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2008 Opponent Preview: Toledo

Toledo Offense:
QBs
The Rockets had a ton of injury problems at the signal-caller position last year. Aaron Opelt, now a true junior, was the primary starter, but he missed time in several games. Backup Clint Cochran, now a 5th-year who is listed on the roster but not the depth chart, played until he was injured as well. DJ Lenehan had been expected to redshirt, but now enters the 2008 season with a few starts under his belt. Depth will be provided by JC transfer Alex Pettee.

Statistics:
Toledo Quarterbacks Passing 2007
Name
Comp
Att
%
Yds
TD
Int
Yds/Att
Aaron Opelt
144
249
57.83
1756
12
7
7.05
DJ Lenehan
61
95
64.21
630
4
4
6.63
Clint Cochran
33
61
54.10
408
1
4
6.69
Toledo Quarterbacks Rushing 2007
Name
Att
Yds
TD
Yds/Att
Aaron Opelt
46
156
4
3.39
DJ Lenehan
18
35
0
1.94
Clint Cochran
12
-68
1
-5.67

Analysis:
If nothing else, the injuries to Toledo quarterbacks have prepared the backups to get some playing time in the future. Opelt is the main guy here, but the Rockets are prepared if he goes down. He is the most mobile threat of the bunch, and his passer rating wasn't that much lower than the likes of Chad Henne in 2007 (albeit against much weaker competition). He should be able to sling it pretty well this year.

RBs
Toledo loses last year's leading rusher in Jalen Parmele. Returning is their second leading rusher, redshirt junior DaJuane Collins. After QB Aaron Opelt, true sophomore Gordon Warner was next in rushing for the Rockets. Behind them, little-used redshirt sophomore Jason Washington and used-even-less-frequently true sophomore DeAndre Ware bring the depth. Adonis Thomas redshirted last year, and should be able to jump these two on the depth chart.

Statistics:
Toledo Running Backs Rushing 2007
Name
Att
Yds
TD
Yds/Att
Jalen Parmele
276
1511
14
5.47
DaJuane Collins
99
636
7
6.42
Gordon Warner
23
126
3
5.43
Jason Washington
4
20
0
5.00
DeAndre Ware
3
14
0
4.67
Toledo Running Backs Receiving 2007
Name
Att
Yds
TD
Yds/Att
Jalen Parmele
17
157
1
9.24
DaJuane Collins
11
69
0
6.27
Gordon Warner
1
12
0
12.00

Analysis:
Parmele carried the vast majority of the load for Toledo last year, and losing a drafted player will certainly not help the ground game this year. Collins and Warner will likely get a more even share of the carries than the #1 and #2 have for the Rockets in the recent past, but it is unlikely that they will be able to perform to the level that Parmele did in the past couple years. Expect a big dropoff at the top, with some compensation in the form of better depth behind the top couple RBs.

Receivers:
The leading receiver for Toledo last year returns in the form of redshirt junior Stephen Williams, a second-team all-conference selection. Redshirt senior Nick Moore was directly behind him, followed by a host of now-departed players in TE Chris Hopkins, as well as WRs Andrew Hawkins and David Washington. Senior John Allen will now start at the TE position (backed up by redshirt junior Tom Burzine), and redshirt freshman Tom Cortazzo, who was second string last year but did not play, will man the third WR spot. RS junior Robin Bailey will be a backup at wideout, but several players who didn't receive playing time last year will have to step up now.

Statistics:
Toledo Receivers 2007
Name
Rec
Yds
TD
Yds/Rec
Stephen Williams
73
1169
7
16.01
Nick Moore
60
731
8
12.18
Chris Hopkins (TE)
27
247
2
9.15
Andrew Hawkins
29
246
0
8.48
David Washington
9
130
0
10.95
John Allen (TE)
10
61
0
14.44
Robin Bailey
2
20
0
10.00
Tom Burzine
1
11
0
11.00
Toledo Receivers Rushing 2007
Name
Att
Yds
TD
Yds/Att
Andrew Hawkins
11
54
1
6.14

Analysis:
Toledo didn't spread the ball around as much as many teams do, with their top 2 receivers getting the vast, vast majority of the receptions. With the next three behind them (in addition to the leading receiver at RB) gone, they may take an even larger proportion. While most smaller schools tend to have short, speedy guys, the Rockets have starters who are 6-1, 6-4, and 6-5. Michigan's corners will have to use good technique and superior athleticism to keep toledo from going over the top.

Line:
Along the line, Toledo's returners all come on the interior. True sophomore right guard Kevin Kowalski started most of the season at the position past year, as a true freshman. Center Buster Garrett is a redshirt junior, and he started several games at the position last year. Projected left guard Jared Dewalt is a true junior who gained starting time at right guard his freshman year, then started at right tackle most of last year. The tackles ar both new, with redshirt freshman Mike VanderMeulen taking over on the left side, and redshirt sophomore Chris Meenan, who got playing time in 8 games last year, on the right. The backups are generally inexperienced freshmen, except right guard Patrick Dawson, a senior who has been the primary backup for the past 3 years.

Analysis:
New tackles could mean that Aaron Opelt ends up on his back a lot. However, both of their new guys are good-sized, and the Rockets are hoping they can protect Opelt. With the new outside linemen and a new starting running back, I wouldn't be surprised to see rush yards go down and sacks go up. Opelt's escapability is the wildcard in that equation.

Offensive Analysis:
Losing your leading rusher, an NFL draft pick, has to hurt the Rockets. If Opelt can stay healthy this year, Toledo will probably toss the bal around a bit more than they did last year, though several of the top targets are no longer in blue and gold. This year should be a rebuilding one for the Toledo offense, but they should come on strong in 2009 with only 1 starter a senior this year. 2008 will also be a transition year to a new offensive coordinator, which bodes poorly for this campaign, but well for '09.

Toledo Defense:

Defensive Line:
Sean Williamston returns to the Rockets after being injured for the entire 2007 season. The redshirt senior will start at one defensive end spot. At the other spot, a sophomore phenom-of-sorts in Alex Johnson, who led the DL in tackles last year, will start. This displaces former starter Doug Westbrook, but I can't imagine Johnson not starting after the year he had (and neither is close to large enough to move inside). Art the tackle spots, junior Skylaar Constant will man one starting position. The true junior got 7 starts last year. At the other spot, true junior Maurice Hill and true senior Alfred Martin will duke it out for the starting nod.

Statistics:
Toledo Defensive Line 2007
Name
Tackle
TFL
Sacks
Alex Johnson
51
4.5
1
Bernard Faithful
45
5
2
Skylaar Constant
33
3
1
Tyree Pollard
28
3.5
1.5
Maurice Hill
27
3
0
Joe Underwood
16
3
1
Alfred Martin
9
2
0
Nate Cole
9
0
0
Douglas Westbrook
5
0
0
Nick Lawrence
3
0
0
Justin Collins
2
0
0
Marlin Parker
2
0
0

Analysis:
With two positions not entirely settled going into the fall, Toledo should have a fair amount of depth. Their DL is very light, however (heaviest projected starter is 6-2, 282), and they may be pushed off the ball with relative ease by a team with the talent of Michigan. The inside run should be a vulnerability, and the ends are closer to pinebacker size than they are to true run-stuffers.

Linebackers:
The Rockets run a 4-2-5 defense, but for the sake of my sanity, the rover shall be considered a linebacker. Returning at that position is Toledo's leading tackler from last year, now-junior Lester Richmond. At the linebacker positions (not sure of the nomenclature in a 4-2-5. Middle and weak?), Keith Forrestal will come back for his senior season, but the other starter from '07, the Rockets' second-leading tackler in Greg Hay, has graduated. Stepping in will probably be Archie Donald, a junior who started half the games his freshman year, but was out for last season with academic troubles. The backups at linebacker all have some starting experience, and juniors Beau Brudzinski, Derrick Summers, and Joe Shuler (rover) should not be huge liabilities when they spell the starters.

Statistics:
Toledo Linebackers 2007
Name
Tackle
TFL
Sack
Lester Richmond (rov)
97
1
0
Greg Hay
96
8
0.5
Derrick Summers
58
2
0
Keith Forrestal
45
1.5
0
Beau Brudzinski
39
3
0
Joe Shuler (rov)
14
0
0
Terrell Willis
13
0
0

Analysis:
The 4-2-5 defense is designed to stop spread attacks, replacing a true linebacker with a hybrid LB/safety. Toledo runs such a system, but it remains to be seen whether it is effective against high-talent spread teams. Behind the primary backups, Toledo returns virtually nobody, so they may try to get a bit more depth developed this year. The return of Archie Donald give Toledo a pretty athletic LB to counter Forrestal's bigger size.

Defensive Backs:
Toledo returns four starters at defensive back, and has enough quality players that one of the returners wasn't even able to hold onto his starting spot in the spring. At corner, junior Walter Atkins returns as a starter, and Desmond Marrow, who redshirted last year with a foot injury, wrested the starting spot away from true sophomore Myshan Pettis in the spring. This means the Rockets will have 3 quality corners. At the safety positions, junior Barry Church may be the most celebrated player on the team. The junior strong safety has been first team all-conference the past two years. At free, senior Tyrell Herbert, who started his freshman and sophomore years before being limited due to injury last year, gets the starting nod. His backup is the lanky (6-2, 166) junior Chris Murphy.

Statistics:
Toledo Defensive Backs 2007
Name
Tackle
TFL
Int
Barry Church
92
6
3
Walter Atkins
70
3.5
0
Myshan Pettis
41
1
3
Greg Harris
26
0
1
Drey'Lon Pree
19
0
2
Tyrrel Herbert
5
0
0
Anthony King
3
0
0
Nigel Morris
1
0
0

Analysis:
There is plenty of experience in the defensive backfield (despite not that many players, all of the top guys return plus Marrow), and surprisingly good size for a MAC team. The starting corners are 6-1 and 6-3, and both safeties are 6-2 and near 200 pounds. Church is the best of the bunch, and look for him to make most of the tackles. Toledo won't be as susceptible to the passing game as you might expect, with their defensive style and experience in the secondary. However, the number of tackles Atkins made leads me to believe he's far from a lockdown corner, as opposing quarterbacks neither feared throwing it his way nor failed to complete the passes they hurled in his direction.

Defensive Analysis:
The Toledo offense certainly doesn't rely on the blitz game. Almost no sacks and very few tackles for loss came from the linebackers or secondary. For that matter, the linebackers didnt' seem to do a ton in coverage either, registering no interceptions. Toledo instead relies on D-linemen to create pressure (both on the quarterback and for the opposing run game), linebackers to control the run game, and defensive secondary to take care of the pass. The latter should be the most successful this year, unless the d-line does nothing to get pressure on the QB.

Special Teams:

Kicker Alex Steigerwald returns after two solid years as the starter. Toledo loses punter Brett Kern, and he will be replaced by redshirt freshman Bill Claus. Return duties will have to be accounted for as Jalen Parmele handled them last year.

Statistics:
Toledo Kicking 2007
Name
FGM
Att
%
Long
XPM
Att
%
Alex Steigerwald
13
13
100.00
44
44
47
93.62
Toledo Punting 2007
Name
Punts
Yds
Avg
Brett Kern
52
2399
46.13

Analysis:
Kicking won't be a liability, but the return game and punting could pose some problems for the Rockets.

Overall Analysis:
It's so tough to do a final evaluation of teams like Toledo, because it's so tempting to say "also, none of that mattered because their a MAC team and they played approximately nobody." However, Toledo was really inconsistent last year, getting housed by Central Michigan, beating 1-AA Liberty by one point (better than Michigan could against a 1-AA team hur hur), and also doing things like hanging 70 on Northern Illinois and 52 on Eastern. It seems that Toledo should be a middle-of-the-pack MAC team, struggling against good compeition.

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“2008 Opponent Preview: Toledo”