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           ***** NCAA Football Preview - Toledo Rockets *****
 
 By Lucas Gulotta, Associate College Football Editor
 
 Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
 
 2012 SEASON IN REVIEW: After Tim Beckman left the program to take over at
 Illinois, Matt Campbell's head coaching career began with a thrilling, 42-41
 victory over Air Force in the 2011 Military Bowl. The Rockets were a
 legitimate MAC Championship contender despite having a rookie head coach in
 2012 after they brought back many of the key components from the team that led
 the MAC in total offense, turnover margin and scoring offense the year before.
 
 Campbell's first regular season as a head coach didn't yield the results he
 wanted though, as Toledo lost, 24-17, in its opener at Arizona. The Rockets
 went on a roll from there, winning their next nine games including decisions
 over Bowling Green (27-15), Cincinnati (29-23) and Buffalo (25-20). Their 9-1
 record with three games remaining helped them claim the 25th spot in the BCS
 rankings, but the stay in the top 25 was short lived. Toledo lost its next two
 games versus Ball State (34-27) and at Northern Illinois (31-24). It concluded
 its regular season by defeating Akron, 35-23, but suffered a 41-15 setback to
 Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
 
 Campbell was the youngest head coach in the FBS in 2012. He won three Division
 III national titles while playing at Mount Union and began his post playing
 career there as an offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at the age
 25. He was the offensive coordinator of Toledo's 2011 team that ranked eighth
 in the nation in scoring offense and 10th in total offense.
 
 2013 ANALYSIS:
 
 OFFENSE: The Rockets did not have the best offense in the MAC last season, but
 they weren't far off the mark, ranking third with 445.2 yards per game. They
 were one of the most balanced teams with a steady halfback and a pair of
 capable passers. Austin Dantin's graduation left Campbell with only one passer
 for the upcoming season.
 
 "Yes, it's a little different. We have one quarterback, (senior) Terrance
 Owens, who took about 80 percent of the snaps last year," said Campbell. He's
 a veteran and it shows. He's more comfortable now as a leader on this team. We
 can put a lot more of the offense in his hands and let him run with it. He's a
 fifth-year senior now and has a right to claim the starting position."
 
 Owens is always a threat to take off and scramble for yardage, but he
 struggled with injuries last season. His decision making was usually on point,
 but he had three games with multiple interceptions, including three in a key
 game at NIU.
 
 He has plenty to work with as he looks to put up better numbers as a senior.
 Sophomore Alonzo Russell and senior Bernard Reedy are both reliable targets at
 wideout. Reedy tallied a team-high 88 receptions for 1,113 yards and six TDs,
 but Russell's big-play ability yielded five scores and 960 yards on just 56
 grabs. Justin Olak and Dwight Macon give Toledo great depth at the position.
 
 Toledo's offensive attack revolved around its star senior tailback David
 Fluellen. As a junior, he finished eighth in the FBS with 1,498 yards and 13
 TDs on 259 carries. He accounted for almost 60 percent of the team's rushing
 yards despite missing the regular season finale and being limited in the bowl
 game. He should be one of the premier rushers in the conference as a senior
 with four of last season's starting offensive linemen back.
 
 Toledo's offensive line could be the strongest in the MAC. All-MAC senior
 center Zac Kerlin leads group of four juniors up front for a group that weighs
 an average of 301 lbs.
 
 DEFENSE: The Rockets had a bend but not break mentality in 2012. They gave up
 a lot of yards (473.2 ypg) to rank 11th in the MAC in total defense, but they
 placed fifth in scoring defense (28.4 ppg) due to their knack for forcing
 turnovers.
 
 Toledo graduated Dan Molls, who finished second in the FBS in tackles.
 Sophomore Trent Voss may become the team's next stops leader as he developed
 into one of the top defenders on the squad towards the end of his rookie year.
 Redshirt freshman Jaylen Coleman will see the field in his first eligible year
 at middle linebacker.
 
 The secondary is one of the strongest points on the defense with junior
 Cheatham Norrils (6-0, 195) and sophomore Juwan Haynes (6-0, 185) on the
 corners. Senior strong safety Ross Madison has played in 39 games in his
 career coming into 2013.
 
 The defensive line has some of its playmakers back. Senior end Jayrone Elliot
 registered a team-high 6.0 sacks along with a third-best 7.0 TFL in 2012.
 Christian Smith started at defensive end for the first five games last season
 before an injury put him on the sidelines for the rest of the year. He was a
 first-team all-state selection in Oklahoma as a high school senior. Senior
 tackle Elijah Jones also made an impact in 2012 with 31 tackles, 7.5 for loss
 and two forced fumbles.
 
 SPECIAL TEAMS: The Rockets have all of the important pieces back on special
 teams. Junior kicker Jeremiah Detmer was an All-MAC selection after he made 17
 consecutive field goal tries to close out the season. Senior Vince Penza
 averaged 40.5 yards per punt and placed 36 percent of them inside the
 opponents 20-yard line.
 
 Reedy scored four special teams TDs last season and was put on the All-MAC
 team as both a kick and punt returner.
 
 OUTLOOK: Toledo has a very tough road this season. Its first two games are
 both on the road against a pair of difficult BCS opponents in Florida and
 Missouri.
 
 "The only thing we can control is us," said Campbell. "Our players will be
 excited to play schools like Florida and Missouri. In our conference, if you
 don't show up, you will get beat. When you play opponents like Florida and
 Missouri right off the bat, if you don't show up, not only will you get beat,
 you will get humiliated. That helps your focus. It's very exciting to play the
 best of the best. We'll find out a lot about where we are very early in the
 season."
 
 The Rockets will have their Glass Bowl debut versus Eastern Washington before
 kicking off MAC action on the road at Central Michigan and Ball State. They
 host two in a row with Western Michigan and their final non-conference
 opponent, Navy, both visiting from outside of the Buckeye State. Toledo does
 not face Kent State this season, but it has some formidable conference foes
 with Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Buffalo, Northern Illinois and Akron
 lined up to conclude the year.
 
 Toledo has played in a bowl game in three consecutive years. It appears that
 it has all that's necessary to push that number to four, but the inexperience
 and inadequate defense will prevent it from capturing its first league title
 since 2004.
 
 
 
 08/19 11:45:50 ET

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