Toledo will face off against FCS member Stony Brook in their season opener Thursday evening. Stony Brook looks to improve on their 5-7 mark from the 2014 season, while Toledo plans to get off to a hot start for what seems to be a season of high hopes. History proves to be on the Rockets’ side for this matchup; Toledo hasn’t lost to an FCS/DII football team since 1988. That trend looks to stay the same this year, but will face a tough challenge.
Stony Brook returns quarterback Conor Bedarski, who will look to lead the Seawolves to a victory, while also trying to improve on his 53 percent completion rate from last year. Stony Brook also returns running back Stacy Bedell, who spent some time at UMass before transferring. You can read up more on the Rockets opponents here. These two offensive stars will have to be on their game if Stony Brook wants any chance of upsetting Toledo. Bedell will have a tough time against the Rockets though. Last season, Toledo gave up a measly 120.5 rushing yards per game. Only twice last season did the Rockets surrender 100+ rushing yards to a single rusher. However, on the flipside of the defense, Toledo gave up over 350 passing yards five times last season and three of those were over 400 yards. So if the Seawolves have any chance to steal this game, Bedarski better have taken notes.
Toledo will be without star running back Kareem Hunt and defensive end Allen Covington. The two are suspended the first two games for violating team policy. This might not seem like a big deal for the game against Stony Brook, but will prove to be tough in the Rockets second game of the season on the road against Arkansas, but that will be covered next week.
Without Hunt, Toledo will rely on backups Terry Swanson, Marc Remy, and Damion Jones-Moore. This is intriguing because it lists Remy over DJM on the official depth chart. Jones-Moore has seen more time than Remy, rushing for 460 yards and six touchdowns last season to just 219 yards and zero TD’s for Remy. Just something to keep an eye on, but you should expect the Rockets number two man, Terry Swanson to carry most of the load Thursday.
All summer long, there had been some quarterback competition in Toledo. With Logan Woodside playing so well after the injury last season to Phillip Ely, it was a mystery who would get the starting nod in the season opener. That mystery is now over, as we learned that Ely will get the start for the Rockets. He will look to lead the offense, as he did in last year’s opener to a victory against an FCS opponent. Ely may be tasked with a bit more work now that Hunt is out, but should preform admirably.
We all know a huge question mark on offense is the offensive line since all five starters from last year’s squad are all graduated. That doesn't mean they will be a train wreck though. Toledo will put out a solid core of linemen consisting of a senior, three juniors, and a sophomore. Leading the group will be Florida State transfer center Ruben Carter, the only senior in the 2-deeps for OL, and left tackle Storm Norton, a Toledo native that made three starts at this spot last year.
Lastly, Toledo will need its defense to step up this season in a big way if they have plans to make it to Detroit this year. Ranked 121st out of 128 teams in passing defense, Toledo will have to improve on that if they stand any chance to be a serious contender for the MAC championship. That all starts with this game. Having safety Cheatham Norrils back after missing all of last year with an illness should serve as a huge benefit in their passing defense. A local kid who the fans love, Norrils should be one of the defensive leaders and has big play capability. Trent Vossis also on the brink of having a breakout year. He will need to step up big time on the defensive line, especially with Covington out for the first couple of games. With seven senior and four junior starters for Toledo, there's plenty of reason that they will be better than last year.