Coach: Tom Amstutz (5th season, 36–15) 2004 record: 9-4 (Lost to Connecticut in Motor City Bowl) MAC finish: 8-1 (1st West) 2004 I-A offensive rankings: Rushing: 53rd (160.9 ypg) Passing: 8th (298.4 ypg) 2004 I-A defensive rankings: Rushing: 54th (142.5 ypg) Passing: 113th (275.1 ypg)
at Fresno State
at Ball State
at Central Michigan
at Bowling Green
Depth Chart: Offense
6 returning starters in red
Depth Chart: Defense
8 returning starters in red
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It was an interesting ride for Toledo last season. The Rockets were blasted in their first two games, giving up 63 points in back-to-back blowout losses. Things turned around in a hurry, however, and the team finished with a 9-4 record and the school's second MAC title in the past four seasons.
Popular coach Tom Amstutz is back for his fifth season, but the Rockets will have new coordinators on both sides of the ball. John Shannon was promoted from receivers coach to offensive coordinator, while the well-traveled Tim Rose takes over the defense. "Offensively, we will be very similar with a few new looks, while defensively we will have multiple formations, from 3-4 and 4-2-5 to many others," Amstutz said.
Quarterback Bruce Gradkowski returns after throwing for 27 touchdowns and over 3,500 yards in 2004. With 6,756 career yards, Gradkowski is just 511 yards shy of becoming Toledo's all-time leading passer, and he already has the mark for career TD passes, 56, with just 15 interceptions. He is expected to be fully recovered from offseason shoulder and hand surgery.
Scooter McDougle rushed for over 100 yards during Toledo's final two regular-season games and followed up with a 167-yard effort in the MAC Championship Game. His season ended when he hurt his knee in the final minutes of the title game, but he is expected to be fully recovered in the fall. Behind McDougle, the Rockets feature a host of proven veterans and one very talented newcomer -- hotshot recruit Dajuane Collins.
Toledo must replace Lance Moore, the school's all-time leading receiver, but the Rockets are confident that they can find some playmakers. Steve Odom, who has 115 receptions in his two-year career, is expected to emerge as a top target. The offense could get a boost if Andrew Clarke, a first-team All-MAC tight end in '03, makes a healthy return after missing the '04 season with a hip injury.
Traditionally, Toledo boasts one of the league's top offensive lines, and this year will be no different. Three starters return, but the Rockets must find someone to take over for four-time All-MAC performer Nick Kaczur at the all-important left tackle spot. John Greco, who started every game at right tackle as a freshman last year, is expected to slide over to the left side of the line.
A young defensive line -- five freshmen started at various times -- made steady progress throughout '04. Defensive coordinator Tim Rose will try to get this unit to put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Tackle Tyree Pollard was productive as a freshman, recording three sacks and three quarterback hurries.
Without a doubt, the linebacking corps is the strength of the Toledo defense and the deepest unit of talent on the team. Anthony Jordan has 245 career tackles over the past two seasons, while his running mate David Thomas had 91 stops last season.
Rover Keon Jackson is the star of the secondary. He earned second-team All-MAC honors after leading the team with 10.5 tackles for a loss, three interceptions and eight pass break-ups. Both starting cornerbacks -- Antonio Malone and Nigel Morris -- return, but free safety Patrick Body must be replaced.
Jason Robbins converted 9-of-10 field goal attempts last fall and will be back for his fourth year as the Rockets' placekicker. The punting duties are also in good hands; Brett Kern averaged 40.6 yards per kick as a freshman in '04.
Toledo's biggest challenge this season could be adapting to new coordinators on both sides of the ball. That task, however, should be easier considering Toledo's relatively light schedule. Road trips to Fresno State and Bowling Green loom as the most difficult games on tap.
The Rockets have been to three bowl games in the past four years, and a fourth trip is well within reach in '05.