2015 Toledo Rockets Football Preview

Team Info
Toledo Rockets
Head Coach: Matt Campbell
2014 record: 9-4 overall, 7-1 MAC West
2014 Postseason results: Beat Arkansas State 63-44 in the GoDaddy Bowl
2015 returning starters: 4 offense, 8 defense

Betting Info
Odds to win 2016 College Football  Championship game: 2000/1
Odds to win 2015 MAC Championship Game: +325
Regular season wins: over 7 -170 /under 7 +140
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Toledo looks to win the MAC for the first time since 2004.
Toledo looks to win the MAC for the first time since 2004.

The Toledo Rockets went 9-4 last year including 7-1 in the MAC West. However, the problem is the only conference loss was to Northern Illinois. The Rockets have lost to NIU in five straight seasons. Toledo had to settle for a berth in the GoDaddy Bowl where they won a wild 63-44 shootout against Arkansas State.

Twelve starters are back for coach Matt Cambell, including eight on defense. The Rockets are looking to solve their Northern Illinois problem and win the MAC Championship for the first time since 2004.

Offense

Toledo averaged 491 yards per game on offense, including 234 passing and 256 rushing yards. The Rockets averaged 37 points a game. Toledo was in the top 20 nationally in total and rushing offense as well as scoring. Four starters are back for coordinator Jason Candle, who was considered for the OC at Oklahoma.

Quarterbacks Logan Woodside, a junior, and onetime Alabama QB Phillip Ely, a senior, split time last season. Both battled injuries in 2014 and look to stay healthy this year. Woodside completed 62.6% of his passes for 2,272 yards with 19 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, and he also added 3 rushing touchdowns. Ely completed 60.3% of his passes for 541 yards with 4 touchdowns and an interception. He only played in 2 games last year before a knee injury sidelined him. The NCAA has yet to rule on his request for a sixth year of eligibility, but it is expected to be a formality. If allowed, he will will start in 2015.  Sophomore Michael Julian also took a few snaps and could do so again in 2015.

Running back Kareem Hunt is back after rushing for 1,631 yards on 205 carries with 16 touchdowns, and also making 9 catches. Hunt rushed for 271 yards with 5 touchdowns in the bowl win.  Sophomore Terry Swanson had 113 carries for 732 yards with 6 touchdowns, plus 12 catches for 165 yards and a touchdown. Damion Jones-Moore is also back after he had 80 carries for 460 yards and 6 touchdowns, and also making 9 catches. Junior Marc Remy will also get some carries after he had 42 carries for 219 yards, and made 6 catches with a touchdowns.

Junior receiver Corey Jones is back after making 69 catches for 851 yards and 5 touchdowns. Alonzo Russell is also back after making 51 catches for 770 yards with 8 touchdowns. Kishon Wilcher had 19 catches for 275 yards and 2 touchdowns. Tight end Alex Zmolik had 16 catches for 204 yards. The Rockets do lose versatile Dwight Macon who had 18 catches for 172 yards and a touchdown, and also rushed for 130 yards with 4 touchdowns. Macon even threw a touchdown pass.

The line must be completely rebuilt after losing five senior starters, including three All-MAC selections. Left tackle Storm Norton started in three games last season but he is the closest player to a returning starter.

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Defense

Toledo allowed 408 yards per game on defense, including 292 passing yards and 116 rushing yards. The Rockets were #14 nationally in rush defense. However, only two teams out of 128 were worse than the Rockets at defending the pass. Toledo was #93 nationally in points allowed at 31. In the four losses to Missouri, Cincinnati, Iowa State and Northern Illinois, the Rockets gave up an average of 43 points.Even in the bowl game, Toledo gave up 468 yards and 44 points to Arkansas State.

Despite the sub-par numbers defensive coordinator John Heacock was brought back for a second season. He gets eight starters back so there should be some improvement.

All four starters are back on the defensive line. Tackles Treyvon Hester and Orion Jones were both All-Conference last year. Jones had 10 tackles for loss and 6 sacks.  Chris Collins and Marquise Moore will add depth to the tackles. Ends Trent Voss and Allen Covington are also very talented. Voss had 77 tackles last year, including 15 for loss and 4.5 sacks.

The linebackers must replace all three starters. However, senior Chase Murdock will provide a veteran presence in the middle. Jaylen Coleman, Ju’Wuan Woodley and Zach Quinn will compete for the two outside spots.

Four starters are back in the secondary for a unit plagued by injuries last season. Corners Jordan Martin and Chris Dukes started last year when the 2013 starters Cameron Cole and Cheatham Norrils were lost for the season. All four are back and there should be plenty of depth. Chaz Whittaker and DeJuan Rogers will start at the safeties. UAB transfer Rolan Milligan and Delando Johnson are also very talented safeties. If the secondary can stay healthy, then the Rockets will be much improved on defense.

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Special Teams

The Rockets must replace three time All-MAC kicker Jeremiah Detmer. Sophomore Sam Vucelich is the likely replacement. Junior punter Nick Ellis is back but he was last in the MAC with an average of just 36.6 yards per punt. Corey Jones will return both kicks and punts. He averaged 11.8 yards per punt return and 20.5 yards per kick return last season.

Schedule

Toledo opens the season at home against Stony Brook before traveling to Little Rock to play Arkansas. The Rockets then host Iowa State and Arkansas State in a bowl game rematch to close out September. In October, Toledo travels to Massachusetts and Ball State, and hosts Kent State and Eastern Michigan. November is very difficult with home games against Northern Illinois and Western Michigan, and road games at Bowling Green and Central Michigan. The game against NIU will likely decide the West title again.

Outlook

The Rockets lose seven starters on offense but the key skill position players do return. The defense will need to stay healthy. Toledo could enter November with only one loss. However, they do face the other three top contenders in the MAC during that stretch, but NIU and Western Michigan come to the Glass Bowl. The game at rival Bowling Green will be tough as well. I think the Rockets go 9-3 in the regular season. They don’t win the MAC West but they do return to a bowl.

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