After an impressive three-year run of winning seasons, the Towson University football program swallowed a tough dose of humility in 2014, going 4-8 a year after finishing as runner-up for the Football Championship Subdivision national championship.
After the losing campaign in 2014, head coach Rob Ambrose's offseason has been focused on change, which began with reforming the mindset of his locker room.
"I told our guys in January that they were like a bunch of kids born on third base and thought they hit a triple," Ambrose said. "They got a crash course in what they need to do in order to be successful, not just watch successful, and I have not seen an offseason as good as this since 2011. So, yeah, lesson learned."
Towson learned another lesson during one of its first rebuilding attempts -- signing former four-star recruit and University of Miami transfer quarterback Kevin Olsen, who was dismissed by the Hurricanes in 2014 for a number of disciplinary incidents. Olsen proved to be a continued problem, and before he could even put on a helmet and take a snap in spring practices, he was dismissed from Towson for disciplinary reasons.
With that void, the quarterback position will likely come down to the three quarterbacks currently on Towson's roster -- Connor Frazier, Ellis Knudson and Heath Dahlgren -- or another transfer student.
"I feel confident in the position and how that will play this year way more than I did a year ago," Ambrose said. "For us to be a winning program that goes to the playoffs, we need better production out of that position."
If the Tigers cannot bring in a blue-chip transfer who is able to learn the playbook in less than a month, Frazier and Knudson will be the frontrunners for the starting quarterback position. Knudson, a redshirt freshman, has yet to take a live snap for the Tigers and will have an opportunity to prove himself this fall when he battles fifth-year redshirt senior Frazier, who has also played receiver for the Tigers in the past.
"I don't know [if Knudson can lead the offense]. I'm going to find out pretty soon," Ambrose said. "I know that Connor can. I know that Connor is never coming off the field. Either he's the quarterback, or he's playing somewhere else.
While the two will compete against each other, Ambrose believes having Frazier's presence on the field will help Knudson develop.
"I will have a leader on the field at all times," Ambrose said. "If I have two quarterbacks on the field and they can both play, that's a whole lot of leadership, a whole lot of experience and a whole lot of talent."
The other major transfer player in the 2015 recruiting class was former Penn State wide receiver Richy Anderson, who also had some disciplinary issues this spring after going unexcused from practice in March.
"My expectations of him are currently very low," Ambrose said. "When he's around, he shows what everybody has always said. He has the potential to be a very good football player. But he's got a long way to go, in terms of understanding responsibility -- both personal and team -- before he even gets in the arena of the word success."
But along with the disappointments so far, Ambrose looks forward to displaying his recruiting abilities with incoming transfers who break the mold -- including ex-University of Maryland running back Jacquille Veii. The former Terrapin has proven his athleticism in the run, pass and return games.
"He fills multiple roles, can play multiple spots, and that's not why he's here," Ambrose said. "Yeah, he's got skill, but there are thousands of guys with skill. I love this guy's personality. I love his drive. FBS transfer guys, a high percentage of them, walk in the door, and they think, ‘Yeah, I'm better than these guys.' He knows enough players on our roster to know we've got dudes -- we got guys who can play ball. He's not coming in here like he is somebody. He's coming in here like he has to earn something, and he's hungry to do it."
With so many new players in 2015, the only thing certain about the Tigers heading into the upcoming season is change. While Ambrose spent all offseason bringing in new members on the field, he said his biggest goal going forward is to recruit more stakeholders in the program outside of the locker room.
"I have to work to keep drawing as many team members as possible," Ambrose said. "When you see something that's as impressive as some of the teams we play in the CAA or who we see in the playoffs, you see a unified vision from the administration all the way down -- teachers, students, the janitors, donors, people who live in the community. We've had some success, and that has turned the light on for some of these people, but my job is to constantly chase them down to make this experience good for our players and a good enough experience for anybody that goes into that stadium."