Campbell not surprised by Page’s exitWritten by Zach Davis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
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When University of Toledo wide receiver Eric Page decided to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft, the Rockets lost a major weapon in next year’s race to capture the Mid-American Conference Championship.
As if newly appointed head coach Matt Campbell didn’t have enough to worry about for the 2012 season. At 32 years old, the first-year coach is already tasked with learning on the job how to lead a team while being the youngest head coach in the nation. Losing the MAC’s all-time leading receiver will make that even more difficult.
“We are really proud of Eric,” Campbell said. “What I’m proud about is that he handled this decision the right way. He researched it and evaluated it to the best of his ability. We laid out all the facts and at the end of the day he made the best decision for him and his family and we are going to support it 110 percent.”
Although Page’s decision to leave school early took many people by surprise, Campbell was not one of them. Page was told by the NFL Draft Advisory Board that he was expected to be a third to fifth round pick in the upcoming amateur draft. He is the first Rocket from any sport to leave the school early to play professionally.
“When you have great players in a program like ours it’s never a surprise,” Campbell said. “What you have to do as a program is continue to evaluate yourself and continue to bring in players just like Eric Page who can be successful.
“It’s a tribute to the program. You have a chance to come here and chase your dreams, whether it’s being a CEO of a business or being an NFL football player. We are extremely proud of Eric that he will have the opportunity to chase it.”
Page’s departure combined with the loss of senior rusher Adonis Thomas will make contention in the MAC much more difficult. The Rockets will try to replace 2,613 total yards of offense and 23 touchdowns between Page and Thomas on next year’s roster.
“We lose great players year-in and year-out,” Campbell said. “It’s funny because I remember after our first year everybody asked ‘What are you going to do after Stephen Williams and DaJuan Collins leaves?’ I think it’s a tribute to this program and the recruiting efforts of our coaches that we can continue to go out and get great players and put those players in the best situations to be successful and that’s not going to change.”
Among the receivers returning to replace Page include seniors Cordale Scott and Julian Bellinger, juniors Bernard Reedy and James Green and sophomores Cassius McDowell and Justin Olack. Replacing Page’s production of 125 catches for 1,182 yards and 10 touchdowns, however, will be difficult. In fact, Page’s total alone rivaled that of all six receivers production combined (61 catches for 1,010 yards and 12 scores).
“We know we have great players coming back and we have a great program right now,” Campbell said. “We feel like this is a proud moment to watch one of our young guys who has performed at such a high level get to chase his dream and this is a great opportunity for our young receivers to make a name for themselves.”
The leading candidate to take over the offense will be Reedy, who burst on the scene in his sophomore campaign. Reedy had 40 catches for 758 yards and nine scores in 2011 and earned MVP honors in Toledo’s 42-41 victory in the Military Bowl.
“With the success Bernard had this year and what he has done to make himself into being that caliber of player he has put himself in a great role.” Campbell said. “I’m sure he will be excited to continue on the great tradition of wide receivers that we have here at the University of Toledo.”