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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Keys to a Toledo Victory

    Jason Mack
    Jason Mack

    Guest Columnist, The Independent Collegian

    The Toledo Rockets are looking to even the series against Arizona in Toledo’s season opener. The only meeting between the schools was a 23-10 Wildcat victory in Arizona in 1983. The Rockets finished last season at a disappointing 5-7 (3-5 in the Mid-American Conference) and are looking to return to the top of the MAC this year.

    In order to succeed this season, Toledo has to replace three starters who were lost to the NFL. Offensive tackle John Greco was drafted in the third round by the St. Louis Rams, running back Jalen Parmele was drafted in the sixth round by the Miami Dolphins, and punter Brett Kern won the position battle at punter for the Denver Broncos after being signed as an undrafted free agent.

    Who to watch when the Rockets are on offense

    RB DaJuane Collins, No. 22, JR – Collins rushed the ball 99 times last season for 636 yards, seven touchdowns and an impressive 6.4 yards per carry as a backup. He also caught 11 balls for 69 yards, returned three punts for eighteen yards and returned eight kickoffs for 123 yards. Collins is a large back at 5-foot-10 and 211 pounds, but he runs a 4.45 40-yard dash. In his first season as the starter, Collins should easily eclipse 1,000 yards if he stays healthy.

    WR Stephen Williams, No. 88, JR – Williams is a quarterback’s dream at 6-foot-5, 199 pounds and with a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash. He could be the next Rocket receiver to go pro. After recording just six catches for 87 yards and one touchdown in 2006, Williams exploded onto the scene last year with 73 catches for 1,169 yards and seven scores.

    OT Mike VanDerMeulen, No. 74, FR – VanDerMeulen redshirted last season and learned behind then-starter John Greco. Now he appears to be the heir to the throne at left tackle. Greco was a four-year starter on the offensive line, three at left tackle, before going to NFL. VanDerMeulen impressed at camp this year and should be the cornerstone of the Rockets’ offensive line, despite his inexperience.

    Who to watch when the Rockets are on defense

    S Barry Church, No. 8, JR – Church was named to the first-team All-MAC squad for the second straight year last season after recording 92 tackles, six for loss, three interceptions and four pass breakups. Church has been named to the watch lists for both the Jim Thorpe Award and the Bronko Nagurski Award.

    S Tyrrell Herbert, No. 28, SR – Herbert sat out all of last season after being injured in the opener against Purdue. He has been named a team co-captain and returns for a fifth year of eligibility after receiving a medical-redshirt from the NCAA. He led the team in tackles in 2006 with 74 and added three interceptions, including a pick that was returned 36 yards for a touchdown against Akron. Herbert and Church team up to form the top safety tandem in the MAC.

    DE Sean Williamson, No. 92, SR – Williamson returns for a fifth-season of eligibility after suffering a season ending injury in the opener last season. Williamson should provide a large boost to a Toledo defense that suffered from an anemic pass rush last season. For his career, Williamson has recorded 85 tackles, 14 for loss, and 3.5 sacks.

    Keys on Offense

    1. Stay balanced on offense – With receivers like Nick Moore and Stephen Williams it is easy to get pass-happy, but the Rockets have to establish a solid running game.

    2. The offensive line – Toledo is set at the skill positions but is young on the offensive line. The development of the line and the play of freshman Mike VanDerMeulen will determine how far this offense can go.

    3. Consistency – The Rockets offense is designed for big plays, but they have to pick up first downs and control the clock to keep the Wildcats’ offense off of the field.

    Keys on Defense

    1. Rushing the passer – Toledo has a very solid secondary, but it was abused last season when the front seven failed to put any pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

    2. Stopping the Run – The Rockets gave up 5.1 yards per carry last season and allowed 31 rushing touchdowns.

    3. Preventing the big play – The Rockets have to avoid getting into a shootout. The offense can hang with the best offenses in the country, but it will not be able to eclipse 70 points.

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