clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2022 MAC Football Positional Previews: Toledo Rockets defensive backfield

The Rockets front seven are a uniquely talented front, and should give every offense they face major issues in 2022.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 11 Toledo at Notre Dame Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Toledo Rockets will look once again to be one of the toughest passing defenses in the conference in 2022, with a unit which looks to return largely in-tact to last season’s, which rallied in the second half of the season to be the MAC’s toughest.

A major part of that resurgence will b in the defensive backfield, which returns three starters and a handful of rotational contributors who should have a chance at a starting role in 2022.

The Rockets were a Top 25 unit in the passing defense, allowing only 198.2 yards per game, while also limiting scoring to 21.8 points per game (the best mark in the MAC.) The team’s turnover ratio was aided by eight interceptions (including a touchdown) in 2021, with a +7 margin putting Toledo 22nd overall in the country.

In order for Toledo to take the next step, they will need to maintain that momentum going into 2022. We check out the pieces they have available below:

Defensive backs

Toledo v Notre Dame Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Rockets utilize three defensive backs often, with a nickelback on the field in most situations. As a result, the Rockets will have two starters returning in 2022, including sophomore cornerback Quinyon Mitchell and junior nickelback/safety Nate Bauer.

Mitchell was a good shutdown corner in 2021, with 34 tackles, two tackles-for-loss, a sack, a team-leading eight pass break-ups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. There will be plenty of room for Mitchell to grow into the role of outside corner this season, especially as he’s paired with a familiar face in Chris McDonald, who returns as the team leader in interceptions (2.)

McDonald appeared in all 13 games last season, starting four, and finished his campaign with 17 tackles and five pass break-ups, with his highlight play being a 26-yard pick-six against Notre Dame to help keep the Rockets close during their upset bid in South Bend.

Sophomore Ronald Delancy III pencils in as the backup at both outside positions, with appearances in all 13 games in 2021, picking up 11 tackles, a pass break-up and an interception. Arkansas-Pine Bluff transfer Andre Fuller could also have role with the corners after a two-year career with the Golden Lions which saw him amass 29 tackles, 14 pass break-ups and three interceptions.

Junior Nate Bauer returns to his nickelback role in 2022, and give the Rockets some defensive flexibility. Bauer, a 2020 second-team all-MAC safety, started 10 games in 2021, finishing with 55 tackles, 6.5 tackles-for-loss, 1.5 sacks and an interception, showing a good balance of run support and coverage from the slot role. He’ll also likely see some time at safety in certain sets.


COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 10 Toledo at Bowling Green Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Third-team all-MAC safety Maxen Hook returns to the Rockets safety room in 2022, after leading the Rockets with 95 tackles as a redshirt freshman, with five games collecting 10+ tackles, while also pulling in 3.5 tackles-for-loss, a sack, three pass break-ups, a forced fumble and a field goal block.

Bauer, the starting nickelback, is also expected to be a backup to Hook at the strong safety position.

Zachary Ford appears to be the favorite to start at the free safety role, as he picked up three starts at the position in 2021 in 13 appearances. Ford was a reliable contributor last season, with 45 tackles, three pass break-ups and (perhaps most importantly) two fumble recoveries.

Senior Troy Simon should also fight for a role amongst the safeties after turning in a 23-tackle effort in 2021 in 10 appearances, while redshirt freshman and former three-star recruit Jaylin Mines (four tackles in four games) is someone the staff feels pretty good about in terms of seeing the field.