The top 10 Toledo football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
1. RB Kareem Hunt, Sr.
It wasn’t quite the 1,631-yard, 16-touchdown junior season he was hoping for, but it was still strong by any standards running for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns in just nine games. Suspended early in the season – he missed the upset over Arkansas – and was hurt for two games after taking off for 129 yards against Iowa State, he got hot in the second half of the season with four straight 100-yard games including a season-high 153-yard day in the win over Bowling Green.
While he can catch a little bit, he’s a runner with the power to be a workhorse on the inside and the quickness and speed to roll outside once he gets a little bit of room. The 6-0, 225-pounder now has to stay healthy after missing time the last two years. Fortunately, he’ll have plenty of help to carry the load.
2. OT Storm Norton, Sr.
The First Team All-MAC left tackle got in a little starting time as a sophomore before taking over the full-time gig last year. At 6-8 and 310 pounds he’s a massive blocker who’s impossible to get around, doing a phenomenal job in pass protection while also with the power and strength to provide the pop for the ground game. While he might not be the quickest tackle, he doesn’t have to be with his frame and his skills. It’ll be a shocker if it’s not another al-star season.
3. RB Terry Swanson, Jr.
While he’s been the second in line behind Kareem Hunt in the running back pecking order, the 5-10, 202-pound Swanson has been ultra-successful whenever he’s had the chance. A 732-yard, six-touchdown runner averaging 6.5 yards per carry as a freshman, he was every bit as strong last year finishing second on the team with 923 yards and seven scores averaging 6.5 yards per pop.
He missed the Arkansas game and only got one carry against Iowa State, but he filled in when Hunt was out and handled the workload without a problem, and ran for 161 yards on just 14 carries against Kent State and 133 yards on 16 carries against Northern Illinois. Ultra-quick with good hands, he has the skills to be an All-MAC star with a little more work.
4. S DeJuan Rogers, Sr.
The Second Team All-MAC free safety finished second on the team with 67 stops with a pick and 11 broken up passes. He started out the season doing a little of everything in the big games making 21 tackles against Arkansas and Iowa State. He didn’t hit double-digit stops the rest of the way – missing two games in the middle of the season – but was good against the run with great range when the ball was in the air. Able to play either safety spot, he came to Toledo as a big corner, and now the 6-1, 191-pounder is a veteran lead the secondary will work around.
5. WR/PR Corey Jones, Sr.
A First Team All-MAC kick returner, Jones averaged 10.16 yards per punt return, using his tremendous quickness and speed to be a dangerous threat whenever he had the ball in the hands. Also a strong receiver, he led the team with 55 catches but for only 577 yards and five scores in a steady season for an explosive playmaker. Only 5-9 and 165 pounds, he holds up well, leading the team in catches two years ago making 68 grabs. He doesn’t have to do everything to carry the passing attack, but he needs to become more dangerous after the catch.
6. WR Cody Thompson, Jr.
The team’s leader in receiving yards, Thompson made the most of his 37 catches going for 825 yards and five scores averaging 22.3 yards per pop. He hit the 100-yard mark four times, highlighted by a four-catch, 119-yard, one score day in the bowl win over Temple. At 6-1 and 202 pounds he has decent size to go along with his deep speed. The former quarterback knows how to get open.
7. LB Ja’Wuan Woodley, Jr.
It took a little while before Woodley became a key starter, and then he became the main man on the weakside finishing fifth on the team with 50 tackles – with an 83-yard interception against UMass – and two sacks with 6.5 tackles for loss. Ready to blossom into one of the MAC’s most dangerous defenders, he showed a glimpse of his upside with an 11-tackle game against Northern Illinois. A running back in high school, the 5-11, 230-pounder is quick and tough with the upside to be more of a factor in the backfield.
8. WR/KR Diontae Johnson, Soph.
While the Florida native only caught 14 passes for 237 yards and three scores in his freshman season, he blew up as a kickoff returner averaging 22.3 yards per try on his 32 tries. He only got a little work here and there as a pass catcher in the crowded receiving corps, but the 5-11, 175-pounder will get the ball in his hands far more. He’s too dangerous not to be given more on his plate.
9. QB Michael Julian, Jr.
Is he it? Is he going to be able to rise up among the pack to take over the quarterback job and lead the way to a possible MAC title? He has the 6-5, 215-pound size, and has he the high school track star speed and athleticism to be dangerous in the open field. He got in a little work completing 5-of-7 passes for 71 yards and a score in garbage time, and he ran six times for 64 yards. Also a potential punter, he could fill in if needed.
10. PK Jameson Vest, Soph.
One of the MAC’s best kickers, he came up with a nice year hitting 19-of-27 field goals with one getting blocked. While he has a nice leg, it’s not a deep one – missing his only 50-yard attempt and topping out at around 44 yards. But that 51-yard miss against Bowling Green was his only misfire in the last six attempts of the season.