Doing Patriotic duty has Towson's Combs smiling

On Colleges

February 17, 1997|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Towson State football coach Gordy Combs said he hadn't done much smiling during the past two off-seasons, as he coped with the various frustrations and limitations that came from playing in the ECAC-Intercollegiate Football Conference.

These days, he's grinning from ear to ear just thinking of what lies ahead.

The Tigers are about seven weeks away from starting spring practice as they inch toward their first season in the Patriot League and games against higher-profile opponents such as Holy Cross, Pennsylvania and Columbia. And by the end of this month, Combs said he should be releasing the names of recruits who have committed to his program.

Towson returns 10 starters on defense and nine on offense, plus its punter and kicker, so there aren't many holes to fill. Both starting receivers are gone, but former McDonogh standout Dennis Badham transferred from Troy State.

Combs described the act of recruiting in the nonscholarship Patriot League as a three-spoke process. "No. 1, they have to have some type of a financial-aid need. No. 2, they have to fit under the league's academic index. And No. 3, they have to be able to play at this level," he said.

"Hopefully, we'll have in the area of 15 to 18 recruits to name in a couple of weeks, and we'll probably get another 10 after that. The process is really speeded up compared to the last couple of years. Before, we were still recruiting in April and parts of May. Hopefully, we'll have 90 percent done by March 1st -- maybe 95."

Combs also will have six full-time assistants in place, compared to one last year -- the most allowed by ECAC rules.

No longer stumped for speed

When Morgan State football coach Stump Mitchell hit the recruiting trail, he had a need for speed -- especially at cornerback and in the offensive backfield. And as the signatures on letters of intent rolled in last week, Mitchell knew his efforts hadn't been wasted.

"Speed is one thing you can't coach," he said. "You can try to improve on the speed they have, but when you spend all your time trying to get guys who run 4.8s down to 4.6, it's difficult."

Looking at the 18 players who signed last week, including the only Marylander, defensive back Fernando Coleman of Suitland, Mitchell said: "The guys I have, I feel pretty good about. Unfortunately, we were not able to get some of those guys who went over to the University of Maryland to even make a visit here.

"Recruiting in this state, for me personally, has been a little frustrating. Some of the guys gave me the statement that, 'You don't have to call me. I'll call you if I can't find anyplace else to go.' That's pretty harsh. Some guys are paying too much attention to their press clippings. They're just high school players; they're not the best in the world.

"But we were able to go out, pretty much all across the country, to find some players who we feel will come in and make a big impact in this program, and some may end up in the same league as the guys who elected to go over to Maryland."

Mitchell lost a valuable member of his staff last week when Andre Waters was named secondary coach at South Florida. Waters, a native of Belle Glade, Fla., wanted to move closer to home.

More trouble for Tigers

The Towson State men's basketball team has two regular-season games remaining before going into the America East tournament at Delaware as the bottom seed. Sixteen of the Tigers' final 17 games are against teams in their league, the exception being tomorrow's visit to West Virginia.

Why a late-season game against the Mountaineers, ranked in the top 10 nationally in scoring?

"I thought we might be playing pretty well," Towson State coach Terry Truax said last week. "I always like to play a tough team right before the tournament, kind of get a humbling experience. But we've already had 15 of those."

Two more followed, increasing the loss total to 17.

The Tigers won't sneak up on the Mountaineers. Two seasons ago, they rallied from 17 down to upset West Virginia on a 30-footer by Ralph Blalock at the buzzer.

"I think they'll remember that," Truax said.

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