Well the Rich Rod era officially begins on Saturday. There will be a mix of emotions that night for fans, coaches and players alike. The Wildcats will host the Toledo Rockets late in the evening, in a much anticipated season opener.
Usually this would be a nice tune up for the remainder of the season but the Toledo Rockets football team has other plans. They want to come out and spoil the Rich Rod opening game party.
Toledo is no slouch either. Last year they finished 9-4 with a conference record of 4-1. Last season they had a great balanced offense that put up huge numbers. Their rushing attack, which averaged 213.6 yards a game, was the 17th best in the country. Both of their running backs from last year Morgan Williams and Adonis Thomas both had 11 rushing touchdowns. Fortunately for the Wildcat defense, both Thomas and Williams are gone this year.
This year though the Rockets are not deep at the running-back position, in fact they had to convert former QB David Pasquale to play behind their probable starter David Fluellen. He was their 3rd option at running-back last year, he 493 yards rushing and averaged 5.1 yards a carry.
The deepest position for the Toledo offense could be at QB. They have two solid quarterbacks that are good enough to see action. Terrance Owens will be their “starter” but back-up Austin Dantin will play weather Owens gets hurt or not. They compliment each other well and are very versatile.
Both quarterbacks are dual threats but they have different strengths. Dantin is considered to be a better runner while Owens is considered a better passer, although the stats do not necessarily reflect that. Owens averaged 5.1 yards a rush while Dantin only 3.1 yards a carry. Those stats are a little distorted when taking sacks into account.
Both quarterbacks protect the ball quite well for being dual threat quarterbacks. Terrence Owens had 18 throwing touchdowns and only allowed 3 picks and Dantin who was not too shabby either, throwing for 15 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. In fact both of these two QBs could be two of the top four in their conference.
As far as the guys that these two QBs will be throwing to, that is where the U of A defense can exploit the Rockets offense. Last year in his junior season Eric Page had an incredible year. He has 125 receptions for 1182 yards and 10 touchdowns. The problem for Toledo is that Mr. Page decided to go pro. Unfortunately he ended up not being drafted, then was cut by the broncos.
Page leaves a very inexperienced receiving core behind that is now statistically led by Bernard Reedy. Reedy has the most experience in a Rockets uniform and is the only player on the team this year, who had more than 16 receptions in last year’s season (RB David Fluellen 16 rec 155 yards and 2 TD), Reedy had 40 receptions for 758 yards and an impressive 9 TDs.
Reedy is a speedy receiver, but stands at 5-9 175lbs, then the Rockets will more than likely line up James Green opposite him. Green is a bigger target standing 6-3 and is 200lbs. Green was a big disappointment last year. Toledo fans had very high hopes for the JUCO transfer, but he lacked productivity.
One of the reasons for Toledo’s success on the ground last year was the strength and experience of the offensive line. The rockets also only return two starting offensive linemen from last years group which means they lose 60% of their line including Mike VanDerMeulen who was a 1st team all MAC last year. The last two years they had the same 5 guys playing line, which is huge for developing good chemistry. The Wildcats D-line should also dominate the line of scrimmage.
All in all Toledo is a formidable opponent. They will have a good offense, especially for being in the MAC. Look for the Arizona offense to look good but more importantly, look for them to improve and tighten things up for their game against Oklahoma State.