SI.com 2003 College Football Preview




SI.com's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  Toledo Rockets

 
The Lowdown
Coach: Tom Amstutz (3rd year, 19-7)
2002 record: 9-5 (Lost to Boston College 51-25 Motor City Bowl)
MAC finish: T-1st (West)
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 214.3 ypg
(4th in MAC, 16th in nation)
Pass: 257.9 ypg (4th, 29th)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 150.6 ypg (5th, 53rd)
Pass: 213.1 ypg (6th, 54th)
Projected Starters
Offense (5 returning starters in bold)
WR  Terrance Hudson  Jr. 
WR  14  Lance Moore  Jr. 
WR  82  Chris Charleton  Jr. 
LT   68   Nick Kaczur   Jr.  
LG   65   Darric Randolph   Sr.  
51  David Odenthal  Jr. 
RG  72  Tim Dirksen  Sr. 
RT   74   Erik Faasen   Sr.  
TE   89   Andrew Clarke   Jr.  
QB  Cedric Stevens  Jr. 
RB   38   Trinity Dawson   So.  
Defense (8)
DE   98   Phil Alexander   Jr.  
DT   95   Chaz Williams   Sr.  
DT   97   Lantz Jeudy   Sr.  
DE   99   Frank Ofili   Sr.  
OLB   42   Brock Dodrill   Jr.  
ILB  40  Anthony Jordan  So. 
ILB  56  David Thomas  Jr. 
OLB   6   Keon Jackson   So.  
CB  47  Antonio Malone  So. 
CB   12   Brandon Hefflin   Sr.  
FS   11   Patrick Body   Jr.  
Special Teams
31  Jason Robbins  So. 
41  Brandon Hannum  Sr. 
KR  27  Astin Martin  So. 
PR  14  Lance Moore  Jr. 
2003 Schedule
Aug. 30  at UNLV 
Sept. 6  Liberty 
Sept. 12  at Marshall 
Sept. 20  Pittsburgh 
Sept. 27  at Syracuse 
Oct. 11  Eastern Michigan 
Oct. 18  at Central Michigan 
Oct. 25  at Ball State 
Nov. 1  Buffalo 
Nov. 15  Northern Illinois 
Nov. 22  Western Michigan 
Nov. 28  at Bowling Green 
In his two years at the helm, Tom Amstutz has led the Rockets to 19 victories, back-to-back division championships, two bowl berths and one national ranking. Not bad for a homegrown guy who was an assistant coach at his alma mater for 21 years.

And there's no reason to believe the Rockets won't be back in the postseason for a third straight season. "Toledo Tom" welcomes back 13 starters from a 9-5 team that captured at least a share of the MAC West title for the fifth time in six years.

OFFENSIVE KEYS:

When Amstutz was promoted to head coach in 2001, the long-time Toledo assistant wanted his teams to feature the type of offense that gave him fits as a defensive coordinator. So he brought in Rob Spense, the former coordinator of Louisiana Tech's high-octane offense. And since Spense's arrival two years ago, Toledo has averaged 36.6 points per game in the regular season, more than 10 points more than in the Gary Pinkel era.

With the graduation of record-breaking quarterback Brian Jones, the Rockets will be looking for a new signal-caller to run their potent attack. The two candidates are Cedric Stevens and Bruce Gradkowski. Both have limited experience but are gifted athletically. Three freshmen, Astin Martin, Trinity Dawson and Quinton Broussard, combined to rush for more than 1,700 yards last fall.

Toledo lost its top four wide receivers to graduation, but the Rockets boast the top tight end in the MAC in Andrew Clarke, who averaged 11.0 yards per catch and scored seven touchdowns in 2002.

Two-time All-MAC performer Nick Kaczur is one of three starters returning on a massive offensive line that averages well over 300 pounds per man.

DEFENSIVE KEYS:

The Rockets run a 4-4-3 attack scheme that puts the strong safety near the line of scrimmage. The goal is to create turnovers, and the Rockets were quite successful in 2002. Their 27 forced turnovers tied for the second-most in the 14-team MAC.

The top priority for the Rockets' defense is to find quality replacements for all-conference linebackers David Gardner and Tom Ward. Anthony Jordan returns to one inside linebacker spot after spending a year on the defensive line. The top three prospects return to man Toledo's two outside linebacker positions.

The Rockets' secondary will get a boost this fall with the addition of a proven Big Ten starter, Wisconsin transfer Michael Broussard. Toledo's corners must do a better job this fall after getting torched for an average of 213.6 passing yards per game.

Chaz Williams and Lantz Jeudy return as the top two defensive tackles. The interior linemen will need to get a better push up front after UT recorded just 23 sacks last year. Frank Ofili, the team's top defensive end, is back to full strength after two straight injury-plagued seasons.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Jason Robbins became a very steady kicker after a shaky start, finishing 54-of-62 on PATs and 13-of-16 on field goals. The battle for the punter position is wide open, and a new return specialist is needed to replace Donta Greene.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

While replacing a quarterback and the entire starting receiving corps may seem like a daunting task, the Rockets have the league's best offensive line and a talented collection of running backs that should keep the offense highly productive.

On the defensive side, Toledo was very inconsistent last year due to an ineffective pass rush that exposed an average secondary. The Rockets now have more depth and playmakers in those areas. The defense plays will determine whether Toledo will participate in a third straight bowl game.

Click here for complete index of 2003 team previews

To purchase the 2003 College Football Preview from Athlon Sports, click here.

 


 
CNNSI