TOLEDO (SUR: 7-5; PSR: 8-4)…Toledo HC Matt Campbell likes his team. “In my six years at the University of Toledo, this is the most complete football team we’ve had,” says Campbell. The Rockets are certainly experienced, as 35 of last season’s 44-man 2-deep return, and that group will be supplemented by a few key transfers. The offensive line is as good as any in the MAC, with 5 seniors starting, led by G Greg Mancz, an all-MAC pick who has 38 starts under his belt. LT Josh Hendershot and G Jeff Meyers enter their third seasons as starters. That unit was responsible for generating 6.0 ypc on the ground, holding foes to just 6 sacks last season, and is a major reason the conference media picked the Rockets to win the MAC West.
The running game should again be extremely effective despite losing all-conference David Fluellen. Sophs Kareem Hunt and Damion Jones-Moore totaled 1133 YR and 11 TDs, combining to gain 6.5 ypc. Hunt has more size than Jones-Moore and will be the lead back, and sr. Cassius McDowell can be useful as well (8.1 ypc in limited action LY).
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The question on offense is at QB, where Alabama transfer Phillip Ely and soph Logan Woodside are competing for the job. Ely was the only QB the Tide signed in 2011, while Woodside showed a lively arm and some flashes of promise in getting his feet wet as a true frosh last season. Also in the picture is 6-5 RS frosh Michael Julian, who was recruited by Campbell. One of the three will likely emerge as a solid player, and our money is on the SEC-recruited Ely.
The receiving unit is rebuilding a bit, but RS jr. WR Alonzo Russell made 3rd team all-MAC each of the last two seasons after catching 56 and 59 balls. The Washington, D.C. product is 6-4 and had 1688 receiving yards in 2012-13. Senior WRs Dwight Macon and Justin Olack (also 6-4) combined for 34 catches, 419 yards & 4 TDs in 2013.
The Toledo defense presents an interesting conundrum. The unit returns 10 starters from last season, including 3 who were named to the all-conference team. Mind you, however, Toledo ranked 10th in the MAC defensively a year ago. Five of the top 6 tacklers are back, led by a solid LB core of sr. Junior Sylvestre and jr. Chase Murdock, who combined for 227 stops and 9 sacks. The Rockets’ had 34 sacks overall last season, a significant boost over recent performances, and UT cut its defensive ypc from 5.3 in 2012 to 4.0 LY. The defensive line has third-team all-MAC DT Treyvon Hester clogging the middle and providing a little pass rush (31/2 sacks LY), and jr. NT Orion Jones can eat space inside as well. The pass rush might get a boost from DE Tre James, a juco transfer who participated in spring. The 2ndary is led by sr. CB Cheatham Norrils, who joined Hester on the 3rd team all-conference list. Norrils had 52 tackles, and jr. SS Chaz Whittaker had 45. Hybrid jr. “Star” LB/FS Trent Voss made 60 tackles in the first 7 games last year before breaking his arm and sitting out the rest of the year. Voss came back in spring and appears ready to rumble again.
Toledo has challenges, to be sure, as early-season dates with Missouri and at Cincy will be difficult, and the MAC West might come down to a Tuesday night in November when the Rockets visit Northern Illinois. Still, Campbell has another ace up his sleeve in sr. PK Jeremiah Detmer, who has made 36 of his last 37 field goals. And the Rockets get Ball State at home, whereas the Huskies must go to Muncie. It’s tough, but give a slight edge to Toledo to get to the MAC title game for the first time since 2004.
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