2 pointsThe 2019 season wasn't a complete failure when it comes to the overall record of 7-5 and 4-4 in the CAA. But Towson did not accomplish their main goal and that was to earn a shot at the playoffs with senior quarterback Tom Flacco. The mobile dual-threat quarterback who transferred from Rutgers in 2018 ran for 324 yards with two TDs and pass for 2,831 yards with 22 TDs and just six picks. But ultimately Flacco wasn't able to get the Tigers back into the playoffs after getting them there in 2018. His low rushing total (he had 742yds in 2018) may have had something to do with some lower-body injuries he was dealing with. Towson also lost five starters for the year either in training camp or early in the season with ACL injuries. That included their jack-of-all-trades RB Shane Simpson, top ILB Ricky DeBerry, projected right tackle Darian Bryant, starting S Jamal Gay and DT Ron Johnson, who played just three games before blowing out his knee against Villanova. To make matters worse, WR Jabari Allen, who has star potential, played in just three games due to knee issues. As a sophomore, Allen caught 53 passes for 751 yards and eight TDs. Towson also lost top corner Brandon Shuman (five games) to a lower-body injury. The defense allowed 23.5 points per game, 4.2 yards per carry, 155.5 yards rushing per game, 230 passing yards and 7.59 per attempt. The offense averaged 30.2 points per game to rank fourth in the CAA, so despite losing Simpson and Allen for most of the season, the offense was productive for the most part. The offense has had to carry the team for the most part in the Rob Ambrose era, could this year be any different? The biggest problem aside from losing Shuman for half the season was the lack of pass rush. The Tigers produced just 22 sacks and Flacco was sacked 37 times. Safety Coby Tippett tied for the lead in sacks with inside linebacker Christian Dixon with 4.5 sacks. OLB Malik Tyne recorded two sacks, while South Carolina transfer DE Jesus Gibbs added two sacks in nine games. Gibbs was one of several transfers up front, who was hampered by lingering injuries. But the bottom line was that because Shuman was out, Towson couldn't blitz very often. The lack of depth on both sides of the ball was evident, though some players did step up for the injured players. One of those players was Dixon, who replaced DeBerry. The others, who will return, are WRs Caleb Smith (35 catches for 570 yds, 1 TD) and Darian Street (33 rep for 455 yds, 4 TDs). Ultimately, when Towson had a chance to beat Elon and potentially earn a playoff spot on Nov. 23, they fell 25-23. The lack of those five ACLs, along with Shuman, Allen, and Caleb Smith was too daunting a task for the Tigers to overcome. Flacco struggled, throwing two picks and was sacked twice. He threw for 214 yards and ran for -11. Season over. Talk about a long offseason. Towson has had to wait nearly two years to play their first game since the two-point loss to Elon. When you look at the problems of the 2019 team, aside from the injuries, they struggled to generate a consistent pass rush, they lacked explosion and big plays on offense, and the offensive line wasn't as consistent when it came to pass blocking. You can't blame all 37 sacks on the line, since Flacco tended to hold the ball and would take off looking for that explosive play. His longest run was 43 yards and he averaged just 2.9 yards per carry. Yeedee Thaenrat led the team with 746 yards (5.9ypc) and 14 TDs, while Adrian Platt added 480 yards (4.7ypc) and a score. Fast forward to 2021 where the offense will return the same offensive line with senior left tackle Andrew Garnett (6-5, 325), senior left guard Aaron Grzymkowski (6-3, 305), junior center Cole Cheripko (6-4, 310) and right tackle DeMarcus Gilmore (6-4, 350). Bryant (6-6, 330) could end up starting at right tackle and Gilmore would move inside to right guard. Another option is Alex Desire (6-4, 320) a redshirt sophomore who started three games and appeared in all 11. Senior Brendan Cassells (6-3, 300) started seven games in 2019 and play either center or guard. The depth is very strong at guard. As far as tackle, they can move Bryant and Gilmore around, junior Roman Warheit (6-6, 330) has played tight end in short-yardage situations and could play some tackle. The team is very high on huge redshirt freshmen Jean Germain (6-6, 350) and Ricky Santiago Espinal (6-6, 350). At running back, Thaenrat, Platt, and Simpson are all gone. Kobe Young (6-0, 210), a redshirt junior, is the only returner with extensive experience. He ran for 455 yards with three TDs and caught 10 passes in 2018. In 2019, he appeared in just three games due to injury. The key addition is Georgia Tech transfer Jerry Howard (6-0, 225). He adds experience and size to the position. Howard rush for 564 yards and five TDs with the Yellow Jackets in 2018. He had just 29 touches in 2019 with a new coaching regime, yet still averaged 6.7 yards per touch. He moved to linebacker in 2020 and then back to running back but saw very little action. Head coach Rob Ambrose recruited Howard out of high school in South Carolina, understandable, he chose the Power 5 school. Freshman Sabias Folley (5-11, 240) adds size off the bench, but is very raw and is more likely part of the future than the present. Another freshman Devin Matthews (5-9, 210) has been a pleasant surprise in summer camp, though he did have a strong spring. Maine transfer Curtis Murray (5-9, 205) just arrived in camp and is probably a bit behind but showed some promise in the few games he played at Maine. At wide receiver, Shane Leatherbury is the only loss and he's a big one. The 5-9 speedster caught 52 passes for 667 yards with 12 TDs in 2019. Smith, Allen and Street are key cogs who have a lot of experience as does senior Ryan Rutkowski. Sophomore Daniel Thompson (6-3, 205) is also back after catching 17 passes for 212 yards and was also hampered by injuries. Thompson presents an outstanding blocker along with a very strong presence in the middle off the field. Sophomore D'Ago Hunter (5-6, 180) should be more than just a kick returner this season. In camp, Hunter was lining up at receiver and running back. Sophomore Matthew Akuchie (6-3, 205), an FAU transfer, could be a wild card with his length and speed. He's very much like a younger Jabari Allen, who could use a few more pounds as he develops next season. The Tigers also lost tight end Chris Clark (18 catches for 216yds), a big and talented receiving target who wasn't always reliable when it came to being on the field. They bring back second tight end Jason Epps (6-3, 240), a grad student who is an excellent blocker. Another grad student, Marcus Joyner (6-2, 245), comes from ODU, where he started in seven games in 2019. He caught 14 passes for 146 yards and is also known for his blocking. Robert Schwob (6-7, 240), a Maryland transfer, adds size and athleticism. The future appears to be strong as freshman Griffin Patterson (6-5, 230), whose father Sean played in the nineties, may end up playing a little in his first season. Sophomore fullback/tight end Luke Hamilton (6-0, 245) will also see time in running situations. At quarterback, Chris Ferguson (6-3, 235) started once for Liberty last season and tallied 197 yards with four TDs. He started his career at Maine, where he produced 6,091 yards with 46 passing TDs in 28 games. He helped Maine win the 2018 CAA title and take them to an FCS semifinal berth. He struggled in 2019 with injuries and had his worst game against Towson, throwing four interceptions. If Ferguson doesn't win the job, redshirt sophomore Jeff Miller (6-6, 235) has a little experience playing behind Flacco. Vincent Amendola (6-3, 215) a redshirt freshman transfer from North Carolina, provides a little more athletic ability and a dual-threat quarterback and has also played some in mop-up duty. The defense returns several key players in Dixon, Gibbs, Shuman, Gay and Sam Gyeni. But it's the transfers who should make the immediate impact. Up front, grad student Mason Cholewa (6-7, 310) adds size and some experience at James Madison in the spring and at UCF. He had 11 tackles and a sack in eight games, while playing defensive tackle in a 4-3. In Towson's 3-4 defense, Cholewa could play nose guard and defensive end. If Gyeni (6-0, 280) starts at nose guard, Cholewa could play end and Gibbs may play the other end. But fortunately, Towson has other options. Grad Student Tramar Reece (6-4, 275) million comes from Indiana University where he played sparingly. Reece was a three-star defensive end coming out of Clearwater, Florida. Sophomore Oly Okombi (6-1, 275) can be the x-factor. He can play everywhere on the line. The Kent State transfer and Silver Spring native played in four games in 2020, recording eight tackles with 2.5 TFLs and a sack. Redshirt sophomore Bryce Lauer (6-3, 280) is another big body up front, who had 22 tackles and 2 TFLs. Senior Marcus Bowman (6-1, 260) is also back after playing some in 2019, recording five tackles in 10 games. At rush end or outside linebacker, Lambert and Tyne graduated and the Tigers picked up Elorm Lumor (6-3, 245), who played at Rutgers for three years. In 44 games, Lumor amassed 107 tackles, 9.5 sacks and 15 TFLs playing some inside linebacker but mainly defensive end. Dixon (86 tackles) return at inside linebacker, but they needed to replace Robert Heyward (88 tackles, 2 sacks). So TU added Darien Reynolds (6-0, 225), a grad transfer from Gardner-Webb, who was named All-Big South second team in 2019 and 2018. Reynolds had 225 tackles, 13 pass deflections, and nine TFLs overall. Sophomore Ryan Kearney (6-1, 235) could also see some time at inside linebacker. The Tigers play a 3-4, but they could be playing more of a 3-3-5 against the pass, using safety/linebacker Keyvone Bruton (5-11, 215) is a transfer from Temple, who is a grad student. He played in 24 games mainly playing special teams and some safety. The former three-star recruit arrives from Virginia. He'll remind some people of a slightly bigger Jordan Dangerfield, who can cover a bit better. At the other outside linebacker spot, Ball State transfer Michael Robinson (6-0, 225), sophomore Stefan Hackshaw (6-3, 240) and junior Nygil Johnson (6-3, 230) are all in the mix. At safety, Jamal Gay (6-1, 205) returns as a redshirt sophomore who started in 2018 as a true freshman and recorded 36 tackles. SJ Brown (5-11, 20) is the likely starter at free safety. He averaged 7.2 tackles per game in 2019 to tie for 13th in the CAA, adding two picks, a forced fumble and three passes broken up. Robert Topps (6-3, 210) could also see time at safety. Now for the final position on defense, at cornerback Shuman will be joined by either Charles Peoples (6-0, 180), a junior from Reedley College or Grad student Mark Collins Jr. (5-11, 190). Collins certainly has the pedigree, having played at South Dakota for 27 games and tallying 25 pass breakups. In 2018, he led the nation with two passes defensed per game. His father Mark Sr. played 13 years in the NFL with the New York Giants. The Tigers also have other options including Penn State transfer Makai Self (5-9, 170), million D.J. Pratt (6-3, 185) and two experienced veterans in Jirhe Love (6-0, 190) and Robert Javier (6-1, 195). The punting game is led by Shane McDonough, who averaged 43.9 yards per punt and had 17 touchbacks on kickoffs in 2019. The placekicker is still up in the air. Junior Clayton Harris has the most experience. He made 11 of 17 field goals at UConn from 2018-19. Freshman Keegan Vaughn seems to have the edge in the middle of camp.