2010 was a big step in the right direction for the Toledo Rockets. Following years of sanctions and poor play, the team returned to postseason play with an 8-4 regular season record (7-1 MAC) that earned them a spot in the Little Caesar’s Pizza (Motor City) Bowl. The Rockets were led by a ball-hawking defense that finished eighth in the FBS with 20 interceptions and a balanced offense that gained over 2000 yards both passing and rushing.
Toledo enters the season with at least eight starters returning on each side of the ball and a competition at quarterback after then-freshman Terrence Owens excelled in place of injured starter Austin Dantin.
Players to Watch For (Offense):
ERIC PAGE (WR/KR): Page starts the season on the Walter Camp watch list, largely on the strength of his special teams performance. Last year, he was the only player in the FBS to return three kicks for scores. No slouch as a receiver, he caught 94 balls for 1,081 yards, and earned First Team All-MAC honors at both positions.
ADONIS THOMAS (RB): Another watch lister (Doak Walker), Thomas led the MAC last season with a 6.4 Y/A and rushed for over 1000 yards. Saving his best for last, Thomas reached career highs in the Rocket’s bowl game with 197 yards on the game and an 87 yard scoring rush.
Players to Watch For (Defense):
DAN MOLLS (LB): Molls, a junior, comes in as the highest returning tackler in the MAC, with 143 last season. Effective against the run or pass, he had 10.5 tackles for loss and 3 interceptions.
T.J. FATINIKUN (DE): The most active player on a defensive line that spread the wealth last year, he led the line with 51 tackles and had 5 sacks. He also forced 4 fumbles. Of the four Toledo players with at least 5 sacks last season, only two return, so look to Fatinikun to step up in 2011.
Fearful prediction: Toledo returns a fast, opportunistic team, but also one that is susceptible to losing the field position battle. The Rockets are undersized, particularly on defense where no player weighs in over 300 lbs. They gave up an underwhelming 4.0 yards per carry last year, and on special teams allowed an embarrassing 11.1 yards per return. A slow, grind-it-out game plan should earn Syracuse a comfortable win.