Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pre-Season Preview: Toledo Rockets

2009 Record: 5-7 (3-5 in MAC)
2009 Bowl: N/A
Final 2009 AP Ranking: Not Ranked
Head Coach: Tim Beckman (5-7 at Toledo)
Non-Conference Schedule: Arizona (9/3), at Purdue (9/25), at Wyoming (10/2), at Boise State (10/9)

2009 Offensive Statistics
Scoring: 29.7 points per game (2nd in MAC, 108th in Nation)
Rushing Yards/Game: 159 (5th in MAC)
Passing Yards/Game: 278 (2nd in MAC, 19th in Nation)
Total Yards/Game: 437 (1st in MAC, 13th in Nation) 

2009 Defensive Statistics
Scoring: 37.7 points per game (12th in MAC, 116th in Nation)
Rushing Yards/Game: 166 (8th in MAC)
Passing Yards/Game: 241 (last in MAC, 95th in Nation)
Total Yards/Game: 407 (11th in MAC, 95th in Nation)

2009 Misc Stats
Turnover Margin: -0.83 per game (12th in MAC, 111th in Nation)
Penalties: 70 yards per game (2 in MAC, 113th in Nation)

Returning Starters
Offense: 6
Defense: 6
Kicker/Punter: 1

Phil Steele All-MAC Pre-Season 
WR Eric Page (First Team; also made Second Team as KR)
LB Archie Donald (Second Team)
TE Danny Noble (Fourth Team)
C Kevin Kowalski (Fourth Team)

Top Returning Statistical Leaders
Passing: QB Austin Dantin, Soph (78 of 118 for 957 yds, 4 TD, 4 INT, 136 ypg)
Rushing: RB Morgan Williams, Jr (74 carries for 444 yds, 2 TD, 6.0 ypc, 44 ypg)
Receiving: WR Eric Page, Soph (82 rec, 1159 yds, 7 TD, 6.8 rec/game)
Tackles: LB Archie Donald, Sr (116)
Sacks: DT Alex Johnson, Sr (3); FS Jermaine Robinson, Soph (3)
Interceptions: DE Doug Westbrook, Sr (3)

2010 Pre-Season Rankings
Lindy's: Not Ranked
Mark Schlabach: Not Ranked
Rivals: Not Ranked
Scout: Not Ranked
Sporting News: Not Ranked in Top 100
Sports Illustrated: Not Ranked
Athlon Sports: #92

2010 Pre-Season MAC West Prediction:
Athlon Sports: #2
Phil Steele: #3 (tied with Ball State)

Toledo had one of the better offenses in the MAC last year. Unfortunately, only a few teams (in the Nation) gave up the amount of points that Toledo did last year. In addition to giving up a ton of points, Toledo also ranked in the bottom ten of the Nation in Turnover Margin and Penalty yards. It's hard to win football games when you are shooting yourself in the foot, even if you out gain your opponents (like Toledo did on average last year). It's hard to win when you are giving up 58 points to Western Michigan. After dropping games to Purdue and Ohio State out of conference they rebounded to win 3 of 4 but then dropped 4 of their last 5 to finish 5-7 and a disappointing 3-5 in the MAC. The Rockets play a tough out of conference schedule this year with Arizona, Purdue, Boise State and Wyoming. This will be the second year for Head Coach Tim Beckman. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts in year two and if he can make a change for the good in terms of turnover margin and penalties. The Toledo Blog Let's Go Rockets answered some questions for us about Toledo and how they might fare in the MAC this year. One of the things I have learned from them over the past 48 hours is that they really don't like Bowling Green.

What are the major strengths and biggest weaknesses of the team?

One of our biggest strengths will be our offense. Last season, QB injury kept Toledo's offense from really catching fire but solid play by receivers Stephen Williams and Eric Page and good rushing by DaJuane Collins held things together. Williams and Collins have since graduated but Eric Page (Freshman All-American) returns for his sophomore season and will anchor a strong receiving corps. Morgan Williams is expected to move to the starting RB spot and we should see numbers similar to Collins' out of the backs. Another strength to this team is our recruiting class and their ability to challenge for all spots on the field. With the addition of several young and talented freshmen, this team should be able to offset weaknesses that were exposed and exploited in recent years. Our biggest weakness will still be our defense. While Toledo had a high powered offense last year, the defense was not up to par. We expect them to be much improved after having spent one year in the new system under coach Beckman, but they still have a lot to prove.

Looking at the schedule who will be the first major test and why?

The biggest test for this year's team is our OC schedule. Right out of the gate, we face an Arizona team that is coming off a hard loss to Nebraska in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl, after beating USC and Arizona State down the stretch of their regular season to finish 8-4. After two weeks of MAC competition (against Ohio and WMU) UT faces three consecutive weeks of OC opponents - @ Purdue, Wyoming, and @ Boise St.

What team on the schedule do you fear the most?

Boise State is the team who has the greatest chance of making things ugly against the Rockets. We face several strong opponents this year, and while no team can be overlooked, Boise has the weapons in place to really punish a team for their mistakes. We saw what Boise was capable of in 2009 and we expect 2010 to be no different.

Who is the best player on your team that nobody talks about?

We're big believers in Adonis Thomas. He showed that he is a really talented RB against Miami last season and he could emerge this season as a go-to back. Expect to see more carries for him as Morgan Williams moves to the starting position (filling the spot of Collins) and Thomas assumes the second back role.

Who is the best offensive player on the team?

The best offensive player on the team is Eric Page. 2010 is his sophomore season so other teams are going to be chasing this guy around the field for the next couple years. Good luck to them -- Page is explosive and capable of making the athletic catch for big yards.

Who is the most impactful defensive player on the team?

It's nearly impossible to pick one name for our best defensive player. (LB) Archie Donald and (DE) Douglas Westbrook seem to always have their names called for tackles and have a real knack for finding the ball. Both will make a big impact on an improved defense. Also, keep in mind that (CB) Desmond Marrow will return to the field in the fall after sitting out with injuries and should help solidify the defensive secondary.

What player(s) needs to step up this year in order for the team to reach it's full capability?

We need the QBs to step up and solidify the offense. With so many weapons returning on offense, we need a QB who can take control of the game and distribute the ball around to the receivers and backs to make the offense click. Injuries last season made the QB spot a question week-to-week and it would be great to settle in with one QB so the offense can gel around him. Austin Dantin (So.) is slated to take the most snaps under center in the fall, with David Pasquale (So.) and Alex Pettee (Sr.) backing him up.

Who is the top offensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

We're betting that James Green will make an impact as a freshman. As a flanker (WR-Z) we expect to see him creating space between himself and the defenders which should allow him a lot of opportunities to catch the ball. Teams keying on Eric Page and his athletic ability will quickly find out that Green is just as capable and dangerous.

Who is the top defensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

We expect (FS) Ross Madison to make an immediate impact on defense. Ross was a football/track athlete in High school (setting school records in the 40-yard dash and vertical jump and was a state qualifier in the 200 meters and in the 4x100 relay) Ross played safety last year at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, VA and is slated to contribute at free safety for the Rockets.

Gut feeling on the teams final record at the end of the regular season and what makes this a successful season in your eyes?

Guessing a team's final record is difficult, at best. It's particularly difficult to guess a team's performance against OC opponents that you do not face every year, but if we had to nail it down and take a stab at Toledo's 2010 record.... we see the Rockets going 7-5 this season. The defense should be improved and if we see stability from the QB position, the offense should mesh and provide the momentum we need to reach 7 wins (or better).

In just our second year under Coach Beckman, the team is still adapting to Beckman's schemes and coaching style. Players are still trying to understand their roles in the offense/defense and getting familiar with the style of ball that Beckman and his staff are trying to bring to the Glass Bowl.

To be successful, in our eyes, the Rockets need to finish better than last year's 5-7 and have a better showing in the MAC. There were games last season that we could have and should have won --- and we didn't. We need to clean up those loose ends and finish business when it's in our control. There's no reason Toledo should not be competitive in the MAC West and challenge the leaders from both divisions.

Make sure you visit Let's Go Rockets this season to follow Toledo and their progress in the MAC. You can also follow them on Twitter @LetsGoRockets

Next Up: Maryland Terrapins

2010 Previews
Big 12- Kansas State Wildcats, Missouri Tigers, Texas Tech Red Raiders
Big East- Cincinnati Bearcats, Pittsburgh Panthers, West Virginia Mountaineers
Big Ten- Michigan WolverinesMinnesota Golden Gophers, Northwestern Wildcats, Purdue Boilermakers
Conference USA- Houston CougarsTulane Green Wave, UTEP Miners
MAC- Ball State Cardinals, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, Temple Owls
Mountain West- Utah Utes
Pac-10- Oregon Ducks, USC Trojans, Washington Huskies
Sun Belt- Troy Trojans
WAC- New Mexico State Aggies


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