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What You Need to Know About the 2018 Toledo Rockets

2017: MAC Champions, 2018: ?

MAC Championship - Akron v Toledo Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

When it comes to consistent success in this conference, no team matches the work that stems from Northwest Ohio. After an 11-3 finish in 2017, the Rockets pieced together their sixth season of nine or more wins since 2011.

Although Toledo was not invited to a bowl game for a 7-5 finish in 2013, the Rockets have qualified for a bowl game every year since 2010, spanning over the tenures of three different coaches.

Out of these three coaches, Jason Candle brought Toledo to a destination it hadn’t visited since 2004: the MAC Championship Game in Detroit. The Rockets pummeled Akron in convincing fashion, hanging a long-awaited banner on the press box in the Glass Bowl as a result.

Candle remains, but the engineer behind the offense, quarterback Logan Woodside, is now a member of the Cincinnati Bengals. Several All-MAC offensive lineman, running back Terry Swanson, and defensive end/outside linebacker Ola Adeniyi are just several key losses that Toledo must learn to adapt without in 2018.

Still, at MAC Media Day, Toledo was projected to finish second place in the MAC West behind Northern Illinois. The Rockets also received the second most votes to earn the MAC title, trailing solely behind the Ohio Bobcats. No MAC team has repeated since the 2012 NIU Huskies defended their 2011 conference championship.

2017 Results

2017 Toledo Rockets Results

Date Opponent Score
Date Opponent Score
08/31/17 vs. Elon (FCS) W, 47-13
09/09/17 @ Nevada W, 37-24
09/16/17 vs. Tulsa W, 54-51
09/23/17 @ Miami (FL) L, 52-30
10/07/17 vs. Eastern Michigan* W, 20-15
10/14/17 @ Central Michigan* W, 30-10
10/21/17 vs. Akron* W, 48-21
10/26/17 @ Ball State* W, 58-17
11/2/17 vs. Northern Illinois* W, 27-17
11/08/17 @ Ohio* L, 38-10
11/15/17 @ Bowling Green* W, 66-37
11/24/17 vs. Western Michigan* W, 37-10
12/02/17 vs. Akron (MAC Championship) W, 45-28
12/23/17 vs. Appalachian State (DG Bowl) L, 34-0
* - Denotes conference game

Toledo recorded 11 wins, the school’s most since 1995. Despite rolling over most of their opponents, there were still a handful of disappointing losses in an 11-3 (7-1) season result.

Toledo’s three losses were by an average of 28 points. The road loss to Ohio was ugly, but nothing can top the disappointment that struck in Mobile, Alabama on December 23. Entering Ladd-Peebles Stadium as touchdown favorites, the Rockets did not look like the Rockets we saw all season, falling in an astounding 34-0 fashion to a 9-4 Appalachian State program.

Overall, the horrendous bowl loss adds some bitterness to a sweet conference championship season. Toledo had been in contention for the MAC title the entire decade, and the Rockets finally made the giant leap to glory in Detroit.

Toledo’s offense ranked 16th in the country with a scoring average of 36.4 (39.2 before the bowl game). Defensively, the Rockets were a middling 61st in the nation, yielding 26.2 points per game.

Logan Woodside, the program’s passing yards leader, stood as the lone draft pick. The Bengals selected him 249th overall, several picks away from Mr. Irrelevant.

Head Coach and Key Players

Jason Candle, Coach:

Candle rose up to Toledo from Mount Union, his alma mater and a Division III powerhouse. He has been on staff since 2009, previously operating as a tight ends coach, a wide receivers coach, and an offensive coordinator. Following Matt Campbell’s departure to Iowa State in 2016, Candle assumed the reigns of the program.

At 38 years of age, he is one of the younger coaches in college football. Through just two seasons of coaching, he is 21-7, earning a coveted bowl victory in his first game acting as head coach (2015 Boca Raton Bowl). About two weeks after downing Akron in the MAC Championship, Candle signed a six-year extension with Toledo, earning over $1 million per year through 2023.

Mitch Guadagni (Jr.), QB:

Guadagni has officially been appointed as Woodside’s successor, per Brian Buckey of the Toledo Blade. His primary competition was sophomore Eli Peters, another quarterback who has yet to start at the FBS level.

Guadagni has briefly appeared on the stat sheet, throwing six career passes and completing one for 16 yards. He rushed for 76 yards on eight attempts in 2017, showing that he might add a hint of a run game to the quarterback position — an element of the game the Rockets didn't experience with Woodside under center.

Shakif Seymour (So.), RB:

From David Fluellen to Kareem Hunt to Terry Swanson, Toledo’s enjoyed plenty of success at the running back position. Seymour split plenty of carries with Swanson last fall, dashing for 702 yards and 12 touchdowns. He eclipsed the century mark in two games in 2017, but he’ll have plenty of more opportunities as the feature back now.

Cody Thompson (Sr.), WR:

A season-ending leg injury interrupted the phenomenal season Thompson was having. Through four games in 2017, he accumulated 505 receiving yards and four touchdowns. The veteran receiver with an impressive set of hands should help Toledo’s offense remain at a high level during a quarterback transition year.

Diontae Johnson (Jr.), WR:

Thompson’s injury was a downer in Toledo’s season, but Diontae Johnson broke through and posted several outstanding performances. He attained First Team All-MAC status and ranked among the country’s elite with 1,278 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. Johnson’s speed is his primary strength, a skill he also turns to when implemented onto the return team.

Tyler Taafe (Sr.), ILB:

Taafe is the defense’s senior leader, totaling 129 tackles and 8.5 sacks in three seasons as a Rocket. If Toledo’s offense takes a bit of a dive from last year’s standard, it is up to Taafe and his unit to compensate. He's still seeking his first interception and fumble recovery in his career, but he forced a pair of fumbles against Akron and Ohio last fall.

Jameson Vest (Sr.), K:

Vest nailed the greatest kick of his career almost 12 months ago. Toledo roared back from a three-touchdown deficit against Tulsa, but Vest’s clutch kick launched the Rockets ahead of the Golden Hurricane, 54-51, as time expired. The kicker converted on an impressive 25-of-30 kicks, particularly succeeding in the tough 40-49 range (5-of-6).

2018 Schedule

2018 Toledo Rockets Schedule

Date Opponent FPI Win Probability (%)
Date Opponent FPI Win Probability (%)
09/01/18 vs. VMI (FCS) 99.4
09/15/18 vs. Miami (FL) 13.7
09/22/18 vs. Nevada 74.5
09/29/18 @ Fresno State 24.2
10/06/18 vs. Bowling Green* 81.7
10/13/18 @ Eastern Michigan* 67.2
10/20/18 vs. Buffalo* 70.0
10/25/18 @ Western Michigan* 41.8
11/01/18 vs. Ball State* 89.2
11/07/17 @ Northern Illinois* 39.2
11/15/17 @ Kent State* 89.7
11/23/17 vs. Central Michigan* 78.6
* - Denotes conference game

Toledo’s schedule is similar to 2017’s slate, with Fresno State replacing Tulsa as the only non-conference exception.

The Rockets gave Miami a tough game in Florida last year, leading 16-10 at halftime before second half defensive struggles kicked in. The game moves to the Glass Bowl this fall, and you can expect a packed house as the Rockets try to pull off the toughest win on the schedule.

Toledo avoids Ohio in conference play this year, so its marquee game will be the showdown in DeKalb on November 7. The Rockets visit Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan on the road, and it seems likely that one of those road games up north could serve as a challenge to Jason Candle’s squad.

Stadium

The Glass Bowl opened in 1937 as University Stadium and still operates as the home field of Toledo. The venue, albeit only having a capacity of about 26,000, owns one of the more iconic names in college football — a reference to Toledo’s nickname as the “Glass City.”

Attendance hit an all-time high at the Glass Bowl when 36,852 spectators filed in for a game against Navy in 2001. The stadium has engineered several renovations in the 21st century with the latest occurring in 2016 for $3.5 million.

One of the most interesting events in the Glass Bowl transpired in 1961, and it didn’t involve any touchdowns or scoring. Toledo installed a rocket commissioned by the U.S. Army outside the stadium, which, if launched, would pierce the 50-yard line at Bowling Green’s Doyt-Perry Stadium.

Offensive and Defensive Schemes

Candle operates a spread offense at Toledo. The Rockets possess one of the most talented receiving groups in all of college football, and there are sure to be at least three receivers (Cody Thompson, Diontae Johnson, and Jon’Vea Johnson) at nearly all times. Toledo does balance its passing attack with a strong run game, too. Redshirt junior Art Thompkins will likely enter the mix in the backfield again, earning several carries in between Seymour’s stints on the field.

Toledo primarily lines up in a 3-4 on defense, although the Rockets change it up from time to time. The Rockets didn’t have a particular area they were especially stout on defensively, but the unit was decent enough to create stops for Candle’s potent offense.

Rockets in the NFL

  • Ola Adeniyi, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Barry Church, SS, Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Jayrone Elliott, OLB, New Orleans Saints
  • David Fluellen, RB, Tennessee Titans
  • John Greco, OG, New York GIants
  • Treyvon Hester, DT, Oakland Raiders
  • Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
  • Zac Kerin, OG, New York GIants
  • Brett Kern, P, Tennessee Titans
  • Greg Mancz, C, Houston Texans
  • Trevon Mathis, CB, Minnesota Vikings
  • Rolan Milligan, SS, Detroit Lions
  • Elijah Nkansah, OT, Tennessee Titans
  • Storm Norton, OT, Minnesota Vikings
  • Bernard Reedy, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Michael Roberts, TE, Detroit Lions
  • Alonzo Russell, WR, New York Giants
  • Terry Swanson, RB, Houston Texans
  • Brant Weiss, OG, Arizona Cardinals
  • Logan Woodside, QB, Cincinnati Bengals