2009 Toledo Preview - Offense
Toledo RB DaJuane Collins
CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Toledo Rocket Offense
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What you need to know: The
pieces are there and now the production has to follow. After an
explosive 2007, the offense went into a mystifying funk last
year even though the receiving corps was among the MAC's best,
the line was fine, and the backfield had talent. Things simply
didn't click on a regular basis. Offensive coordinator Matt
Campbell is bringing in an even more up-tempo spread attack than
the one Toledo tried in the past, but unlike last year there's
experience all across the board. QB Aaron Opelt had a decent
season hitting his short to midrange passes, and now he'll get
to open it up a bit more and work deeper. DaJuane Collins and
Morgan Williams form a dangerous rushing tandem that should
crank out over 2,000 yards, and Stephen Williams leads a big,
promising receiving corps that should benefit from the change in
style. The line is young, with only one senior on the two-deep,
but it's very experienced with plenty of competition for the
Passing: Aaron Opelt
225-376, 2,176 yds, 12 TD, 7 INT
Rushing: Morgan Williams
169 carries, 1,010 yds, 6 TD
Receiving: Stephen Williams
71 catches, 781 yds, 8 TD
Star of the offense:
Senior WR Stephen Williams
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore WR
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OG Phillipkeith Maney
Best pro prospect: Williams
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Williams, 2) QB Aaron
Opelt, 3) RB DuJuane Collins
Strength of the offense: Experience, Size
Weakness of the offense:
Consistency, Proven Production
It might be hard to keep 6-2, 216-pound junior
Alex Petee happy
after a strong spring. The former JUCO star who threw for close
to 2,200 yards and 22 touchdowns for Pierce C.C. in California
is a bomber who can push the ball deep and is good enough to
push hard for the No. 2 job. He was great when Aaron Opelt was
out in spring ball and he has the potential to see time if there
are struggles at the top.
Projected Starter: Senior
Aaron Opelt has the
size, the talent, and the experience to be a tremendous
all-around playmaker and a leader for the offense, but first he
has to prove he can lead the attack to points. He wasn’t awful,
completing 60% of his throws for 2,176 yards and 12 touchdowns
with seven touchdowns, to go along with five rushing scores, but
he wasn’t consistent and he didn’t do anything big to come up
with wins. On the plus side, he didn’t have any truly awful
moments as he spread out the interceptions over the course of
the season. He’s a mobile 6-2, 225-pounder who has the potential
to blow up with more of an emphasis on downfield passing, but
first he has to get over a problem suffered this spring to his
Projected Top Reserves:
Sophomore D.J. Lenehan was supposed to be a part of last year’s rotation after
getting the start in three games as a true freshman, but he
ended up redshirting and will likely be groomed to be starter
going into 2010. He’s a 6-3, 207-pound bomber who threw for
7,765 yards in high school, finishing second in the history of
prep quarterbacks, and he threw for 630 yards with four
touchdown passes and four interceptions in his first year at
Toledo. Accurate and mobile with a good grasp of how to run an
offense. If nothing else, he’s a dependable backup.
Watch Out For
... a huge year from Opelt. He has the talent around him and he
has the experience to keep the mistakes to a minimum. Without
saying they’re going to put the offense in Opelt’s hands, the
coaching staff is going to put the offense in Opelt’s hands.
Strength: Options. It might not seem like the Rockets
have a vast wealth of quarterback talent considering how
mediocre the passing game was last season, but the team is
stacked. Opelt, Lenehan, and Petee could all start without a
Weakness: Running. It’s not the job of
the quarterbacks to take off and crank out big yards on the
ground, but it would be nice if there was some semblance of a
Outlook: The passing game
wasn’t awful last year, but it didn’t do much to come up with
big plays and it wasn’t efficient. Aaron Opelt should be able to
do more with the offense this year as he’ll go for more
downfield passes, and while it could mean more mistakes, they
might be needed to get the rest of the offense moving. David
Pasquale is a good option, but there’s no room for him so he
moved to receiver while D.J. Lenehan and Alex Petee will battle
all season long for the No. 2 job.
Projected Starters: There are plenty of good
options in the backfield, but the most talented of the lot is
DaJuane Collins, a 5-10, 211-pound senior who ran for 700 yards and
five touchdowns, averaging 5.5 yards per carry, despite having
injury issues. He tore off 168 yards and two scores against
Eastern Michigan and 138 yards and two touchdowns against Fresno
State in back-to-back games, but he got tagged with an ankle
injury and wasn’t right over the final nine games of the year.
Tough enough to run inside and quick enough to bounce things
outside and tear off big runs, he can do a little of everything
with the ball in his hands.
Projected Top Reserves:
With DaJuane Collins struggling to get healthy last year,
then true-freshman Morgan
Williams came up big as the season went on, highlighted by a
showstopping 330-yard, three touchdown performance in the
blowout over Miami University late in the year. He ended the
season with a team-leading 1,010 yards and six scores, and now
he’ll combine forces with Collins to add a flash of lightning to
the attack. Even though he’s a thin 5-11, 195-pounder, the
sophomore can handle 20+ carries whenever needed.
Sophomore Jake Walker
didn’t get too much work last year, but he was tough when he got
his limited carries running for 67 yards on 16 tries. At 5-11
and 210 pounds, he qualifies as a big back in the Rocket
backfield and will get plenty of work this year as an inside
runner to wear down defenses from time to time.
190-pound true freshman
Darius Reeves will likely redshirt, but he’s good enough see
time if needed even though he’s the fourth back in the mix. With
excellent speed and quickness, he was considered a possible
corner prospect coming out of high school, but he’s too good a
runner to not work on offense.
Watch Out For ... Toledo to be back to being
Toledo running the ball. The Rockets were inconsistent with the
ground game and only came up with 1,755 yards, and now the
potential is there to be far, far better. Collins and Williams
could combine for well over 2,000 yards.
Talent. Collins is a do-it-all runner who can be the lead
back carrying the ball more than 20 times a game whenever
needed, while Williams showed against Miami that he can be
special when he gets on a roll.
Consistent power. Walker should bring a little more thump to the
inside running game, but he’s not going to wear down too many
defenses; he’s not big enough. This group will be more about
cutting and quickness.
Outlook: The nation's
15th best rushing offense in 2007 struggled last year, finishing
60th in the nation averaging 146 yards per game, but that was
partly because the line didn’t have a good year. The backs have
talent, with DuJuan Collins and Morgan Williams each with
All-MAC skills, and now they have to show them off more. There
will be a good rotation with the ground game likely to average
over 200 yards a game on a regular basis.
Looking to take on an even bigger role in
his senior year is Stephen Williams, a 6-5,
199-pound matchup nightmare who was second on the team in
receptions with 71 catches for 781 yards and eight touchdowns,
but is now 72 catches away from being the school's all-time
leading receiver. His production came in bunches with 12 catches
against Arizona to start out the year, and ten catches against
Akron in November, but he all but disappeared for stretches in
key games. A top inside target last year, now he'll move to the
outside X position.
With Williams getting all the attention on one side, 6-4,
195-pound true sophomore Kenny Stafford should
shine on the other. At 6-4 and 195 pounds he has good size and a
little bit of experience with six catches for 75 yards and a
touchdown. A great athlete, he'll be expected to stretch the
field and take advantage of single coverage on a regular basis.
6-5, 236-pound sophomore Danny Noble is
a try-hard target who has worked his way into a key role. The
new coaching staff has been impressed with his work ethic, and
while he's the size of a tight end, he was recruited to play the
posistion, he's a wide receiver who should come up with key
short and midrange grabs from the inside.
Tom Burzine is a 6-4, 249-pound all-around talent who
was originally used just as a blocker early in his career and
last year made seven catches for 77 yards. He's a better route
runner and receiver than he was able to show and now will play a
much bigger role in the passing game.
Projected Top Reserves: Working in a combination
with Danny Noble on the inside is 6-5, 230-pound senior
Robin Bailey, a long-time target who hasn't quite been
able to break through to become a regular starter. Athletic for
his size, he moves well and can make the tough catches, but he
only made 15 grabs for 141 yards and a score last season.
When the spread goes to a four-wide set, 5-10, 175-pound
sophomore Adonis Thomas will man the slot. A
running back last year who finished with 40 yards and a score,
he'll see far more work as a receiver and he could be deadly
when he gets the ball on the move. The coaching staff will try
to get him the ball on screens and see what he can do.
Ready to make a big impact is sophomore Sam Gaymon, a 6-3, 200-pound redshirt freshman
who could be the future of the Toledo receiving corps. He didn't
come up with any catches last season, but he's quick and tough
able to play inside or out. He'll start out at the X behind
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.
Working somewhere on the outside will be Tim
Cortazzo, a 6-1, 180-pound sophomore who was supposed
to make a big impact last season but was hurt. He's good enough
to play anywhere in the receiving corps, but his 4.3 speed makes
him ideal for the outside where he'll work in combination with
6-4, 242-pound junior Matt Fought
will play in a tight end rotation with Tom Burzine
after serving last year as purely a blocker as the third tight
end in the rotation. He moves well and isn't afraid to hit, and
now he'll get his chance to make some plays for the passing game
in two tight end sets.
Watch Out For ... Stephen Williams to finish his
career as Toledo's all-time leading receiver. With the upgrade
in passing attack and with his role on the outside, he'll be
used more on deep patterns and should be more consistent on the
shorter ones. He's the guy now, and the coaching staff knows it.
Size. Toledo receivers are very tall and always look the part.
6-4 is the norm with Williams and Noble checking in at 6-5.
There are matchup problems to be had all across the board.
Weakness: A sure-thing No. 2. Williams was tremendous
with Nick Moore taking away so much attention, but now it'll be
up to Williams to be the main man meaning Stafford, Noble, and
Thomas have to prove they're up to the task.
Outlook: How important are the receivers in the
new offense? There are two specialists to handle the position
with Jason Candle coaching the tight ends and inside receivers
and Jason Nichols solely focusing on the outside targets.
Stephen Williams is a star who should blow up with more yards
per catch and an All-MAC season, while the other receivers have
tremendous promise, even if they're not all proven in big roles.
There will be plenty of passes to go around and this group
should be solid.
All sophomore Mike VanDerMeulen
had to do was take over for three-time All-MAC star John Greco at left
tackle, and he did a decent job. He got a little too big for the
position, beefing up to 325 pounds on his 6-7 frame, but he slimmed down
this spring and will end up playing at around 300. He's a tall, athletic
blocker who won't be Greco, but he started every game last year and will
be a key fixture in the UT offense for another three seasons.
Senior Jared DeWalt started the last nine games of last
year at left guard but now will move outside to tackle. A beefy player
with the bulk to handle the work at guard, he got in a little better
shape and should now be a devastating run blocker at right tackle, where
he played in 2007. However, watch for the one-time star recruit to
potential move back inside early on when Jay Gewont is ready to go.
6-4, 290-pound junior Kevin Kowalski started every game
at right guard but will move inside to center. With impressive strength
and great run blocking skills, he's a road grater with as much talent as
anyone on the line. The coaches raved about him after making the move as
he took to it without a problem. A natural blocker, he has been strong
since his true freshman season.
Sophomore Philllipkeith Manley could be the X factor.
Able to play tackle or guard, he's one of the team's most versatile
linemen despite not seeing much time as a redshirt freshman. At 6-5,
he's tall with the long arms and frame to be solid on the outside, but
at 310 pounds he's a big blocker at left guard where he'll play in place
of Jared DeWalt.
6-2, 305-pound Nate Cole was a
spot-starter at center last season but can play anywhere in the
interior. He got a little bit of work this spring at center, but he'll
spend most of his time at right guard where he'll use his experience and
toughness to be a key run blocker.
Projected Top Reserves: Senior Buster Garrett took over the starting center job halfway
through the 2007 season and started in half the games last year. Now
he'll combine with Kevin Kowalski at the spot and will likely see time
as the year goes on with changes throughout the front five. Not quite as
big as the rest of the Rocket blockers, he's still 6-3 and 286 pounds
and plays tough.
Whenever he's ready, 6-6, 327-pound redshirt
freshman Jan Gewont will start at right tackle. He was
supposed to be a starter from day one in 2007 but injured his right knee
and has had a rough time coming back. He started one game last year
before getting knocked out of the starting spot. He still needs time to
be back to form, but when he's right he's a talented player with All-MAC
Gewont's problems opened up the door for John
Morookian, a 6-5, 291-pound sophomore who grayshirted and ended
up starting in 11 games. He's not the most talented blocker, but he goes
full-tilt, is a tough fighter, and moves well for his size at right
Danny Farr isn't going to win a starting
spot at left tackle over Mike VanDerMeulen, but he's close. The 6-5,
285-pound redshirt freshman got better and better as the offseason wore
on, and if nothing else, he has proven to be a solid young blocker
who'll be a key factor in the rotation.
Watch Out For ... VanDerMeulen. He's still working
to hold off Farr for the starting left tackle job, but he has the size
and the potential to become a special blocker with a little more time.
He could end up becoming the anchor of the line.
Strength: Bulk. This is a Big Ten sized line with
surprising athleticism. The starting center, either Kowalski or Garrett,
will be around 290, but everyone else is around 310. Power run blocking
isn't a problem.
Weakness: The right combination. The line was relatively solid
throughout last year with most of the key parts returning, but that
doesn't mean the coaching staff is handing over the starting jobs to the
incumbents. It could take the last play of the last practice for the the
starting five to finally be figured out.
Outlook: The focus on the offense has become the
focus on the offensive line. The goal from the new coaching staff is to
make this the dominant line in the MAC, and it could eventually become
that after a good transition year. All the growing pains of last year
should pay off, even in the new offense, with several players with
starting experience and plenty of upside across the board. There's only
one senior, tackle Jared DeWalt, and the most talented players are