With White, Tigers look to catch a break in 2002

Receiver: Star Jamal White returns from injury, good news for an offense that was lacking last year.

August 30, 2002|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

For all the Towson University football players, the fall of 2001 was a rather difficult experience.

The squad was devastated by injuries, the quarterback situation was unsettled, the offensive coordinator was new and the team's only two victories before the season finale came in overtime.

And nobody suffered through more trying times than wide receiver Jamal White, an All-American two years earlier but a non-participant this time after breaking a finger in preseason practice and sitting out all autumn.

"One of the toughest things was coming in with the guys and then not being able to do anything about the way the season went wasted. I didn't know what to do with myself, and it reflected in everything I did," White said. "We had big expectations, and it was tough watching it all go down."

The upside of having to play eight sophomore and freshman starters at times is that they are now seasoned players more prepared to take on Patriot League foes.

"That was a good thing, that the younger people learned," White said. "Things might not have gone well, but we should go up now."

The return of White - who caught a school-record 82 passes in 1999 -supplies a booster to a Tigers offense that simply couldn't produce enough points. With Brandon White and Jason Galloway also back at wide-out, and tailbacks Matt Romeo and Mikal Lundy also threats at receiver, quarterback Jay Amer now has a host of targets.

"Now, if somebody bunches up on Jamal, we can make somebody else the focal point," coach Gordy Combs said. "And we're as deep at tailback as we've been in the 30 years I've been here."

With that combination and an offensive line on which every member has started at least twice, Towson has the potential to be a scoring machine.

Provided the Tigers can avoid the slew of injuries that undermined them, the forecast looks promising for a return to the likes of their back-to-back 7-4 records of 1999-2000.

White says the installation of Amer as the man at quarterback is another plus. "I think it definitely helps him with confidence," he said. "Last season, with every mistake they made, they wondered if they were going to get pulled."

White was the team receiving leader two straight years, but his numbers fell off in 2000, primarily because the team accented the running game more freely. Still, he caught 49 passes.

"Everything is back intact now," he said. "As long as we have all our weapons in the game, we'll be all right. All I want to do is stay focused and not put too much pressure on myself, stay humble, because we have other options. For me, I have to get the cobwebs out first."

White said he wound up at Towson out of Triton Regional (N.J.) High sort of by default "because I kind of had the big head in high school and just sat around waiting for everybody [recruiters] to call. I love basketball, and I was concentrating on that. I just ended up here."

With an upgraded stadium as a spur, the Tigers will play this year with their supporters on their side of the field. "It'll be nice to have our fans behind us," Amer said.

They will need all the backing they can muster for three consecutive weeks when their Patriot League fate probably will be determined. Conference powers Lehigh, Bucknell and Colgate visit in succession starting Oct. 12.

"They're coming to our house, where we don't want anybody to beat us," Amer said. "It's tough playing those three in a row, but if we win all our home games, we're probably going to have a ring on our finger."

"Holy Cross and Fordham are tough, too," White said. "But if we win those three games against what are always the top teams in the league, we're going to be in awfully good shape for the Patriot League title."

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