Earlier this week, Toledo hired Purdue DB coach Jon Heacock to be the Rockets’ Defensive Coordinator (DC), returning Heacock to the MAC. Heacock is most widely known for coaching Youngstown State after the program lost Jim Tressel in 2001 to Ohio State. As the Penguins’ head man, Heacock helped lead the program to the FCS semi-finals in 2006, where they lost to Appalachian State.
After leaving YSU, Heacock was hired by Darrell Hazell to coach the Flashes defense starting in 2010 and would head to Purdue with Hazell and his staff in 2013.
Heacock knows what it takes to win football games. In 2000, after a brief stint as Indiana’s DC, Heacock was hired as the DC at YSU. That year Heacock made enough of a statement to be awarded the program’s head coaching position.
In 9 years at YSU, Heacock only had two losing seasons. He was able to win the Gateway twice, receiving Coach of the Year honors both times. In 2005, Heacock built a strong defense that only allowed 16.8 points per game and under 200 passing yards per game. Even in his worst year at Youngstown State, Heacock’s defense still allowed under 200 passing yards a game.
Toledo’s defense could use some help. Matt Campbell’s defense gave up over 28 points per game and over 250 passing yards per game in 2013. UT’s opponents also completed over 60 percent of their passes, a key reason why Toledo struggled. The defense was a major reason why Toledo struggled to win big games. When the Rockets traveled to Ball State, they struggled mightily to contain a Keith Wenning led passing offense. Ball State put up over 350 yards passing on just 27 completions in a 31-24 victory. When Toledo had a chance to take control of the MAC West versus NIU, the defense again failed to prove itself. Toledo gave up 566 yards versus the eventual MAC West champion Huskies in a 35-17 home loss.
When the offense wasn’t fully clicking, the defense couldn’t keep Toledo in the game. In a devastating loss to Akron, Toledo gave up 31 points and forced zero turnovers. The Rockets also managed to allow 20 or more points all but two of their games. Toledo’s defense almost cost them a loss to FCS foe Eastern Washington, only winning 33-21.
In a wide open MAC West, Toledo has a chance to make it to Detroit this upcoming season, but it all relies on an improved defense. With the hiring of Jon Heacock, Toledo is making a statement about what it wants to do; win championships now.