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2006 CFN Toledo
What you need to know:
Things can't be any worse. Thanks to a slew of key
injuries, the defense went into the tank finishing 102nd in the
nation allowing 444 yards per came and was 116th in the country,
and dead last in the MAC, in scoring defense giving up 39 points
per game. Nothing worked. There wasn't any run defense, the
secondary struggled, and worst of all, there wasn't any pass
rush or burst into the backfield finishing tied for dead last in
the nation in both sacks and tackles for loss. Expect a big improvement with FS
Tyrrell Herbert and ends Sean Williamson and Douglas Westbrook
returning from injury and LB Archie Donald back from academic
probation. The safeties, helped by Barry Church and Lester
Richmond, are special, but there's a lack of size up front and
the 4-2-5 alignment isn't going to help the run defense too
much. Compared to last year, though, things are going to be far
Several with 1
Interceptions: Barry Church, Myshan Pettis, 3
Star of the defense: Junior SS Barry Church
Pass rush, run defense
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior DE
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Archie Donald
Best pro prospect: Church
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Church, 2) FS Tyrrell
Herbert, 3) S Lester Richmond
Strength of the defense: Safeties, experience
Weakness of the defense:
Projected Starters: The biggest problem on last year's woeful defense was the play on the
line. That should immediately be taken care of with the return of senior
Sean Williamson after missing all of last season with a leg
problem. The 6-1, 254-pounder might not be a terror of a pass rusher,
but he's an all-star caliber defender who was one of the team's best
all-around players before getting hurt. Strong against the run and
athletic enough to drop into linebacker from time to time, he can do a
little of everything well. He'll be counted on to become a more
explosive and be a steady force in the backfield; something he wasn't in
6-2, 233-pound junior
Derrick Summers has been a factor since his true freshman
season and finished fifth on the team with 58 tackles last
season. Ideally a strongside linebacker in a traditional 4-3, he
moved up to the line this spring to add some speed and
quickness to the outside. For a team in a desperate need of a pass rush,
Summers might provide it.
Junior Skylaar Constant returns to his spot on the inside after
making 33 tackles and a sack. At 6-4 and 270 pounds he's more of
a big end playing tackle, and he started out on the outside last
spring, but he beefed up just enough to be a regular on the
interior. He has the experience and he has the toughness, but he
didn't get into the backfield at all and he was shoved all over
the place against the run.
Adding some desperately needed beef on the inside is junior
Maurice Hill, who made 27 tackles and three tackles for
loss. The 282 pounder isn't the team's biggest tackle option,
but he might turn out to become the most important against the
stronger running teams. While he's quick, he's not going to get
in the backfield on a regular basis.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-3, 228-pound sophomore Douglas Westbrook is back after missing
almost all of last year with a knee injury. He made five tackles in just
over two games before getting hurt, and now he's expected to be the pass
rushing terror the line's been desperately missing. More of a safety
playing on the line, he beefed up a bit and should be able to handle the
job a little better while growing into a dangerous pass rusher. He has
an explosive step that should be too much for most MAC tackles.
Considering the Rockets
were next-to-last in America when it came to getting to the
quarterback, there should be a place right away for sophomore
JUCO transfer Albertson Alexandre. At 6-5 and 250 pounds
he's a big presence on the outside, and he's exactly what the
team needs after making 25
tackles for loss and 15 sacks in his freshman season at Foothill
Pushing for time behind Douglas Westbrook will be sophomore
Alex Johnson, who started the last eight games of last year
and was sixth on the team with 51 tackles to go along with a
sack and 4.5 tackles for loss. While he's not as good as a
healthy Westbrook, he's a great reserve to add to the mix; he
should be much fresher and much more productive as a specialist.
6-5, 262-pound Alfred Martin isn't the typical nose
tackle, but he's active and he is physical for his size. What
the senior hasn't been is all that productive making nine
tackles and two tackles for loss in a reserve role, and he'll
need to play big from day one to provide more depth on the
Watch Out For ... Alexandre. Toledo has a specific
need, and the JUCO transfer should be able to fill it. Even in a
reserve role he could get more sacks than the nine the entire
Strength: End depth. A disaster last season, now
there's a slew of options to play around with thanks to the
return of Douglas Westbrook and Sean Williamson from injury and
the movement of Terrell Willis from linebacker to end. Alex
Johnson and Alexandre aren't bad backup options.
Weakness: Pass rush and size. Everyone is quick and the ends
look the part, but the Rockets were tied for dead-last in the
nation in both sacks and tackles for loss. If that wasn't
enough, the run defense was miserable partly because there's no
size in the middle.
Outlook: Blaming injuries is easy, but that's no
excuse for being the worst defensive line in America. This group
didn't do anything right last season, but now there's hope with
Sean Williamson and Douglas Westbrook returning from injury and
the addition of JUCO transfer Alexandre. The tackles
have to be better with Skylaar Constant
needing to hold up.
Projected Starters: The Rockets only use
two linebackers and get a big boost with the return of sophomore
Archie Donald, who missed all of last year with academic
problems. A rising star who was expected to explode last year
after making 43 tackles in 2006, now he'll be an active
playmaker who should be all over the field. He's only 6-2 and
215 pounds, but he's physical.
Returning to his starting spot for the third straight season is
senior Keith Forestal, a 6-3, 245-pound hitter who made
45 tackles. He didn't do nearly enough against the run and was a
disappointment as a disruptive defender. With his size and
experience, just being serviceable isn't going to get it done; he needs to be a more intimidating force.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Beau Brudzinski had a nice year as a reserve
making 39 tackles and three tackles for loss, helped by getting
three starts. Now he'll play behind Archie Donald using his
quickness and athleticism in the rotation. At 6-1 and 217
pounds, he's not that big, but he can move extremely well; he
cuts on a dime.
Coming in to help right away will be JUCO transfer Daris
Quinn, a 220-pound athlete who was a good high school
running back and now will immediately push for starting time. He
could turn out to be the team's best linebacker from the moment
he arrives on campus this fall.
6-2, 190-pound redshirt freshman Uriah Akinmoju is more
of a safety than a linebacker, but he was thrown into the mix
early on this off-season and now will play behind Donald. He
might not be big, but he can move.
Watch Out For ... there to be plenty of movement in
the scheme. Toledo likes to mix up the 4-3 with a 4-2-5 meaning
ends like Sean Williamson and Derrick Summers will spend plenty
of time at outside linebacker. Forestal and Donald will start out inside but could move outside at times.
Strength: Speed and quickness. Donald and Forestal
can move. They'll have to do even more to get into the backfield
to help out the ends and the line after a lousy year.
Weakness: Size. Forestal is 245 pounds, but the other three top
linebackers average around 210 pounds per man. Bigger, tougher
teams should be able to do some shoving around.
Outlook: Considering the Rockets only use two
linebackers in the 4-2-5 alignment, there's more than enough
depth to create plenty of options. The return of Donald
from missing all of last year with academic issues should be a
big plus, while the addition of JUCO transfer Daris Quinn should
pay immediate dividends. Everyone has to be better against the
run and everyone has to do more to be disruptive.
Projected Starters: Senior Tyrell Herbert
is back after missing almost all of last year with a hamstring
injury, and his presence should make a night-and-day difference.
The free safety led the team with 74 stops two years ago and
will instantly add more pop to the run defense. Like a strong
safety when it comes to providing the big pop, he can do a
little of everything and is the vocal leader who controls the
Also returning is junior Barry Church, who's one of the
nation's best strong safeties and the team's best pro prospect.
He made 92 tackles, three interceptions and six tackles for loss
having to do everything by himself at times, like against Iowa
State when he made 19 stops and three tackles for loss. A
good-sized 6-2 and 212 pounds with tremendous athleticism, he
has lived up to his billing as a top recruit, and then some.
The Rockets use a fifth defensive back, a Rover, which will once
again be manned by Lester Richmond after he spent last
year at free safety. The corner-sized 6-1, 195-pound junior led
the team with 97 tackles with three broken up passes and two
forced fumbles. He plays much, much bigger than his size
providing a huge pop, and he has the speed and quickness to
always be around the ball. While he was fantastic last season,
he'll be better with even more room to move.
Sophomore Myshan Pettis
went from walk-on to starter as he stepped in early on to
make 41 tackles and tie for the team lead with three
interceptions. While he's not that big compared to the other
Rocket top corners, he's quick and experienced. No, he's not a
star in the making, but he can certainly play.
6-3, 186-pound sophomore Desmond Marrow was great at as a
freshman making 19 tackles, but he missed all of last year. With
his size and speed, he has the potential to be the team's
lockdown corner for the next three years as long as he can stay
healthy. The talent is there to be an all-star, but he'll have
to prove it with most teams staying away from Walter Atkins
Projected Top Reserves: Back in the mix at one corner is 6-1, 189-pound junior Walter Atkins
after finishing fourth on the team with 70 tackles including 14
in the win over Iowa State. While he didn't pick off any passes,
he led the team with seven broken up passes and recovered two
fumbles. With good size and excellent speed, he's growing into a
top cover corner despite being more like a safety.
Sophomore Greg Harris had a nice season as a backup and a
spot starter making 26 tackles and an interception in nine games
of work. While he's not the fastest corner, he has decent 6-0,
192-pound size and is physical. He could be used at safety if
Junior Joe Shuler can play either corner or safety, and
while he has experience at free safety, he'll play behind Lester
Richmond at the Rover. Very fast and with 6-2, 183-pound size,
he has the measurables along with a little experience, making 14
tackles last year, but he hasn't done much when the ball was in
Watch Out For ... a major improvement. The secondary
didn't get any help from the pass rush, and that should change,
but the biggest boost will come from the return of Tyrrell
Herbert and Desmond Marrow after missing most of last year.
Strength: The safeties. Herbert and Barry Church
have NFL potential, while Lester Richmond is one of the MAC's
best all-around playmakers. With plenty of good talent, and more
on its way from the recruiting class, this should now be a
Weakness: Interceptions. This has been a huge problem for the
last few years. The corners simply don't take the ball away. The
team ended up taking away a mere ten picks with Church getting
three of them.
Outlook: One of the MAC's biggest disappointments,
the secondary went into the tank along with the rest of the
defense. There's no excuse for this to happen again with the
safety combination of Church, Herbert and Richmond, while the corners should be better. After allowing 229
yards per game and 31 touchdowns, the overall production can't
help but be better. There's too much talent to be so bad again.
Projected Starters: Junior
Alex Steigerwald has been a major weapon over the last two years
hitting 7-of-8 field goals as a freshman and 13-of-13 as a sophomore.
While he doesn't have a huge leg, he connected on a 44-yarder in the
season opener against Purdue and a 40-yarder against Ohio. That was
about it as far as being tested with everything else coming 35 yards and
in. Even so, he's a sure thing as long as the offense moves the ball
Replacing the 46.1-yard punting average of Brett Kern, who led Toledo to
the nation's second best net punting average, will be next to
impossible. Redshirt freshman Bill Claus will give it a try.
He'll have to fight this fall to hold on to the job, but he has a decent
enough leg to grow into the job. Just being consistent will be enough.
The return game was abysmal last season and needs kickoff returner
DaJuane Collins, who averaged 15.4 yards per try, and Nick Moore,
who averaged a mere 6.9 yards per return, will give it a shot. To be
fair to Moore and the punt return game, it's not like there were a bunch
of attempts; there were a mere 13.
Watch Out For ... Stiegerwald to get more room to
boot. The offense was simply too effective to give its star kicker too
many chances to bomb away. He might not have deep range, but when you
miss one kick in two years, you get deserve to get more chances.
Strength: Stiegerwald. See above.
Weakness: Kickoff coverage and kick and punt returns. The
Rockets were 91st in the nation in punt returns and 104th in kickoff
returns. Making things worse was a coverage team that allowed 22.2 yards
per kickoff return.
Outlook: Toledo always has strong special teams,
but the return game and kickoff coverage
team hit the skids last year. The kicking game will be fine, mostly because Alex Steigerwald is a special placekicker, but losing punter Brett Kern
hurts. Bill Claus will have to battle to keep the punting job.