2011 Toledo Preview - Offense
Toledo RB Adonis Thomas
CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Toledo Rocket Offense
Preview 2011 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: The overall numbers were solid, but they weren’t as good as they should’ve been and the season was too inconsistent. Now, there’s no excuse to not be better with two excellent quarterback options in Austin Dantin and Terrance Owens; Adonis Thomas leading a good running game; and with Eric Page one of the nation’s best receivers. Throw in two four-year starters at tackle, and decent prospects all across the board, and the pieces are there. Finding a No. 2 receiver next to Page is a must, and Zac Kerin has to shine at center, but this should be an occasionally devastating attack.
Star of the offense: Junior WR Eric Page
Passing: Austin Dantin
127-192, 1,254 yds, 7 TD, 8 INT
Rushing: Adonis Thomas
175 carries, 1,098 yds, 8 TD
Receiving: Eric Page
99 catches, 1,105 yds, 8 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore C Zac Kerin
Unsung star on the rise: Kerin
Best pro prospect: Page
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Page, 2) RB Adonis Thomas, 3) QB Austin Dantin
Strength of the offense: Skill Players, Tackles
Weakness of the offense: No. 2 Receiver, Center Experience.
State of the Unit: The Rockets had to deal with a quarterback switch in the second half of last season, and now there’s a fight for the No. 1 job. The offense averaged close to 200 yards per game through the air with five players combining for 22 touchdown passes and just 11 interceptions, and there was decent mobility coming from the position.
When 100% healthy (and he is), junior Austin Dantin might be the safest option, but he’ll have to fight for the gig. The all-around playmaker from Tallahassee started the first nine games before suffering a shoulder injury, completing 66% of his throws for 1,254 yards and seven scores with eight interceptions. He had to deal with the hardest part of the slate and struggled mightily against Arizona and Boise State, but he came up with the win over Purdue and he finished second on the team in rushing with 292 yards and eight scores. At 6-2 and 200 pounds he’s not all that big, but he has a decent, accurate arm to go along with his mobility.
6-4, 180-pound left-handed sophomore Terrance Owens stepped in for an injured Dantin and was terrific, finishing the year completing 60% of his throws for 1,244 yards and 13 touchdowns with five interceptions – with three coming in the bowl loss - while running for 143 yards. He has the arm and has the running ability, taking off for 65 yards and a score against FIU, and he bombed away for 304 yards and three scores in the win over Central Michigan.
Junior David Pasquale got several shots to become a factor last year, and while he threw a pass, he was buried in the rotation and never got a look when Dantin went down. He’s 6-2 and 232 pounds with great running ability, taking off for 120 yards and a score, but he’ll lonely be used in Wildcat formations and to throw an X factor into the offensive attack.
Watch Out For … the coaching staff to take its time coming up with a No. 1 option. There’s no wrong call between Dantin and Owens, and they both might end up playing. They’re co-No. 1s on the depth chart going into the fall for a reason.
Strength: Experienced passers. Dantin and Owens can each run, but they’re passing quarterbacks who can get the air attack moving. The team can win with either one.
Weakness: Consistency. The passing game didn’t work early on and nine of the 23 touchdown passes came against Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan. It’s not a plus to complete 14-of-18 passes against Ball State and 18-of-38 against Northern Illinois.
Outlook: The depth is terrific with the Rockets not only having two good starting options, but a third in Pasquale who might be the most dangerous of the lot and a fourth player in redshirt freshman Dwight Macon who has terrific upside. Toledo will give defensive coordinators fits by throwing out different packages and different players to prepare for.
Unit Rating: 6.5
State of the Unit: The Rockets might have the MAC’s best running back situation with three excellent options who can all produce, to go along with mobile quarterbacks who helped the ground game finish third in the conference averaging 167 yards per game.
In a bit of a surprise, Adonis Thomas took over the job and ended up carrying the ground game with 1,098 yards and eight touchdowns including a 193-yard, two score day in the bowl loss to FIU. The 5-10, 185-pound senior averaged more than six yards per carry and was excellent in the passing game catching 31 balls for 372 yards and two scores. Very fast, he can be a home run hitter at times and he’s a rock; he has no problems being the workhorse. In a crowded backfield, he stands out because he’s the best receiver, and he’ll continue to be used in a variety of ways.
Senior Morgan Williams was supposed to be the main man for the ground game, but instead he ended up giving way to Thomas and ended up running for just 287 yards and without a score. In 2008 he tore off 330 yards against Miami University and ended up with 1,010 yards, but the 5-11, 215-pound slippery runner can handle the workload whenever needed.
6-0, 215-pound sophomore David Fluellen was the third man in the rotation with 224 yards and a score last season, and he has the makeup to do far more. While he might not be Thomas or Williams, he zips from 0-to-60 in a hiccup and he hits hard. He’s a load of a back who can also burst through the hole.
Watch Out For … A bit more of a rotation. Make no mistake about it; Thomas is the main man. Williams, Fluellen, and 6-1, 202-pound sophomore Darius Reeves can also carry the offense at times. There’s no reason to wear Thomas down, and while he might get 200 overall touches on the year, others will help.
Strength: Depth. Thomas is the star of the show, but the other three backs are all capable with Williams and Fluellen proven enough to be the No. 1 guy in a pinch. If the backups can catch the ball a bit better, they’ll be used even more.
Weakness: Blasting power. All the backs are strong and no one ducks away from contact, but there isn’t a true bruiser in the much. The bigger backs, Fluellen and Reeves, are more about speed and quickness than they are about hitting.
Outlook: The backfield is terrific. Thomas is an All-MAC star who can do it all as the key to the ground game, but Williams and Fluellen would start for most conference teams. If the offensive line continues to be strong, this group will be fantastic if Thomas doesn’t have to do most of the heavy lifting for a full season.
Unit Rating: 6.5
State of the Unit: The receiving corps has one superstar and a slew of complementary players. The key to the season will be to spread the ball around more, and not just to the running backs with Adonis Thomas and Morgan Williams finishing second and third in catches, respectively. The hope will be for several young players to fill in the gaps to add more balance to the attack.
Junior Eric Page has become one of the nation’s premier all-around playmakers, following up an 82-catch season with 99 grabs for 1,105 yards and eight touchdowns. Also a premier kick returner, he averaged over 30 yards per pop with three touchdowns, and also served as the team’s top punt returner. At 5-10 and 180 pounds he’s not all that huge and he’s not physical, but he’s extremely smart, busts his tail, and has remained humble after dominating in his first two seasons. A great route runner, he doesn’t make mistakes and always finds the holes in the coverages while always making the tough catch.
6-4, 204-pound senior Kenny Stafford has the size, and he averaged over 19 yards per catch, but he hasn’t been able to become anything more than an occasional playmaker with 18 catches for 337 yards and four scores last year. Working at the outside X, he needs to do a far better job of stretching the field, while 6-1, 198-pound senior Tim Cortazzo has to do a better job of using his excellent wheels to make more than the 11 catches for 133 yards and a score he came up with last year. Cortazzo has 4.3 speed and the skills to be used anywhere in the receiving corps, but he hasn’t done nearly enough to get more balls thrown his way.
Veteran tight end Danny Noble made 18 catches for 223 yards, but his real worth was finding the end zone making five touchdown grabs including two against Eastern Michigan. A good runner who’s more like a big wide receiver, he came up with a 74-yard play against EMU and can be used to stretch the field a bit more. At 6-5 and 248 pounds, he’s a tall blocker who was moved to wideout but ended up working at tight end where he’ll stay for one more year.
The coaching staff is banking on several relatively untested players to grow into roles, especially Cordale Scott , a 6-4, 220-pound junior who transferred from Illinois and should push Cortazzo for time at the inside Z position. While Cortazzo is fast, 5-9, 175-pound sophomore Bernard Reedy is the team’s fastest player. A true blazer, Reedy will start stretching the field working behind Page after making five catches for 32 yards. 6-3, 200-pound sophomore James Green has the talent to be the team’s best receiver at some point. Originally a Tennessee Volunteer, the Miami native went from being an option quarterback in high school to a top receiver, but he only caught nine passes for 70 yards in his first year.
Working behind Noble at tight end will be 6-7, 240-pound senior Jerome Jones and 6-4, 245-pound junior Colby Kratch . Jones is more of a receiver than a blocker, but he needs to do more with his big frame after catching just three passes for 23 yards and a score. Kratch, a JUCO transfer, is ready to fill in immediately.
Watch Out For … Green, Scott, and Reedy. Page is the No. 1, 2, and 3 options in the passing game, but Green and Scott have BCS-school skills and need to start showing them off. Reedy is way too fast to not make an impact.
Strength: Page. Even though he’s the target of every opposing defensive scheme, he always comes through with big catches – except for the loss to FIU. There’s no excuse for the other targets to not become major factors.
Weakness: No. 2 receiver and tight end blocking. The Rocket tight ends are big wide receivers and don’t do too much hitting, while the offense could stand to find someone, anyone, who can take the heat off of Page.
Outlook: Toledo always seems to have phenomenal receiving talents who don’t quite play up to snuff. The hope will be for others to step up and become dangerous options on the other side of Page, but it’ll be up to the junior all-star to be the main man once again. However, there’s plenty of speed, size, and talent to hope for an explosive year.
Unit Rating: 6
State of the Unit: The offensive front was terrific throughout last year allowing just 20 sacks while paving the way for a strong year for the ground game. Losing center Kevin Kowalski is a hit, and Nate Cole was a good-hitting right guard, but this is a strong, veteran group that has the potential to be among the MAC’s best.
The Rockets are set at tackle with two four-year starters in seniors Mike VanDerMeulen on the left side and John Morookian on the right. The 6-7, 304-pound VanDerMeullen earned Third-Team All-MAC honors last year, and with his weight held in check (after ballooning up to 325 earlier in his career), he should be among the league’s best all-around blockers, especially in pass protection. Morookian is a 6-5, 301-pound veteran who was barely a part of the program a few years ago after grayshirting and waiting for his turn. Now he’s a key blocker on the right side who’s decent in pass protection but better at finishing off his runs.
Also returning is left guard Phillipkeith Manley , a 6-5, 309-pound senior who started every game last year and came up with a strong campaign. One of the team’s most versatile linemen, he can play anywhere up front, and he’s more of a tackle than a guard, but he’s good next to VanDerMeulen.
There will be a fight to replace Cole at right guard with 6-6, 300-pound junior A.J. Lindeman and 6-5, 280-pound redshirt freshman Greg Mancz , who’ll both play key roles somewhere up front. Lindeman is ready to go right now after a strong offseason of workouts, while Mancz will be a fixture next year. If he can add a little more weight, he should be a solid all-around blocker.
The key to the line will be replacing Kowalski in the middle, and sophomore Zac Kerin appears to be ready. The 6-5, 294-pounder spent most of his high school career as a defensive lineman, came to Toledo as a tackle, and now he’ll work at center making all the line calls. He’s smart, but he’ll have to fight off sophomore Jeff Myers and redshirt freshman Erik Carlson for the job.
6-4, 293-pound junior Fadi Farha was a promising sophomore last year, and now he’s a key backup tackle who’ll work on the right side. He can work at guard if needed, but he’s better on the outside. 6-4, 275-pound redshirt freshman Josh Hendershot will be one of the most important backups as the understudy behind VanDerMeulen at left tackle and with the toughness to see time at either guard job.
Watch Out For … Kerin. Toledo always gets great play out of its centers, and Kerin has the makeup and the skills to be a rock up front for the next three years.
Strength: Veteran tackles. It’s not just that Toledo is returning two experienced big boys on the outside; it’s that VanDerMeulen and Morookian are going into their fourth years up front. The Rockets are set on the outside.
Weakness: Star power. There might be veterans, but there aren’t any superstar blockers to work around. The tackles are experienced, but they’re not special, while the guards are good enough, but not killers.
Outlook: The line was among the MAC’s best last year, and as long as Kerin is merely adequate, it will be again. The whole is better than the sum, and as long as everyone stays healthy, the line should be a major positive.
Unit Rating: 5.5
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