The last piece of the Class of 2009 recruiting puzzle was completed late last week when Hawaii receiver Roby Toma decided to fax in his letter of intent to Notre Dame rather than UCLA. A teammate and long-time friend of linebacker Manti Te'o, Toma had mentioned he would consider following his buddy to college if possible.
Back in September, when Te'o had cut his list of nearly three dozen offers to five, Toma said in an interview with the Star-Bulletin that he'd probably follow his buddy anywhere. If Te'o chose BYU, Toma said he'd probably find a way there, even though Toma is not a Mormon.But he didn't sign and instead took an extra two days to figure out what he wanted to do before officially becoming the 18th and final member of the recruiting class of 2009. According to him, Notre Dame offered him about a month ago, looking at him as a speedy slot receiver. At that point slot WR Nyshier Oliver was still committed to ND, but shortly thereafter switched his commitment back to Tennessee. ND then pursued former UT commit Damien Thigpen, who committed to UCLA. That left ND still looking for a slot receiver as the Bruins added another player at Toma's position. (hence the recruiting as soap opera theme I usually reference)
"I didn't really talk to Manti," Toma said of the last two days. "Even on signing day, he thought I signed with UCLA."
After going back and forth and weighing another last minute offer from Hawaii, Toma decided to commit to the school he's never visited before. He had spent time with Charlie Weis and Polian before on their trips out to visit Manti, but hasn't been to South Bend yet. At least he was born in Ohio and has seen snow before.
At 5'9" 160 pounds, Toma will certainly have to add a bit of strength before seeing too much time on the field. His relative lack of size is probably one of the reasons he was lightly recruited. His only other offer other than ND and UCLA was from Army and the recruiting sites all had him as a 3-star level prospect. Scout also listed him as the 103rd ranked WR while ESPN dug even deeper and slotted him as the 197th best WR in the country.
Despite his size and the low rankings from the recruiting sites, he was still named 1st Team All-State player his junior and senior year as well as being named Honolulu Advertiser Co-Offensive Player of the Year in 2008. He participated in the Hawaii vs. Mainland All-Star game that featured a number of other Irish recruits, scoring the only TD for the Hawaii team, and was a late addition to the Under Armour All-American game on ESPN. He earned a bit of recognition during the game weekend when he won the Hands Competition portion of the Skills Competition. Check picture 6 at this link to see him navigating the obstacle course during the competition.
Here's a collection of his senior year highlights. I'm also going to link his junior year highlights, solely because I've never seen football highlights set to (an extreme wailing guitar version of) Pachabel's Canon in D.
ND has some room scholarship-wise and did need a quicker slot receiver in this class so while Toma probabaly wasn't at the top of the wishlist, he does fit a need. His size will work against him, but he certainly appears to be a quick and shifty receiver with good hands. If he can continue to run precise routes and catch whatever is thrown his way he'll eventually work his way onto the field. There is also the fact that at the Under Armour All-American game he worked as a holder on field goals. Given his hands, it just might be that he will make his first impact on special teams.