Preview 2017: Toledo Rockets
Previewing and looking ahead at the Toledo Rockets season – and what you need to know.
What You Need To Know About The Toledo Rocket Offense
The O won’t finish seventh in the nation again, but it’ll still be dangerous.
QB Logan Woodside led the nation with 45 touchdown passes with just nine picks, and he should be able to keep it all going with two of his top receivers – Cody Thompson and Jon’Vea Johnson – returning after each averaged over 19 yards per catch with 21 scoring grabs.
Kareem Hunt might be done from the ground attack, but Terry Swanson is more than ready to handle more of the workload behind a line that loses three starters, but has more than enough decent replacements.
Biggest Key To The Toledo Rocket Offense
A new tight end has to emerge for Woodside to rely on. Getting reliable play at left tackle without Storm Norton around is just as big a problem, but the passing game needs a new main man in the red zone.
Thompson and Johnson are the deep guys, and the running backs will help, but the offense needs to replace Roberts by hoping that Adam Kulon or Jordan Fisher can combine to take over the role.
Roberts was far more than just a goal line threat, but as long as the new options are reliable, they’ll be doing their jobs.
What You Need To Know About The Toledo Rocket Defense
It wasn’t all that bad. The Toledo defense has occasionally been a rumor over the years, but last season it allowed fewer than 400 yards per game and only got lit up by BYU and Western Michigan.
This season, the linebackers should be the team’s biggest strength at times, with Ja’Wuan Woodley the star of the show and with a loaded group around him. The D line has plenty of work to do, but there’s just enough experience back to come up with a decent rotation, even if it’s not a dominant group.
The secondary will need some work in the 3-3-5 alignment, with the corner tandem of Trevon Mathis and Ka’dar Hollman good enough to hold their own, but with new safeties needing to emerge.
Biggest Key To The Toledo Rocket Defense
How long will it take before the safeties can play? DeJuan Rogers was one of the defense’s main factors, but he’s gone from his free safety spot along with Connery Swift at strong safety.
There might be a few good prospects to play around with, and again, the corners are going to be fine, but for a team that’ll be dealing with more than its share of shootouts, it needs the guys in the three spots in the middle of the defensive backfield to be more than just capable.
The Toledo Rockets Will Be Far Better If …
They don’t give the ball away. You’d think such a high-powered offense should be able to overcome a slew of massive mistakes, and sometimes it did.
The Rockets turned it over two times or more five times on the season, getting by Arkansas State and Maine in the first two games despite the problems, but losing to BYU, Ohio, and Western Michigan in the other three. Toledo is 17-2 in its last 19 games when turning it over fewer than twice.
Best Toledo Rocket Offensive Player
QB Logan Woodside, Sr. – The move paid off. Excellent in 2014, Woodside managed to throw for 2,263 yards and 19 touchdowns with three rushing scores, but he ended up redshirting in 2015, allowing him to get two more years of eligibility.
Last season he blew up, bombing away for 4,129 yards and 45 scores with nine picks, hitting the 220-yard mark in every game and throwing for over 500 in the loss to BYU. Consistent, he threw for three touchdowns or more in every game but the loss to Appalachian State. Picks are going to be the key, with five of the nine coming in the losses.
2. WR Cody Thompson, Sr.
3. RB Terry Swanson, Sr.
4. WR Jon’Vea Johnson, Jr.
5. OT Elijah Nkansah, Sr.
Best Toledo Rocket Defensive Player
LB Ja’Wuan Woodley, Sr. – The 5-11, 233-pound tone-setter worked last season on the weakside, finishing with 79 tackles with 3.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. The converted running back has the quickness to be more of a playmaker in the backfield, but his job again will mostly be to hold his own – and be the leader of a good group – against the run. He came up with a season-high 12 stops against BYU – even though most of the plays were down the field – and was consistently solid throughout the MAC campaign.
2. CB Trevon Mathis, Sr.
3. DE Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, Jr.
4. LB Tyler Taafe, Jr.
5. DT Marquise Moore, Sr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
OT Elijah Nkansah, Sr. – The 6-6, 315-pounder has spent the last few years at right tackle, but now he’ll be tried out on the left side in place of First Team All-MAC star Storm Norton. The pass protection was terrific over the last few years for one of the league’s best lines, and Nkansah was a major part of it as one of the key parts up front. Now he has to make the step up and become the anchor who keeps Woodside upright.
The Toledo Rocket Season Will Be A Success If …
Toledo wins the MAC title. It’s asking for too much to get through the season unscathed like Western Michigan did last year, and there’s way too much work to do to think this will be an easy run, but if the Rockets can win their share of shootouts, and if they can take advantage of their home games, they’ll be in Detroit for a 13th game.
Key Game To The Toledo Rockets Season
Northern Illinois, Nov. 2 – The regular season finale against Western Michigan might be for the MAC title, but getting by a renewed NIU in Toledo is a key first step a few weeks earlier. The Rockets were able to slip by the Huskies in the U.S. Cellular Field game last season, and it’ll be hard to take the West without making it two in a row.
2016 Toledo Rockets Fun Stats
– Toledo 1st Quarter Scoring: 76. Toledo 3rd Quarter Scoring: 176
– Average Passing Yards Per Game: Toledo 322.8 – Opponents 220.8
– Fumbles: Toledo 11 (lost 5) – Opponents 10 (lost 4)