by Malik Vincent
For New Pittsburgh Courier
The four hour radius in between Pittsburgh and Northern, Ohio is what Toledo’s offensive coordinator Jason Candle described as one of their favorite areas to recruit.
“We call it Rocket Nation,” he said.
|TWO WAY STAR—Jaylen Coleman holds the 2011 City League Championship Trophy. Coleman rushed for 180 yards including a 91 yard touchdown run to lead USO to a 14-0 win over Allderdice. (Courier Photo/William McBride/File)
He’s been in charge of recruiting players in the Pittsburgh area, according to the University’s media relations department.
Toledo plays in the Mid-American conference, which has produced Steelers pro-bowlers such as Ben Roethlisberger (Miami, Ohio), James Harrison (Kent State), and Antonio Brown (Central Michigan).
USO (University Prep, Sci-Tech, and Obama) senior Jaylen Coleman is one of the most recent of those to sign a National Letter of Intent with the Toledo program.
He, along with five others in western Pennsylvania, will put on the Toledo blue and gold.
“It will be cool to play with these guys that I’ve become close friends with over the years,” Coleman said. “They are all great players and all very deserving of the opportunity that we’re going to get to experience together.”
Coleman was the city’s leading rusher and was toward the top in tackles as a two-way player for USO as a senior. He expects to line up at inside linebacker for the Rockets in 2012.
“We expect both Jaylen and some of our other freshman to step right in and contribute for us this season,” Candle said.
Another of those players in this year’s class who, according to Candle, is expected to contribute is Central Catholic running back Damion Jones-Moore, who was a four-year starter for the Vikings.
His preparation for the opportunity, like Coleman’s, includes an extensive conditioning regimen that includes football-related workouts. Both are also members of their school’s track and field teams, where they participate in the 100-meter dash event and the 4X100 meter relay.
“My football coach is also my track coach,” Coleman said about Lou Berry of USO “But, this time around he pushes me a little harder because he’s excited about me performing on the next level.”
This isn’t the first time the program has taken interest in this region, or the City League. Their starting safety, Jermaine Robinson was a quarterback at Brashear when he was recruited by the Rockets.
He acknowledged that his transition wasn’t easy and that it was a great choice to sign with Toledo.
“It’s played out very well for me so far,” Robinson said. “It gives me enough exposure to the next level and an opportunity for me to prove that I can do that.”
Robinson, now a senior, played a year of prep at Milford Academy before enrolling at Toledo.
He finished fifth on the team with 55 tackles to go along with three interceptions, last season. His 37-yard ‘pick-six’ was instrumental in beating the Air Force academy in their 42-41 victory in the Military Bowl.
“I like the pressure that being a starter on the Division-I level,” Robinson mentioned. “I think it’s something that the recruits will really enjoy about playing the college game. It’s definitely something you must be dedicated to. But, what you’re able to take with you makes it so worth it.”
Former area-recruits such as Tyrrell Herbert and Barry Church can attest to the truth of that statement.
Herbert, of Penn Hills, played four seasons for Toledo and was one of the first members to be signed to the AFL’s Pittsburgh Power.
Church, also a Penn Hills grad, was the first Rocket to appear on the MAC First-team All-conference roster, four years straight. He is a current member of the Dallas Cowboys, where he was signed as a rookie free agent in 2010.
Neither were reachable for comment.
“I chose Toledo for it’s value of academics and how they take an interest in you as a man,” said Jones-Moore, who consistently topped the WPIAL rushing charts over his four years at Central. “They want us to be leaders in our communities and great fathers. They’re not just trying to win. They want to builds relationships.”
(Malik Vincent can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @malikvincent.)