2010 Toledo Preview
Toledo WR Eric Page
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Toledo Rockets
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It was almost as if Toledo tried to not be good last season.
Head coach: Tim Beckman
2nd year: 5-7
Off. 17, Def. 22, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 21
Ten Best Toledo Players
1. WR/KR Eric Page, Soph.
2. LB Archie Donald, Sr.
3. DE Douglas Westbrook, Sr.
4. RB Morgan Williams, Jr.
5. C Kevin Kowalski, Sr.
6. OT Mike VanDerMeulen, Jr.
7. DE Alex Johnson, Sr.
8. QB Austin Dantin, Soph.
9. WR James Green, Fr.
10. CB Taikwon Paige, Jr.
Sept. 3 Arizona
Sept. 11 at Ohio
Sept. 18 at Western Mich
Sept. 25 at Purdue
Oct. 2 Wyoming
Oct. 9 at Boise State
Oct. 16 Kent State
Oct. 23 Ball State
Oct. 30 at Eastern Mich
Nov. 9 at Northern Illinois
Nov. 17 Bowling Green
Nov. 26 Central Mich
With an explosive offense, as much or more raw talent as anyone in the MAC, and decent speed and quickness across the young defense, the Rockets should've been a bowl bound team in head coach Tim Beckman's first season. But instead the high-flying attack sputtered after the loss of QB Aaron Opelt, the defense invented ways to lose games, and it all led to four losses in the last five games including a stinker against a miserable Miami University. But that was a rebuilding year for Beckman and the suddenly underachieving program. Now there are no excuses.
The offense that finished first in the MAC and 13th in the nation in total yards should be just as explosive with a tremendous line allowing the talented skill players time to work. There are four good running back options, several quarterback fighting for the job (with Austin Dantin likely the best of the bunch), and sophomore Eric Page leading a receiving group that, on paper, should be the best in the league. However, on paper has been a problem for a program that has had the skill, but can't seem to get back over the top. Blame that on the defense.
It was a young defense that had several newcomers thrown to the wolves, and that might be the case again with a secondary that might count on seven newcomers to play big roles right away to bolster a group of underclassmen that struggled to learn on the fly. There was one good performance, a win over Northern Illinois, but the defense that was 116th in the nation in points allowed giving up 30 points or more in ten games.
So how much can Toledo improve, and is there a reasonable chance of being a MAC champion this season? Yup … but it's going to take a few crazy twists to make this happen.
It's going to take even more from an offense that's going to have to win games 38-35. It's going to take a third down stop from a defense that allowed yards and points in bunches. It's also going to take better play from the special teams with the worst punting game in America.
But if last year's team should've made a bowl game and didn't, this year's should be able to be a few games better and get that 13th game. It could also get a 14th, a MAC Championship appearance, if talent matters. Toledo is as big, fast, and athletic as anyone in the league. Now it has to show it.
What to watch for on offense: An ongoing shuffling in the running game. With four terrific options in Morgan Williams, Adonis Thomas, Jake Walker, and Darius Reeves, the Rockets should have more of a ground game than it did last season. The offense had to abandon the run at times because the passing attack had to try to keep up in shootouts, but now the goal will be to control the clock and the game a little more by pounding away behind a fantastic offensive line.
What to watch for on defense: Shuffling in the secondary. Three starters return to the five-man alignment, but that's not going to mean much. Beckman isn't afraid to put in newcomers, and his recruiting class was heavy on defensive backs including Taikwon Page, a JUCO transfer who would've been an Auburn Tiger if he had figured out how to get to class. Throw in the new guys with true sophomore corners Byron Best and Daxton Swanson, along with sophomore free safety Jermaine Robinson, and Toledo is making a big push to upgrade the secondary for the next few seasons.
The team will be far better if … it could come up with a third down stop. There wasn't much of a pass rush, the secondary couldn't make anything happen on key throws, and there were too many big plays allowed. The defense isn't going to be a rock, but it has to be better on third downs. Of the bottom 17 teams in America in third down defense, only one, Idaho, made a bowl game. Toledo was 110th in the country allowing teams to convert 46% of the time, and the D was a disaster in the red zone allowing teams to score 89% of the time inside the 20.
The schedule: It's brutal early, soft in the middle, and rough in the end. The key will be to get through the first half alive with four road games in the first six, and the home dates are hardly prizes against Arizona and Wyoming. After starting out the MAC season with road games at Ohio and Western Michigan, the Rockets close out a three-game road stretch with a trip to Purdue, and if that wasn't enough, there's a plane ride to Boise State a few weeks later. There's a midseason break with Kent State, Ball State, and at Eastern Michigan, and if UT doesn't sweep the run, a bowl game might be tough with a nasty finishing kick against NIU, Bowling Green, and Central Michigan.
Best offensive player: Sophomore WR Eric Page. While it wasn't a total shocker that Page was good in his freshman season, it was stunning that he was one of the MAC's best players catching 82 passes for 1,159 yards and seven touchdowns. He also was a tremendous returner averaging 10.8 yards per punt and 25.4 yards per kickoff. While he doesn't have elite speed, he's quick, tough, and very, very smart.
Best defensive player: Senior LB Archie Donald. He's limited in pass coverage and isn't great at getting into the backfield, but the leading tackler over the last two seasons is a rock against the run and has done his best to clean up everything the poor line hasn't gotten to. He's the leader of the defense and has to be his old self while hoping everyone around him improves.
Key player to a successful season: Junior S Isaiah Ballard. The team's special teams player of the year if a big hitter and should know what he's doing, but he has to replace Barry Church, one of the team's top players over the last four years, and he has to show he can be the same type of all-around playmaker. The Rockets use a 4-2-5 alignment with the fifth defensive back serving a variety of roles. That's Ballard.
The season will be a success if … the Rockets get back to a bowl game. The defense isn't going to be good enough to win the MAC and the schedule is too nasty early to expect anything big overall, but the offense should bomb its way to six wins, possibly seven. Anything less than a bowl, or at least a winning season, will be a step back.
Key game: Sept. 11 at Ohio. The Bobcats won the East last year and isn't going to drop off too much this year, and if Toledo wants to make some early conference noise, it needs to beat them in the MAC opener. With so many tough games in the first half of the season, this is one game that Toledo should be able to win if it plays well against a team it should match up well against. With a loss, the following week's West Division matchup at Western Michigan becomes a must-win.
2009 Fun Stats:
- Penalties: Toledo 97 for 841 yards – Opponents 64 for 584 yards
- Third quarter scoring: Opponents 114 – Toledo 62
- Fourth down conversions: Toledo 16-of-20 (80%) – Opponents 6-of-14 (43%)
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