Towson to start practices at 5:30am during Spring football

March 27, 2013 | WNST Staff

TIGERS TO OPEN SPRING SEASON ON THURSDAY MORNING

Tigers To Conduct Early Morning Practice Sessions 

TOWSON, Md. – For the third year in a row, Coach Rob Ambrose and the Towson University will be getting an early start to their Spring Football practices. The Tigers will hold their weekday sessions at 5:30 a.m. for the next five weeks.

The Tigers will practice at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursday during the week. On Saturday, the Tigers will hold practice sessions at various times. The Tigers’ spring season will conclude with Tiger Bowl III on Saturday, April 27.

Despite the loss of 16 seniors from last year’s team, Coach Ambrose and his staff will welcome 58 returning letter winners when the Tigers open their spring practice session on Thursday, March 28 at 5:30 a.m.

Coach Ambrose and his staff have been conducting early morning practices the last two years, and the results have been noticeable.

In 2011, the Tigers were the most-improved team in FCS football as they posted a 9-3 record and won their first Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) championship. They finished the season as the ninth-ranked team in the nation and earned a berth in the FCS playoffs.

Last year, the Tigers won their last four games of the season and finished with a 7-4 record. They also earned a share of the CAA championship as they tied for the title with New Hampshire, Richmond and Villanova. However, the Tigers did not receive an at-large bid to the NCAA playoffs.

“It is a common belief in the CAA that we have one of the toughest teams in the conference and I think it all starts with our early-morning practices,” says Ambrose. “It has been said that ‘the strong steel comes from the hottest fire’ and that’s part of what we are doing.

“The things that we are doing before many people eat breakfast help to make us who we are now,” he adds. “We also feel that this schedule is tremendous from the ‘student’ aspect. Our players are done with their football obligations by 10 a.m. every day and that leaves them the rest of the day to be regular students.”

Despite some significant losses to graduation, Coach Ambrose has high hopes for the Tigers. The Tigers return all five starters on the offensive line and All-American running back Terrance West (Northwestern H.S./Baltimore, Md.). On defense, the Tigers have all three starting linebackers returning in addition to a pair of All-CAA cornerbacks.

“We are looking forward to a very productive spring,” says Ambrose. “Everybody has a bad taste in their mouth after the way last season ended. Although we were hoping for an at-large berth to the playoffs, we were disappointed that we didn’t take care of business when we had the opportunity.

“Winning a CAA championship is extremely difficult,” he adds. “Winning back-to-back championships is darn near impossible. We have had a 13-3 record in the CAA the last two years, but there has been zero conversation in the locker room about what we’ve done. This team is focused on what we need to get it done again.”

According to Ambrose, the Tigers have several needs to address.

“We need to find our quarterback and figure out who our wide receivers will be,” he said. “Defensive line is also an area where we have to figure out who will play. We lost three starters on the defensive line.

“But, we are not concerned,” he adds. “We have quality players in all of these areas, but we need people to step up and claim the positions.”

Senior Peter Athens (Huntingtown H.S./Huntingtown, Md.), junior Joe Brennan (Camden Catholic H.S./Audubon, N.J.) and sophomore Connor Frazier (Damascus H.S./Gaithersburg, Md.) are the top candidates for the starting position at quarterback. Athens has started seven games in his career while Brennan is a transfer from the University of Wisconsin. Frazier appeared in three games as a back-up last year.

Sophomore Price Litton (Providence Day School/Matthews, N.C.) and red-shirt freshman Ryan Egolf (Bishop Shanahan H.S./Phoenixville, Pa.) will also receive a long look.

The quarterback who emerges as the Tigers’ starter will have the luxury of working behind a talented and experienced offensive line. The Tigers could have a veteran senior starting at all five positions.

Seniors Eric Pike (DuVal H.S./Landover, Md.) and Randall Harris (DuVal H.S./Lanham, Md.) return as the two tackles.  Pike and Harris were each named All-CAA first team selections as juniors. Pike is the more experienced of the two tackles and he has started all 34 games of his career.

Senior Doug Shaw (Loyola Blakefield H.S./Woodbine, Md.) returns at offensive center. A third-year starter, he was named second-team All-CAA last season. Seniors Anthony Davis (Clover Hill H.S./Richmond, Va.) and Charles Johnson (Poly H.S./Baltimore, Md.) could be the team’s starting guards. However, they will be pressured by some talented young linemen who will be trying to impress the coaching staff this spring.

For the last two years, the Tigers have had one of the top running games in FCS football, averaging 229.0 yards per game. With the return of West, that shouldn’t change. In two seasons, West has run for 2,376 yards in 21 games and has scored an amazing total of 43 rushing touchdowns. Senior Sterling Phifer (Landstown H.S./Virginia Beach, Va.) and junior Trea Jones (Wake Forest Rolesville H.S./Wake Forest, N.C.) will back him up.

Linebackers Monte Gaddis (Central Catholic H.S./Cleveland, Ohio), Telvion Clark (Granby H.S./Norfolk, Va.) and Bryton Barr (Mechanicsburg Area H.S./Camp Hill, Pa.) return as the heart of a defense that was top-ranked in the CAA last year.

Gaddis earned second-team All-CAA honors last season after making 74 tackles in 10 games. He ranked among the CAA leaders with 12 tackles for lost yardage and five sacks. A transfer from Virginia Tech, Clark made 49 tackles and recovered a fumble. As a first-year freshman, Barr made an immediate impact. A starter in 11 games, he had 74 tackles with two sacks. He also led the team with two fumble recoveries.

Senior Jordan Love (Deep Run H.S./Glen Allen, Va.) and junior Tye Smith (Wakefield H.S./Raleigh, N.C.) return at the cornerback positions. A transfer from Georgia, Love had 35 tackles and intercepted two passes. He was named second team All-CAA. A two-year starter at cornerback, Smith was a third team All-CAA selection. He led the Tigers with 75 tackles and had two forced fumbles.

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