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What’s New for the 2023 Toledo Rockets?

Fresh off of its MAC title, the Toledo Rockets are gearing up to defend and continue its reign. Aside from the shiny new trophy in the case, what’s new at the Glass Bowl?

NCAA Football: Mid-American Championship-Toledo at Ohio Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to the MAC, consistency within the coaching ranks and a veteran presence at quarterback are key to succeeding. Luckily for the 2023 edition of the Toledo Rockets, they’ve got both.

The last time Toledo needed to defend its spot atop the MAC, it squandered a top-nine scoring offense in the FBS en route to a meager 7-6 record capped off by a Bahamas Bowl loss to FIU.

For 2023, the pieces are there. The stars seem to be aligning. An NY6 Bowl is the goal and expectation within the building, as it should be.

The Rockets come into the year needing to improve upon one thing: finishing games. In three of their losses, the Rockets blew a fourth-quarter lead. Twice they allowed the game-winner with less than a minute to go.

There’s always room for improvement, so let’s take a look at some ways the Rockets will utilize some new faces to do so.

Reloading an explosive offense

In terms of raw numbers, the Rockets lost nine offensive players to the Transfer Portal and brought in five; two receivers, three offensive linemen.

Two of those nine transfers were the third and fifth-leading receivers, Demeer Blankumsee and Mykel Barkley, respectively. They’ll have to replace their combined 63 receptions, 836 yards, and six touchdowns. While WR1 and WR2 seem cemented in Jerjuan Newton and Devin Maddox, adding two Portal Big Ten receivers will help.

Sometimes, all it takes is a change of scenery. The Rockets earned commitments from Jaden Dottin (Penn State) and Don Munnerlyn (Rutgers) to provide more depth to the receiver room.

To start, Dottin comes to Toledo after three uneventful years at Penn State. He only managed two receptions for 14 yards in last year’s game against Ohio; that was the brunt of his productivity as a Nittany Lion. As a high school recruit, the six-foot-two, 198-pound receiver was a composite four-star and earned All-New England honors after amassing 468 yards and five touchdowns on offense to go with a trio of interceptions on defense.

The other receiver, Munnerlyn, comes to Toledo by way of Rutgers. He does not bring any collegiate experience by way of counting stats after appearing in just two games as a true freshman. Last year, the receiver actually decided to hop into the Portal midway through the season. The six-foot-five receiver used to be a tight end for the Scarlet Knights and is going to provide plenty of size on the outside.

Both receivers have three years of eligibility remaining.

Leading the way from the crop of three new offensive linemen is Rod Orr from Florida State. While he did not appear in any games for the Seminoles in his two years on campus, he is the highest-rated recruit of the bunch. As a former four-star recruit, Orr was the 22nd-best tackle.

Versatility is the name of the game and David Nwaogwugwu from Rutgers provides it. He’s a well-traveled player as Toledo will be his third school in six years. In his time at Temple and Rutgers, Nwaogwugwu logged time as both guard and tackle, showing Toledo coaches that he will do whatever is necessary to get on the field.

Finally, Jackson Cannon comes over from Mississippi State with a full clip of eligibility remaining after not appearing in any games as a freshman last year. The former three-star recruit will be a crucial depth piece this year as he learns the Rockets’ offense.

Ourlads currently projects both Nwaogwugwu and Cannon to slot in as starting LT and RT.

Few Changes on Defense

The Rockets will have to replace Desjuan Johnson and Jamal Hines on the defensive line and Dyontae Johnson at linebacker. Luckily, they have a few pieces that can step right up.

From the transfer portal, Toledo gets EDGE Travion Ford from Missouri and Micah Cherry from Pearl River Community College. Ford, a former four-star recruit, will have to battle it out with established seniors, Terrance Taylor and Adrian Woliver. He was projected as a solid Power 5 starter with his ability to get off the ball. He has a quickness to win inside and out and can use his length to his advantage.

Meanwhile, Cherry is a JUCO cornerback who will have to fight for a spot in the rotation. While at Peral River, Cherry notched 15 tackles, a TFL, a pair of pass breakups, and even blocked a kick in 12 appearances.

Overall, this defense will be very similar to 2022. However, replacing the Johnsons will be a task. They’ll have to lean on Darius Alexander and Judge Culpepper on the interior to pick up what was lost.

This is part one of a series previewing the 2023 Toledo Rockets. Up next in our series, we will look at the offensive skill positions set to suit up for the defending MAC champions.

Toledo is set to kick off its 2023 season on Saturday, September 2nd, as they visit the Illinois Fighting Illini.