Today, we’re 92 days away from the kickoff of the 2012 college football season. As such, we’ll preview the No. 92 team in our Rant Sports 100 in 100 college football previews, the Toledo Rockets.
Coming off a 9-4 finish in 2011 punctuated by a 42-41 victory over the Air Force Falcons in the Military Bowl, the Toledo Rockets enter 2012 with several questions to be answered on both sides of the ball.
Suspect depth at the skill positions on offense and a defense that at times was vulnerable last season, could cause problems for first-year head coach Matt Campbell.
Campbell, once the team’s offensive coordinator prior to the departure of former head coach Tim Beckman to Illinois, will likely employ a two-headed quarterback strategy this fall. Senior Austin Dantin and junior Terrance Owens will share snaps depending on scenarios and game situations.
Dantin threw for 15 touchdowns and 4 interceptions in 2011 and is known as more of a pocket, firm-footed signal caller while Owens can get it done both on the ground and in the air. While it’s possible one of the two could emerge during the off-season, or the beginnings of fall practice, the early intent is to use them both from week-to-week.
David Fluellen will carry the load at running back after working as a backup for the past two seasons. Fluellen may not be a featured player in the offense, per se, but will set the tone more often than not as the Rockets look to establish pace against their MAC opponents.
To be successful in MACtion, you have to have productive wideouts, and the Rockets have a few. Bernard Reedy is the more proven playmaker of the duo that will see the most looks, but former backup quarterback Dwight Macon could make just as much of a splash.
Depth across the board not only at the skill positions, but also up front, is thin and the Rockets must avoid any serious injuries to maintain the integrity of play on offense.
Even though the Rockets lose six starters on the defensive side of the ball, there are plenty of guys waiting in the wings ready to step in, step up, and keep things rolling for defensive coordinator Tom Matukewicz’s squad.
T.J. Fatinikun will lead a defensive line that has a reputation as a first-class pass rushing unit, and should make things as difficult as possible for pass-happy MAC quarterbacks this fall.
Dan Molls will be the unquestioned leader of the defensive backfield and will be flanked by other talented linebackers including Robert Bell, Vladimir Emilien and Ray Bush. If there’s a question on the defensive side, it’s a secondary that has less proven experience and will be tested early not only in non-conference play but also during MACtion.
Two non-conference road contests in Tucson against the Arizona Wildcats and at Wyoming to kick off the season are both winnable, if not challenging tests for the Rockets.
Home contests against Bowling Green and Coastal Carolina shouldn’t pose too much of a problem, making a 3-1 start a strong possibility for the Rockets.
Even though the MAC will be as entertaining as it always is this fall, there’s nothing to suggest that another run at a conference championship and bowl game won’t be the end result for Toledo in 2012.