The Toledo Rockets had a winning 2013 season and even beat the eventual Mid-American Conference champion Bowling Green on the road. However, late-season losses to Northern Illinois and Akron prevented the Rockets from playing in a bowl game, and now Toledo is faced with the losses of quarterback Terrance Owens, running back David Fluellen and wide receiver Bernard Reedy.
Rockets' head coach Matt Campbell will attempt to replace those losses with a very deep class of new talent. According to 247Sports.com, Toledo's class includes seven three-star players and ranks second behind on Western Michigan among all MAC teams. It includes several players from Florida and is heavy on the defensive side of the ball and offensive skill positions. With any luck, the Rockets won't miss a beat in 2014.
Here's the entire class...
|Name||Position||Height||Weight||Hometown (Previous School)|
|Olasunkanmi Adeniyi||LB||6'2"||227||Houston, Texas (George Bush)|
|Devin Alexander||DB||6'1"||205||St. Louis, Mo. (Ritenour)|
|Yazeed Atariwa||DL||6'4"||244||Sterling, Va. (Dominion)|
|Mike Berry||LB||6'2"||220||Beavercreek, Ohio (Beavercreek)|
|Dedric Brinson||DB||6'2"||175||Lake Wales, Fla. (Lake Wales)|
|Andrew Davis||WR||6'2"||180||St. Petersburg, Fla. (Lakewood)|
|Anthony Davis||LB||5'10"||204||Tampa, Fla. (Chamberlain)|
|Tre James||LB/DL||6'2"||250||Baltimore, Md. (Baltimore City College/Snow College)|
|Jon'Vea Johnson||WR||5'11"||174||Gary, Ind. (West Side)|
|Trevon Mathis||DB||5'11"||168||Pittsburgh, Pa. (Woodland Hills)|
|Cameron Mattison||DB||6'0"||182||Charlotte, N.C. (Mallard Creek)|
|Richard Olekanma||LB||6'1"||215||Downers Grove, Ill. (Downers Grove North)|
|Alex Pfeiffer||OL||6'5"||250||Cincinnati, Ohio (Anderson)|
|Brandon Reynolds||DL/LB||6'4"||215||Solon, Ohio (Solon)|
|Davi'on Riley||TE||6'3"||212||Lake Wales, Fla. (Lake Wales)|
|Bernard Rogers||DB||5'11"||175||Tampa, Fla. (Plant)|
|Mykale Rogers||WR||6'1"||188||Lima, Ohio (Lima Central Catholic)|
|Noah Spielman||DL||6'1"||230||Upper Arlington, Ohio (Upper Arlington)|
|Terry Swanson||RB||5'10"||191||Aliquippa, Pa. (Aliquippa)|
|Cody Thompson||WR||6'1"||181||Huron, Ohio (Huron)|
|Bill Weber||OL||6'5"||310||Coppell, Texas (Coppell)|
|Marcus Whitfield||WR||6'0"||170||Massillon, Ohio (Massillon)|
|Jamaal Woodland||DB||6'2"||185||Lanham, Md. (Duval)|
The positional breakdown goes like this: running backs (1), wide receivers (5), tight ends (1), offensive linemen (2), defensive linemen (3), linebackers (5), defensive backs (6).
There are two things you'll immediately notice here. There's no quarterback and there's no punter. Could this be a problem? Yes.
On the quarterback front, Owens' departure leaves three on the roster, all of whom are listed as freshmen for the 2013 season. Logan Woodside is the only one of the three who saw action, and he threw 41 passes in four appearances. Regardless of how much confidence Campbell might have in Woodside, Ryan Casey or Michael Julian, it would have made sense to bring in another quarterback to compete for the job. If nothing else, new blood would push the others to be even better.
Punter is not traditionally a position that coaches will worry about on signing day, but the Rockets are losing Vince Penza from the 2013 team. Penza is the only true punter listed on the 2013 roster, although there are four placekickers on the team. It may not seem like a big deal, and perhaps one of the placekickers will take over. It's also possible that the job could eventually go to a walk-on. However, with the glut of good offenses in the MAC, punting is one area teams shouldn't be lacking in, if they want to win.
Who To Watch
Davi'on Riley is a tight end from Lake Wales, Fla. and is listed by both 247Sports and Rivals as a three-star recruit. He had offers from big-player schools such as Oregon, Wisconsin and Michigan State and had interest from several others. At 6'3" and 210, he's got good size but is athletic enough to beat players on the inside. He'll have to adjust to be able to block on this level, but players like this can often step in right away. In the case of a team who will have to rely on an inexperienced quarterback, his presence could make an enormous difference.
Noah Spielman is someone whose last name everyone should recognize; he's the son of former National Football League star Chris Spielman. He's rated as a two-star player by 247Sports. Spielman is listed as a defensive lineman, but at just 6'1" and 250, he may be undersized for that position, at least on the interior. It will be interesting to see if Toledo keeps him there or tries to move him to linebacker. Regardless (and fairly or unfairly), his name is going to mean that he will carry higher expectations for production.
Mykale Rogers is a local product from Lima, Ohio. He attended Lima Central Catholic and developed there into a three-star player (as rated by both 247Sports and Rivals). 247Sports lists him as a wide receiver, while Rivals does so as an "athlete", but in either case, Rogers is going to come in with a chance to be a difference-maker. He's got the necessary height (6'1") but has a slender frame (180 lbs) that may need to fill out more, but he should be a dynamic presence no matter how Toledo utilizes him.
Anthony Davis, a linebacker from Tampa, Fla., committed to Toledo within the last month but is a highly-regarded three-star player. He was recruited by BCS schools such as Ohio State, Texas Tech and West Virginia, but he eventually settled on the Rockets. He's got good size for a linebacker, and if he possesses the requisite quickness, could quickly develop into a starter. However, Toledo is very young at linebacker, so Davis will be jumping into a deep competition and may end up getting a redshirt.
Matt Campbell has compiled a deep class of players that should help address several needs on defense, as well as help replace what was lost by the departures of Reedy and Fluellen. As noted above, it would have been a better class if they could have snagged a quarterback, but you really can't argue with seven three-star players. The class deserves a high grade.
Official Hustle Belt Grade: A-