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2008 Toledo Preview - Offense
Toledo WR Stephen Williams
CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Toledo Rocket Offense
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What you need to know: The
offense blew up to become the best in the MAC averaging 448
yards and 33 points per game. There might not be that kind of
explosion and production again, but it'll be a really, really
good attack led by QB Aaron Opelt and the league's best
receiving duo in Stephen Williams and Nick Moore. The loss of
the offense's two top players, OT John Greco and RB Jalen
Parmele, leaves mile-wide holes, but the backfield should be
fine if DaJuane Collins runs as well as expected. The tackles
will be the early issue. The interior of the line will be
fantastic, but Mike VanDerMeulen and Chris Meenan have to be
productive from day one.
Passing: Aaron Opelt
144-249, 1,756 yds, 12 TD, 7 INT
Rushing: DaJuane Collins
99 carries, 636 yds, 7 TD
Receiving: Stephen Williams
73 catches, 1,169 yds, 7 TD
Star of the offense: Junior QB Aaron Opelt
Proven depth, new tackles
Player who has to step up and become a star: Redshirt
freshman OT Mike VanDerMeulen
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman WR Tim
Best pro prospect: Junior WR Stephen Williams
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Opelt, 2) Williams, 3)
WR Nick Moore
Strength of the offense: Quarterback, wide receiver
Weakness of the offense:
Projected Starter: It took a few years, but Toledo has a
steady situation at quarterback again with junior Aaron Opelt
back after throwing for 1,756 yards and 12 touchdowns in
nine games. He threw nine interceptions, but three came in the
loss to Kansas. He didn't throw more than one against anyone
else, and he only gave up one over the final four games he was
on the field for. Despite getting banged up he had a good
overall season and was amazing when he got into a groove
throwing for 334 yards and two touchdowns against Central
Michigan and 387 yards and four scores against Northern
Illinois. The 6-2, 222 pounder is a good runner, even if he's
not a gamebreaker, and is decent around the goal line with four
rushing scores last season. The offense will work with someone
else under center, but Opelt is the one who could make it
special week in and week out.
Projected Top Reserves: With Clint Cochran out of
the mix so he can go to med school, 6-3, 190-pound sophomore
D.J. Lenehan has the No. 2 job all to himself after filling
in when needed and finishing with 630 yards and four touchdown
passes with four interceptions as a true freshman. Accurate and
mobile with good upside and a nice grasp of the offense, he's a
dependable backup when and if Aaron Opelt goes down again.
6-2, 200-pound sophomore Alex Pettee has a huge arm and a
little bit of experience from his days at Pierce CC in
California. The bomber threw for close to 2,200 yards and 22
touchdowns as a JUCO star, and while he's likely the third man
in the mix this year, he'll get plenty of practice reps and will
get every shot to win the backup job.
Watch Out For ... Lenehan to see more and more
work. Opelt is a potentially special playmaker, but his
toughness is actually a problem; he's not afraid to take a shot.
Lenehan's a good enough prospect to see action no matter what,
and he's almost certain to see meaningful playing time for a
long stretch at some point.
Strength: Opelt. When he's on, there are few MAC passers who can
keep up. With a good receiving corps and a decent nucleus to the
line returning, Opelt should put up huge numbers.
Weakness: Running. While the Toledo quarterbacks can move and
will finish with positive yards, there isn't a true rushing
threat to help out a ground game that needs the tailbacks to
Outlook: Opelt is the star of the show for
the next two years after a breakthrough, when he was healthy, sophomore
season, and the two backups can play. Lenehan got enough work
last year to be ready to step in if needed. and Pattee
is a nice third option with the JUCO experience to not be fazed
if he gets the call. The Rocket passing game will produce with
any of the three under center.
Projected Starters: What was the MAC's deepest backfield
last off-season became the Jalen Parmele show after a bunch of
off-field issues depleted the depth. On the positive side, the
legal issues, among other problems, ended up allowing junior DaJuane Collins
to grow into a role rushing for 636 yards and seven
touchdowns while averaging a whopping 6.4 yards per carry. The
5-10, 216-pounder is tough on the inside and extremely quick at
making the cut and bouncing to the outside. He mostly got his
big yards in blowouts, running for 102 yards and a score in the
loss to Kansas and 132 yards and a touchdown in the win over
Northern Illinois, but he has the potential to be a 1,200-yard
back with more work.
Projected Top Reserves: 5-10, 170-pound Adonis Thomas was one of the team's top
recruits last year and was able to redshirt. Now he's ready to
shine. While he's not necessarily an inside runner, he's a
talented all-around prospect with the speed burst to crank out
yards in chunks rushing for 1,999 yards and averaging 11.7 yards
per carry as a high school senior.
With Gordon Warner moving from running back to receiver, it'll
be up to the combination of Cameron Mobley and Jason
Washington to get more involved. Mobley, a redshirt
freshman, is a quick little back who can dart in and out of the
hole. Washington, a 203-pound sophomore, is more of a bruiser.
Watch Out For ... the loss of Jalen Parmele to not
be the killer many will make it out to be. You don't get better
by losing a 1,511-yard, 14 touchdown back, but the Rocket
runners have the talent to combine for 2,000 yards and there
will be a little running from the quarterbacks.
Strength: Quickness. All the Toledo backs can zip and dart
through the holes, and all can rip off five yards a crack when
they get a shot. DaJuane Collins is quick, Cameron Mobley is
quicker, and Adonis Thomas is the quickest.
Weakness: Power. Collins can bring a little bit of lumber, but
the running game is about speed and quickness. There isn't a
true fullback to step in to help on hard yards.
Outlook: The nation's 15th best rushing offense
and the best in the MAC will take a step back without
Parmele, but it'll be fine. The passing game is going to be the
show early on, so Collins, Mobley and
Washington can ease into the season. Toledo always has
productive backs waiting in the wings, and even though the
backup experience might not necessarily be in place, there's
talent if Collins can't handle most of the workload.
Senior Nick Moore didn't necessarily turn into the
full-time No. 1 receiver he was supposed to, mainly because he
didn't have to, but he stepped up his game in a huge way
catching 60 passes for 731 yards and eight touchdowns despite
missing two games with an ankle injury. At 6-4 and 188 pounds he has the size to create a variety of matchup problems against
smaller defensive backs, and he has the speed to blow past the
less athletic ones. While he he was having a nice, steady
season, he didn't start to blow up until late catching seven
passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns against Northern
Illinois before coming up with two double-digit grab games in
his final three.
Junior Stephen Williams went from an intriguing prospect
to a star as he led the team with 73 catches for 1,169 yards and
seven touchdowns with a whopping 16-yard-per-catch average. At
6-5 and 197 pounds, he's a big target with excellent wheels and
improving hands, While he was shut out by Kansas, he was a
steady force all year long and exploded for 15 catches for 172
yards and two touchdowns in the loss to Buffalo. He finished the
season with six 100-yard games and should shine again with Nick
Moore taking away attention on the other side.
Lost in the limelight of Moore and Williams will be redshirt
freshman Tim Cortazzo, a 6-1, 185-pounder who was a nice
pickup for the program a few years ago and has the potential to
make a ton of plays with the lack of coverage he'll see. A speed
receiver with 4.3 wheels, he should have a good year in place of
Andrew Hawkins, who caught 29 passes for 246 yards.
Replacing tight end Chris Hopkins would be a problem if Toledo
didn't have 6-5, 209-pound senior John Allen waiting in
the wings. While he's not much of a blocker, he grew into a nice
receiver in two tight end sets making ten catches for 61 yards
after making 11 grabs as a sophomore. He'll have plenty of open
space to operate, and he has to take advantage and be more than
just a steady, reliable player; he needs to be a weapon.
Projected Top Reserves: When Toledo goes to a
four-wide set, 6-5, 205-pound junior Robin Bailey will
step in after making just two catches for 20 yards in the same
role last year. It's hard to see too many passes when there are
so many other prime targets, but he's too big and too athletic
not to do more.
5-10, 189-pound junior Shane Hubbard hasn't been able to
break into the box score yet after being a backup so far, and
now he'll have to show he can step in for Stephen Williams from
time to time. A possession receiver, Hubbard doesn't have
anywhere near the same skills of Williams, but he's been around
long enough to know the offense.
5-10, 185-pound sophomore
Gordon Warner saw a little mop-up duty rushing for 126
yards and three scores. Most of his work came in back-to-back
56-yard outings late in his freshman season. With tremendous
quickness and a great burst, he has game-breaking ability as a
receiver after switching positions this spring. He'll start out
behind Tim Cortazzo.
When Toledo wants a bigger tight end, 6-4, 246-pound Tom
Burzine will step in to add the bulk. While he can catch if
needed, he made one grab last year for 11 yards, he's a blocker
who'll come in on key running plays and in two tight end sets.
Watch Out For ... Tom Cortazzo. He won't put up a
50-catch season because of all the work going to Stephen
Williams and Nick Moore, but he'll have a blow up game or two.
He's too fast for every MAC team's No. 3 corner.
Strength: Williams and Moore. This is the best receiving tandem
in Toledo history and it should combine for around 150 catches
for 2,000 yards. There's too much size and too much speed to
adequately deal with both of them.
Weakness: Depth. There isn't any, which is partly the reason why
Gordon Warner moved over from running back. The entire offense will have
to do a quick rewrite if something happens to Williams or Moore.
Outlook: All the questions going into last year
were answered. Yes, Moore could turn into a top target.
Yes, Williams was every big as good as advertised. Yes,
this is the MAC's most exciting receiving duo. With a speedster
like Cortazzo ready to shine, there are plenty of options for
the UT passing game to go to. John Allen is a decent veteran
tight end who should put up nice numbers in his expanded role.
Projected Starters: Three starters return, but the
spotlight will be focused squarely on redshirt freshman Mike
VanDerMeulen as he takes over for three-time All-MAC star John Greco
at left tackle. At 6-7 and 290 pounds, VanDerMeulen is a tall, athletic
blocker who has the potential to be a strong fixture for the next four
years. With room to grow into his frame, he should only get better, but
for now, just being half as good as Greco would do.
The other new starter is at right tackle where sophomore Chris Meenan
gets the full-time job after serving as a key backup. Listed as the
starter coming out of spring ball last year, he stepped aside for Jared
Dewalt, and now he needs to be a consistent all-around blocker. At 6-7
and 339 pounds he has the size to go along with the athleticism and
technique to be a good one, but he'll need to battle to keep the job.
Junior Jared DeWalt did a fantastic job playing out of position
at right tackle as he grew into an impressive pass blocker and blew open
hole after hole for big runs. Now he gets to move to his more natural
guard spot and use his 6-4, 318-pound frame to be a dominant left guard.
A good producer since his true freshman season, the one-time star
recruit should be on several All-MAC lists as one of the league's most
experienced and talented interior blockers.
Back at his right guard spot is 6-4, 270-pound sophomore Kevin
Kowalski, who took over the starting job in the third game of last
year and held on. While a bit undersized, he proved he could handle
himself just fine as a true freshman and has the strength of a much
larger player. He's already a good run blocker, and now he should become
a dominant one.
Junior Buster Garrett took over the starting center job halfway
through last season and was more than solid. Mired deep on the depth
chart going into last year, he broke out as a steady all-around blocker,
and while he's not huge at 6-3 and 272 pounds, he's big enough. His job
is to be serviceable and let the guards shine.
Projected Top Reserves: Pushing hard for the
starting left tackle job will be 6-5, 295-pound true freshman John
Morookian, a grayshirt who has the size to be a good backup with a
little more time. He might not be the most polished prospect, and he's
certainly nowhere near as talented as John Greco, but he has good
6-6, 310-pound redshirt freshman Jan Gewont was supposed to be a
starter somewhere last year but he got hurt and was out for the year
with a right knee injury. If he's healthy he'll be the starting right
tackle, but he can move inside and play guard if needed. The 6-6,
310-pounder has as much talent as anyone on the line and if everything
is back to 100%, he should eventually grow into an All-MAC performer.
Working at left tackle and possibly moving around where needed will be
massive junior Shawn Glaser. Given every opportunity to start,
the 6-8, 328 pounder is a huge frame and is great when he can lock on to
a lineman. While he hasn't panned out as expected, he'll get his chance
again this year.
Adding more bulk inside will be 6-1, 302-pound sophomore Levi George,
who's around 25 pounds heavier than projected starter, Buster Garrett.
One of the team's strongest players, he has the beef to potentially move
to guard if needed, but he's a center.
Watch Out For ... a drop-off. This might have been
the MAC's best line throughout last season, helped by having John Greco
at left tackle, and now there can't help but be a slight dip in the
Strength: Bulk. This is a good-sized line all across the five
spots with some huge backups waiting in the wings. Generating consistent
production for the running game won't be a problem. There's good enough
depth to overcome any big injury issues early on.
Weakness: Tackle experience. There's a little, but considering
the line was so good at protecting the passer from the outside, two new
starters, and two new tackles, could be a problem.
Outlook: The pass protection got night-and-day
better in one year allowing just 16 sacks after giving up 30 the year
before, and the running game was the best in the MAC thanks to the front
five. Two key starters, Greco and David Perkins, are gone, but
there's still enough talent and returning production to hope for another
good year. The line won't be as good, but it should be fine. The key
will be the play of the tackles; the interior might be the most
productive in the league.