers: Tony Vinson, Jr., RB (transfer from Purdue); Jon Robb, Jr., CB (transfer from Montgomery-Rockville); Ron Stanavitch, Jr., DE (transfer from Nassau CC); Alex Vodapija, Jr., P (transfer from Nassau CC).

Strengths: Crowley has a year under his belt, a fine target in Howard and a big, experienced line in front of him. The transfers will make an immediate impact, and the Tigers are stressing a fresh start under Gordy Combs.

Weaknesses: There will be at least six first-year starters on defense, a severe sore spot last year. The Tigers haven't proven they can win at the Division I-AA level, and this is probably the toughest schedule they've ever faced.

Strongest opponent: The Tigers finish Nov. 21 at Delaware, which is seeking a return to the NCAA playoffs.

Key game: Combs said the entire program has been pointing to Saturday's opener at Rhode Island for six months.

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