2011 Toledo Preview
Toledo WR Eric Page
Toledo WR Eric Page
Posted Jun 15, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Toledo Rockets

Toledo Rockets

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Tim Beckman
3rd year: 13-12
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 22, Def. 24, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 9
Ten Best Toledo Players
1. WR/KR Eric Page, Jr.
2. RB Adonis Thomas, Sr.
3. LB Dan Molls, Jr.
4. CB Desmond Marrow, Sr.
5. QB Austin Dantin, Jr.
6. QB Terrance Owens, Soph.
7. DE T.J. Fatinikun, Jr.
8. DT Malcolm Riley, Sr.
9. DT Johnie Roberts, Sr.
10. OT Mike VanDerMeulen, Sr.
2011 Schedule

Sep. 1 New Hampshire
Sep. 10 at Ohio State
Sep. 17 Boise State
Sep. 24 at Syracuse
Oct. 1 at Temple
Oct. 8 Eastern Michigan
Oct. 15 at Bowling Green
Oct. 22 Miami Univ.
Nov. 1 Northern Illinois
Nov. 8 Western Michigan
Nov. 18 at Central Michigan
Nov. 25 at Ball State

Head coach Tim Beckman turned the ship around, and now he's ready to make Toledo into a MAC superpower again.

There was a time not all that long ago when the Rockets ruled the MAC world. There were two straight MAC title losses in the late 1990s to juggernaut Marshall teams, but from 2000 to 2005 the program won 55 games, played in three MAC Championships, won two, and went to four bowl games. From 2006 to 2009 the Rockets struggled with four straight losing seasons, making it the only time since the mid-1970s that things weren't that hot. Toledo didn't become miserably bad at an Eastern Michigan-like level, but things had become stale. Beckman quickly changed all that.

The 5-7 2009 was fine, but it was disappointing over the final half with four losses in the final five games. But Beckman's defense improved, the offense found a little more pop and consistency, and all of a sudden the wins started to come with a thrilling 8-5 season closing out with a wild bowl loss to FIU.

The problem was that Toledo was routinely put in its place. There was a thrilling win over Purdue, but Arizona, Boise State, and Northern Illinois whacked the Rockets by a combined score of 163 to 46 to cast a bit of a pall over the campaign. The home loss to Wyoming was inexcusable coming off the win over the Boilermakers, and the Little Caesars Bowl loss to FIU was a disappointment, but for the most part the team found its niche.

Last year the Rockets went 7-1 in MAC play, and one 65-30 loss to Northern Illinois aside, it was a terrific conference campaign. Now Beckman has the team poised and ready to do even more.

The 2010 offense was spotty and didn't crank out the yards against the mediocre teams like it was supposed to. The explosion that should've been there on a regular basis simply wasn't, while the defense did its job against the weak and the sad and got lit up by almost everyone else. Out of all the good things the team did, only one win came against a bowl team – Ohio – and there were too many struggles against the Ball States and Central Michigans of the world. The goal now will be to dominate in turnover margin again - after finishing first in the MAC - do all the little things right, and hope that experience translates into production.

Nine starters are back on offense led by a dynamic and dangerous receiving corps and with a strong foundation up front. Nine starters are also back on a defense that took the ball away 34 times and was terrific against the run, but was 12th in the MAC against the pass and got lit up by anyone with a strong attack.

Northern Illinois is still great, and Western Michigan and Central Michigan are strong enough to challenge for the MAC title, but Toledo should be right in the mix for the West and it should be back to form as one of the league's superpowers. Now it has to start beating the big boys to get there.

What to watch for on offense: The quarterback battle. Austin Dantin might be the best all-around option with a strong, accurate passing arm and good mobility, but he's coming off a shoulder problem that opened up the door for Terrance Owens. When he got his chance, Owens was terrific. The Rockets finished 77th in the nation in passing but was third in the MAC in passing efficiency and should be even better with receivers Eric Page and Kenny Stafford returning. Now the team has to settle on the right quarterback.

What to watch for on defense: More takeaways. The defense wasn't always great, and it got ripped apart by the great teams, but it managed to take the ball away on a regular basis and bailed out the inconsistent offense. The pass rush was defense, and now it should be even better with good athleticism and talent at every spot. Last year, only Tulsa, Oregon, Hawaii, and Miami University forced more turnovers, and Toledo should be just as good with nine returning starters and strong enough depth to keep a good rotation of playmakers flowing. Be disappointed if the D doesn't comeup with at least 30 takeaways.

The team will be far better if … the passing game gets the ball into the end zone. The Rocket quarterbacks combined for 23 touchdown passes last year with 19 of them coming in the eight wins and just four in the five losses. There were only two times when the air show didn't get in the end zone with the first coming in the opener against Arizona (excusable) and the second in the loss to Wyoming (inexcusable). The Rockets went 5-1 in games with more than one touchdown pass. In 2009, Tim Beckman's first year as the head man, Toledo threw for 13 touchdown passes in the five wins and nine in the seven losses.

The schedule: The Rockets are going to have to earn their way to a strong season. After opening up against New Hampshire, life gets very, very nasty with three road games in four weeks going to Ohio State and Syracuse before kicking off MAC play against Temple. The home date in the run? Boise State. While facing the Owls and Miami from the East is an awful break, the payback comes against the West with two of the division's strongest teams, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan, coming to Toledo. Closing out at Central Michigan and Ball State isn't all that bad.

Best offensive player: Junior WR Eric Page. A phenomenal returner and a dangerous playmaker no matter who he gets the ball in his hands, he's one of the MAC's premier weapons. He's not big, but he's slippery and he has the right attitude and makeup to keep working to be special. With 181 catches in his first two seasons, he knows what he's doing as a route runner and a No. 1 target, and now he has to get used to more national attention.

Best defensive player: Junior LB Dan Molls. The Toledo defense is full of veterans, but it doesn't have a slew of sure-thing stars. Molls is close, though, coming off a 143 tackle season with five sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. Fast, active, and disruptive, he gets all over the field and packs a wallop when he gets there. This is his linebacking corps now with Archie Donald gone, and he'll make the most of the opportunity.

Key player to a successful season: Senior WR Kenny Stafford. Page is the star of the show and he'll put up big numbers no matter what, but the offense will work better and will be far more consistent with a steady No. 2 target to rely on. Stafford should be it, at least in theory, with great size and good deep speed, but he hasn't made enough deep plays on a regular basis. If he can stretch the field more and double the 18 catches he made last year, the passing game should quickly open up even more.

The season will be a success if … the Rockets win the West. Toledo hasn't played in the MAC title game since 2004, and all the pieces are there to finally get back. With Northern Illinois and Western Michigan at home in back to back games, there's no reason to not win the division as long as November is strong. Anything less will be a major disappointment.

Key game: Nov. 1 vs. Northern Illinois. 422 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Northern Illinois ran at will against the Rockets, got an 11-of-16, 162-yard, one score passing day from Chandler Harnish, and finished with 584 yards of total offense while holding on to the ball for over 37 minutes in a MAC West defining 65-30 romp. If Toledo wants to win the division, it has to come out of the off week smoking against the loaded Huskies.

2010 Fun Stats:
- Punt Return Average: Opponents 11.1 – Toledo 4.3
- Field Goals: Opponents 12-of-15 – Toledo 6-of-14
- Penalties: Toledo 102 for 834 yards – Opponents 73 for 665 yards
- 2011 Toledo Preview | 2011 Toledo Offense
- 2011 Toledo Defense | 2011 Toledo Depth Chart
- Toledo Previews  2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006