The University of Toledo has high hopes coming in the season, and rightfully so. The Rockets return tons of talent and have there eyes set on not just a MAC West title, but plans on heading up I-75 to Ford Field to bring back the MAC championship. All but five starters return from last season. Toledo surprised many last year, in year two of Coach Beckmans supposedly rebuilding year, and went 7-1 in the MAC. The Rockets are ahead of schedule in year 3 and are the favorite to win the conference.
Expectations: Toledo was narrowly picked by the media in the preseason poll to win the West and take home the MAC title. They will have their hands full where anything can happen in the Mid-American Conference. Northern Illinois returns an outstanding team and will be breathing down the Rockets necks. One of these two teams should be representing the West in the championship game. Toledo has beat a BCS team 5 years in a row and look to continue that streak, but will have their hands full with a tough non-conference schedule. The season will rest on how the Rockets hold up in the conference.
Offense: 9 starters return on the offensive side of the ball. The only question is who is going to run this offense. Both Austin Dantin and Terrance Owens started games for the Rockets last year and both are competing for the starting gig this year. The junior Datin (66% acc, 1,254 yds, 7 TD) won the starting job last year before going down with a season ending injury. Sophomore Owens (59% acc, 1,244 yds, 13 TD) stepped in and did a great job filling in. Whoever does land the job will have to tools to succeed as there are weapons all abound. The backfield is busting with talent, including All-MAC Senior Adonis Thomas, who rushed for 1,098 yards while leading the MAC with a 6.3 ypc. Thomas has great speed and a threat to break it loose at any moment, but his biggest attribute might be his pass catching skills(31 rec, 320yds 2 TD). Morgan Williams returns in the backfield as a senior with a 1,000 yards season under his belt to relieve Thomas. You know what your going to get from Eric Page, Toledo now is just waiting for someone else to step up opposite Page to give them another threat. The talent is there but the players are lacking consistency to become a legitimate target. Jr. Cordale Scott, a transfer fro Illinois is trying to become that man, along with Kenny Stafford and Tim Cortazzo. A sleeper who could have a breakout year was a player who Coach Beckman raved about coming into camp, sophomore Bernard Reedy. WR Eric Page also noted the play of Reedy as one to keep your eye on. The O-line should be a strength as it will be veteran laden. Two, 4-year starters return in Mike VanDerMeulen and John Morookian. While another Senior Phillipkeith Manley returns at left guard.
Defense: The defense should be one of the best the Rockets have had in over a decade. The D-line has great depth and is led by All-MAC DE T.J. Fatinikun(51 tlks, 13 TFL). Two other Senior returnees are Malcolm Riley and Johnnie Roberts. The Rockets will miss Archie Donald but will return the other half of the linebacker duo in Junior Dan Molls. Molls was 2nd in the MAC and 10th in the nation with 143 tackles last year. Robert Bell is a player that looks to be primed to step up and be a contributor. The secondary is a place where many players are fighting for playing time. Ross Madison is a player who has been encouraging at safety. The anchor of the secondary will be senior corner Desmond Marrow who earned a sixth year of eligibility from injuries. Marrow is a big corner (6'3, 210 lbs) who should be able to make plays all over the field.
Best Player: Eric Page, WR, Jr.- Page was named to four All-American teams in 2010 and is getting plenty of recognition coming into this season as well. The 2010 MAC Special Team Player of the Year is a dangerous weapon who can hurt you in multiple ways. Perhaps most feared as a returner, Page was the only player in FBS with three TDs off of kickoff returns. Page by no means is one dimensional, and is a serious threat at wide receiver. Page will try to improve on an already stellar year last year in which you caught 99 balls including 8 for touchdowns. Eric is a game changer in so many ways and can single handily lead the team to victory.
Biggest Impact Freshman: Andre "Tank" Sturdivant is a major talent who could contribute on the defensive line from day one. Tank (6'3, 265 lbs) had many high-major offers but came to Toledo and could make an immediate impact.
Schedule: The Rockets aren't afraid of a challenge, and they prove that with this years schedule. Toledo looks to make it 6 straight wins over BCS teams, but their aren't any easy ones here. The first true test is the second week when the Rockets make the trip down to Columbus to take on Ohio State and prove who is the King of the State. It doesn't get easier next week when Toledo hosts Boise State, and then finishes there non-conference traveling to Syracuse.
Biggest Game: While it would be a great accomplishment for the Rockets to pull an upset over the titans like OSU and Boise State, the game that will make or break the season will be the Nov. 1st home game against Northern Illinois. This game should determine who represents the MAC West in Detroit. The Rockets will have this game circled as they look for revenge on an embarrassing 65-30 loss on national television, their lone MAC loss.
Fastest: Taikwon Paige 4.32 -40
Tallest: Jerome Jones 6-7
Lightest: John James 163 lbs
Heaviest: Phillipkeith Manley 309 lbs
Stongest: Zach Kerin 420 lbs bench press
Vertical: Morgan Williams 38"