Despite losing its quarterback for a good chunk of time, Toledo finished with the third-best offense in the MAC en route to its 12th conference title in program history. With 82 percent of its offensive production returning (sixth most in FBS), it’s only natural that the Rockets are the favorite to bring the title home once again.
In 2022, the Rockets averaged over 400 yards per game and did so without a single 1,000-yard rusher or receiver. It was all about spreading the wealth among a handful of playmakers for Jason Candle’s squad. 16 players recorded at least one reception and nine of whom had double-digit marks. Meanwhile, the Rockets were the only team in FBS to have not one, not two, not three, but FOUR individuals with over 100 rushing attempts.
The run-first offense of the Rockets averaged over 41 rushing attempts per game. They were able to impose their will on opposing defenses and then take the top off with a big pass.
All-in-all, the largest indicator of success for this Rockets team was their ability to convert red zone trips into points. Toledo ended up scoring on 89.13% of red zone appearances, good for 25th in FBS.
With this much talent on offense, Toledo will be a force yet again and will be able to defend its title almost with ease.
- Matthew Considine (Graduation)
- A.J. Gucciardo (Not on roster)
- R.J. Johnson III (incoming recruit)
- Jacob DeHaan (incoming recruit)
- Dequan Finn
- Tucker Gleason
- John Alan Richter
In today’s world of college football, the fact that the Rockets are suiting up with Dequan Finn at the helm could be considered a minor miracle.
We’ll likely never know if there were even the tiniest of thoughts in Finn’s head to jump for perceived greener pastures. However, when it comes to a playmaker as dynamic as Finn, there had to have been some tampering out there to which Finn ignored.
One player an offense does not make. However, Finn literally accounted for 51% of Toledo’s offense himself with 2,269 passing and 632 rushing yards. As a team, the Rockets accounted for a total of 5,686 yards. In terms of touchdowns, Finn scored 32 of the team’s total of 54.
In his second season as the full-time starting quarterback, Finn marginally improved his total yardage and added five passing touchdowns. However, he turned the ball over at a much higher rate (two interceptions in 2021 as compared to 12 in 2022).
Behind him is the man who took over in his absence, Tucker Gleason. The redshirt freshman started both the Eastern Michigan and Bowling Green games in place of Finn and certainly did enough to earn the win in both. Additionally, he came in early on in the Western Michigan matchup.
In the win over the Eagles, Gleason completed 15-of-27 passing with 238 yards and three touchdowns. In the Battle of I-75, Gleason started off slow but ended up with a season-high 329 yards and three touchdowns through the air and added 106 yards and a pair of scores on the ground. Despite getting into a 21-0 hole, Gleason chipped away and led the Rockets to a near-victory. With his one-yard touchdown run with 51 seconds to go, he gave Toledo a margin which 99 percent of the time is a certain victory.
Gleason has shown that he is a capable backup to Finn and, should anything ever happen to the star signal-caller, they’re in good hands.
When it comes to the departures, both Matthew Considine and A.J. Gucciardo have moved on. Neither ended up in the transfer portal, so it’s likely that both just graduated and are moving on with their lives. Considine came to Toledo from Holy Cross via Saginaw Valley State but did not appear in any action with the Rockets. Gucciardo, a local kid from Springfield High School in Toledo, appeared in one game in 2022 and in 2021 but did not attempt a pass.
Finally, the Rockets welcomed a pair of freshmen, one scholarship and one walk-on. RJ Johnson III is a three-star quarterback from Atlanta and was an All-State quarterback in 2022. Jacob DeHaan is walking on with the Rockets after a State Championship senior season where he amassed 2,593 yards and 32 touchdowns.
- Lamy Constant (transfer Portal)
- Jordan Lowe (transfer Portal)
- Kristian Pechac (Walk-On Transfer from Indiana)
- Michael Drennen II (Transfer from Kentucky)
- Bryce McMahon (Position Change from WR)
- Connor Walendzak (incoming recruit)
- Jacquez Stuart
- Micah Kelly
- Peny Boone
- Willie Shaw III
The Rockets return to the Glass Bowl this fall with a trio of experienced options who have a combined 81 career appearances and should all contribute.
Jacquez Stuart was the recognized starter after week five of 2022 and led the Rockets with 770 yards rushing, finishing the year with an impressive 5.7 yards per carry which was second best in the MAC in 2022. Stuart played perhaps some of his best ball down the stretch, playing with determination en route to 204 yards in the last two games including the MAC championship win over Ohio and a close win in the Boca Raton bowl over Liberty, 21-19.
Micah Kelly joined the Rockets in 2019 and has contributed 990 yards and seven scores on the ground in his career.
Maryland transfer Peny Boone found a role as “thunder” to Stuart’s “lightning,” picking up tough yards in short yardage. Overall, the 240 pounder. picked up 443 rushing yards in all and three scores last season.
With 32 combined catches last season the trio figures to be a decent outlet in the passing game for 2023.
A new arrival on the radar for 2023 is Kentucky transfer Michael Drennen II. The former Wildcat was a four-star recruit per 247Sports and played wide receiver and running back, rushing for 17 yards and catching five passes for 29 yards before redshirting in 2022. Drennen II gives the Rockets a gifted, versatile option for 2023.
- DeMeer Blankumsee (transfer to Memphis)
- Mikel Barkley (transfer to Fresno State)
- Ezechiel Tieide (Graduation)
- Jaxson Zurby (transfer to Guelph [Canada])
- Bryce McMahon (position change to RB)
- Jermain Foster (incoming recruit)
- Sam Smith Jr (incoming recruit)
- Don Munnerlyn (transfer from Rutgers)
- Julian Allen (incoming recruit)
- Jediyah Willoughby (incoming recruit)
- Bryson Hammer (incoming recruit)
- Jaden Dottin (transfer from Penn State)
- Jerjuan Newton
- Devin Maddox
- Adam Beale
- Junior Vandeross III
- Jaret Frantz
- Cooper Rusk
- Elijah Weley
- Dalen Stovall
- Jalen Vanderbosch
- Thomas Zsiros
- Eric Holly III
- Larry Stephens
Toledo returns a couple major options for 2023 starting with one of the MAC’s best in second-team All-MAC 2022 selection Jerjuan Newton. The Clearwater Central Catholic High School product was prolific last year by tying for second in the MAC among receivers with nine touchdown receptions while finishing seventh with 15.7 yards per catch.
Notably, Newton played some of his most productive ball when the stakes were highest, racking up 13 catches for 171 yards and a score in key wins versus Ball State and MAC East champ Ohio.
Devin Maddox has been a staple of the Rockets offense the last two seasons, amassing 80 catches for 1,115 yards and seven scores over that span. Given Maddox’s experience and talent, look for him to have a shot at elevating his production to the upper-levels of the MAC especially with the loss of Demeer Blankumsee, who transfers to the Memphis Tigers with his 41 catches for 512 yards last season.
The Rockets will also look for another wide receiver to step up his game in 2023 to grab some of the opportunity created by Blankumsee’s departure. Sophomore Thomas Zsiros figures to be a lead name in the mix for gameday reps. Appearing in all games last year with a couple of starts and ten catches for 200 yards, the six-foot-three, 215 lbs., Zsiros may be ready to take the next step in his development and production.
Look also for a few transfers to get a look including Jaden Dottin from Penn State and six-foot-five, 215 lbs. Don Munnerlyn from Rutgers.
Finally, two-time All-MAC academic wideout Adam Beale should have a role in 2023 after appearing in all games in 2022, primarily as the punt returner with 31 returns for 252 yards.
- Jamal Turner (graduation)
- Jessie Agee (transfer Portal)
- Clay Caudill (transfer Portal)
- Zach Person (transfer to Northern Michigan [D-II])
- C.C. Ezirim (incoming recruit)
- Justin Stephens (position Change from OL)
- Donivon Thomas (incoming recruit)
- Blake Nelson (transfer from Louisville)
- Anthony Torres
- Lenny Kuhl
- Dalton Andrews
The tight end group helped pave the way for the MAC’s third-best rushing attack in 2022 with 177 yards per game but also was a prolific threat in and around the red zone with a combined ten scores from at or inside the opponents 30 yard line.
If the Rockets want to make the TE group a part of the red zone plan this year, they will need to replace graduate Jamal Turner’s substantial production, as Turner scored seven out of ten of those TDs deep inside opponents’ territory.
One option to replace Turner is Anthony Torres, who returns for his fourth season of college football, spending the first two with Western Michigan before transferring to Toledo in 2022. Torres is a proven, well-rounded player in his prime with size similar to Turner who can help Toledo win games as a run or pass blocker and as an occasional option in the passing game. While Torres finished the 2022 with Toledo with only five receptions, he showed he could carry more of the load in the pass game while at WMU with 12 grabs for 137 yards in 2021.
Entering his third season with Toledo, Lenny Kuhl is another option and will likely be a regular for the Rockets. Kuhl only had seven catches last year but three were for red zone scores.
This is part two of a series previewing the 2023 Toledo Rockets. Up next in our series, we will look at the offensive line. If you missed the first part or any of our other preseason coverage, please check out our storystream.
Toledo is set to kick off its 2023 season on Saturday, September 2nd, as they visit the Illinois Fighting Illini.
Drew Crabtree wrote the introduction, added in names at all positions and wrote the quarterbacks summation, while Keith Gregorski contributed to the article with information on running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends.