#66 Toledo Football 2016 Preview

Toledo Rockets
Overall Rank: #66
#3 Mid-American
Toledo has emerged as the most consistent program in the Mid-American Conference and that should not change under new coach Jason Candle. He was hired from within after Matt Campbell left for the Iowa State job. Toledo rarely makes a bad hire and grabbing their own offensive coordinator should keep things rolling smoothly. And for a team that went 10-2 and beat a ranked Temple squad in the Boca Raton Bowl, there are a lot of expectations.
2015 Record: 10-2, 6-2
2015 Bowl: Boca Raton Bowl vs. Temple (W 32-17)
Coach: Jason Candle (0-0 at Toledo, 0-0 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Brian Wright
Defensive Coordinator: Brian George
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Kareem Hunt, RB, 973 yards
Passing: Michael Julian, QB, 71 yards
Receiving: Cody Thompson, WR, 825 yards
Tackles: DeJuan Rogers, DB, 67
Sacks: John Stepec, DE, 3.0
Interceptions: four tied with 1
Other Key Returnees: RB Terry Swanson, RB Damion Jones-Moore, QB Logan Woodside, WR Corey Jones, OL Storm Norton, LB Ja’Wuan Woodley
Key Losses: QB Phillip Ely, WR Alonzo Russell, LB Chase Murdock, DL Trent Voss, DL Orion Jones, DL Allen Covington, DB Cheatham Norrils, S Chaz Whittaker
The offense is absolutely loaded with experience. Running back Kareem Hunt is one of the best in the MAC and rushed for 973 yards and a dozen touchdowns despite missing quite a bit of time with an injury last year. Two years ago Hunt tallied 1,631 yards on the ground. While Hunt was hurt in 2015, Terry Swanson stepped up, rushing for 923 yards and seven touchdowns. If they can both stay healthy, the Rockets have one of the most potent running back duos in the country. With a talented and experienced offensive line, expect Toledo to once again rush for over 200 yards per game. But the line is even better at protecting the quarterback and ranked second in the FBS in sacks allowed. The quarterback situation looks like a concern with the loss of Phillip Ely, who threw for 2,965 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2015, but Logan Woodside is back after missing all of last season with an injury. Back in 2014, Woodside threw for 2,263 yards and 19 touchdowns. He is more than ready to at least replace the production of Ely. Wide receiver Cody Thompson is a big play threat. He caught 37 passes for 825 yards, which is an impressive 22.3 yards per catch average. While Thompson makes the big plays, Corey Jones is the team’s top target. He caught 55 passes for 577 yards as a junior.
The most significant departures are on defense. The Rockets allowed a mere 20.8 points per game last year, which is pretty impressive in a conference that has some potent offenses. But the defensive line needs to be rebuilt and that could put a damper on Toledo’s season. Defensive tackle Treyvon Hester is a proven talent, but he will need help around him. John Stepec has some experience and tallied 3.0 sacks last year and Miami (FL) transfer Earl Moore has experience too. Sophomore Olasunkanmi Adeniyi could emerge as the top pass rushing threat from the line. At linebacker, Ja’Waun Woodley and Jaylen Coleman should provide a steadying influence. Woodley tallied 2.0 sacks and 6.5 tackles-for-loss during his sophomore campaign and should turn into a leader for the defense. The secondary was not a strong spot for the Rockets last year, but they do return safety DeJuan Rogers, who is the team’s top returning tackler with 67. The unit also receives a boost with the return of cornerback Jordan Martin after he missed last season with an injury. Still, there is some rebuilding to do in the secondary and the unit could take a step back if the front four has trouble replacing pass rushers like Orion Jones and Allen Covington.
The Bottom Line:
This is a really good team, but Toledo has also played second fiddle to Northern Illinois in the MAC West. And they have to deal with a good Western Michigan team too. The Rockets played both of those teams at the Glass Bowl in 2015, yet lost. This time around they have to play both of them on the road and that is absolutely huge in what should be a fun three-way race for the MAC West title. Toledo will play NIU on November 9th in Chicago, a neutral location. And two weeks later they finish the regular season in Kalamazoo. Those two games late in the season will determine whether or not Toledo can finally get over the hump and get back to the MAC title game for the first time since 2004.
Projected Bowl: Bahamas Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 207.9 (27th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 253.0 (40, 5)
Total Offense: 460.9 (30, 3)
Scoring Offense: 35.0 (31, 3)
Rushing Defense: 115.2 (10, 2)
Pass Defense: 259.7 (105, 12)
Total Defense: 374.8 (46, 4)
Scoring Defense: 20.8 (21, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.67 (21, 3)
Sacks: 2.17 (56, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 0.42 (2, 1)


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