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2008 Toledo Preview - Offense
Toledo WR Stephen Williams
Toledo WR Stephen Williams
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 9, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Toledo Rocket Offense

Toledo Rockets

Preview 2008 - Offense


- 2008 CFN Toledo Preview | 2008 Toledo Offense
- 2008 Toledo Defense | 2008 Toledo Depth Chart
- 2007 Toledo Preview | 2006 CFN Toledo Preview 

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.

Returning Leaders
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
Player who has to step up and become a star: Redshirt freshman OT
Mike VanDerMeulen
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman WR Tim Cortazzo
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:
Proven depth, new tackles

Quarterbacks

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 emerge.
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.
Rating: 6.5

Running Backs

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.
Rating: 6

Receivers

Projected Starters: 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 running back 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.
Rating: 7.5

Offensive Linemen

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 potential.

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. Eventually.

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 overall production.
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.
Rating: 6