Less than two months away from the College Football season, it's time to get excited, especially in Toledo. The Toledo Rockets have somewhat of a new look this year with first-year head coach, Jason Candle and several newer faces coming through the program. However, the Rockets are still expected to be amongst the best teams, if not thee best, in the Mid-American Conference this season, lofty expectations for the 2016 Rockets.
Fans, students, alumni, coaches, players and even former players are beginning to turn their focus towards the College Football season and their beloved Toledo Rockets. I caught up with several former Rockets to get their thoughts on the upcoming season in a Q & A segment with each player.
Cornerback - Cheatham Norrils (2011-2015)
Toledo Career: 199 total tackles, 6 interceptions, would sit out 2014 due to health concerns.
Toledo Scout Publisher, Zach Harig - Question #1: First off, what are your thoughts on Coach Candle and his new staff taking over?
Cheatham: "I believe Coach Candle and the staff he has put together (with some that I already know) have the potential to continue to the on the program from where it was left. I think he and his staff have a lot of motivation and expectations to be the best they can be without settling or having any excuses along with the players that are supposed to help lead the team."
Zach - Question #2: And what two players (one offensively and one defensively) are you expecting to breakout and maybe surprise some people this fall?
Cheatham: "For defense, I would definitely say DeJuan "Troub" Rogers to continue to breakout where he left off last season. If we are saying shock people on defense then I will say Treyvon Mathis. For offense, we are all expecting Kareem to also continue to grow. As for shocking on offense I would say Diontae "Dice" Johnson, he will have a brekaout year this season coming with the help of Logan Woodside."
Zach - Question #3: And what are your expectations this fall for the Rockets?
Cheatham: "I expect them to come out with a chip on their shoulders to prove that even though the roster has changed a lot, that they are still expected to be a team to respect. However, respect at Toledo is earned, not given."
Zach - Question #4: And how many games do you expect to be at this year?
Cheatham: "As many as I can or am available to make."
Zach - Question #5: "And what are you doing right now? Are you working out for any NFL teams?
Cheatham: "Not right this second, I'm just working out and waiting for another opportunity."
Wide Receiver - Justin Olack (2011-2014)
Toledo Career: 56 catches, 783 yards, six touchdowns.
Zach - Question #1: What do you think of Coach Candle and his staff?
Justin: "Well I know about three of the current coaches, I think Coach Candle will do great as a head coach. He can really relate to the players and they respect him. Knowing him, he hired great coaches to fill in everyone that left, I loved Coach Derek Sage (wide receivers coach) too and know the wide outs will like him too."
Zach - Question #2: What do you think or know about the current roster and what are you most excited about with this team?
Justin: "Well I'm excited to watch Kareem (Hunt) do his thing this year. I think the offensive line will really help him out and I think they will be even better than last year. Biggest thing is I love watching the young wide receivers that were there when I was. I'm excited to see how they grow and can't wait to watch my little brother, Cody Thompson have an even bigger year."
Zach - Question #3: And who would you pick as your breakout players this fall for Toledo? One offensively and one defensively, someone that could shock people.
Justin: "Well I don't know the last two freshmen classes really well but Diontae Johnson, I really enjoyed watching him as a freshman doing what he did, it was great. Also, I think Treyvon Mathis is one of the best corners and he will have an amazing year. They might not be the biggest shock but those are two players that I think will have great seasons."
Zach - Question #4: What are your expectations for this Toledo team?
Justin: "After what the team did last year, I think this is the year they beat Northern Illinois and go to the MAC Championship and another great bowl game."
Zach - Question #5: Do you expect to come to a few games this year or how close will you be with the team?
Justin: "Well I live and work in Columbus so depending on work, but I would like to come to most of the home games for sure."
Defensive Lineman - Allen Covington (2012-2015)
Toledo Career: 42 games played, 100 tackles, eight sacks.
Zach - Question #1: First off, what are your thoughts on Coach Candle and his new staff taking over?
Allen: "Well Coach Candle is a great coach and brings a lot of that young energy into the program, so I'm sure he and his staff will do outstanding this year."
Zach - Question #2: And what players are you expecting to breakout this fall? Maybe one offensive player and one defensive player that you really expect to shock people?
Allen: "Offensive player I would say Diontae Johnson because he is that x-factor player that just makes plays when the opportunity is upon him and on defense I'd say my brother, Aaron Covington because he's on the rise so I'm looking for big things from him. I'd also say Treyvon Hester is going to dominate the line of scrimmage."
Zach - Question #3: And what are your expectations for the team this fall?
Allen: "For them to bring the MAC Championship back to Toledo!"
Zach - Question #4: And how do they do that? What's the key to winning that MAC Title?
Allen: "Offensively take care of the football and on defense, get three and outs and you should be looking at a pretty good team."
Zach - Question #5: And how many games do you expect to be at this fall? And how many players will you remain in contact with?
Allen: "I should be returning to the Homecoming game for sure but not really locked in on the other ones. And yes I still talk to many players from the team, just too many to name."
Kicker - Jeremiah Detmer (2011-2014)
Toledo Career: MAC Special Teams Player of the Year in 2013. Three time All-MAC selection, finished 2013 season third in the nation in field goal percentage (95.0%) while also tying former Rocket kicker, Alex Steigerwald with 23 consecutive made field goals. 84.6% field goal percentage, ranking him best in Mid-American Conference history.
Zach - Question #1: What are your thoughts on Coach Candle and his new staff taking over?
Jeremiah: "I don't know a lot of the staff but I think Candle is the right fit. What Toledo has built the last five years needs to keep rolling and no one could do that better currently, than Coach Candle. The Rockets should continue their success and more with him."
Zach - Question #2: And what two players are you really expecting to breakout this fall? Maybe to surprise some people?
Jeremiah: "Hard question for me as I don't know a ton of the young guys anymore but Jaylen Coleman has his last go-round and coming off an injury, I expect big things. Then young wide receiver, Diontae Johnson. Last year, every time I saw him I was impressed. Once he adds a little bit of size and experience, he could be All-MAC."
Zach - Question #3: What are your thoughts on Toledo kicker, Jameson Vest?
Jeremiah: "Vest has the ability to dominate his position and he could easily be the best kicker in the MAC. I do need to see him take over kickoff duties to be a complete package but Sam Vucelich is working hard to keep that job and kicked off very well in the bowl game."
Zach - Question #4: And what are your expectations for the Rockets this fall?
Jeremiah: "Anything less than a MAC Title is under-achieving. They've got the talent and the leaders. It's time for a Rocket team to bring home that MAC Title."
Zach - Question #5: How many games do you expect to be at this fall?
Jeremiah: "I'm actually moving back to Toledo to work full-time for an organization called Young Life. I'm planning on getting in contact with the coaches and I hope to help the specialists out every now and again. I will hopefully be at most home games."
Linebacker - Derek Batt (2011-2014)
Toledo Career: Used specifically in special teams situations and at times at linebacker.
Zach - Question #1: What are your thoughts on Coach Candle taking over?
Derek: "Thrilled for him and thrilled for the university. Coach Candle is a players coach and relates to his guys extremely well. The thing about Coach Candle that I respect the most is that he will always put his players in a position to succeed. He's a proven winner and he will continue the Toledo tradition of winning. He was a great hire by Mr. O'Brien."
Zach - Question #2: And what defensive player could you see breaking out this season to surprise some people?
Derek: "Defensively I'd start with John Stepec, he's an absolute freak. He's had success in his career to this point but he will be leaned on to be the guy and help Jaylen Coleman, DeJuan Rogers, and 'Big Hes' Treyvon Hester to lead the defense."
Zach - Question #3: And anybody on offense that you're looking at to breakout?
Derek: "Offensively I think you could see a bunch of guys have a huge season. Obviously Corey Jones, Kareem Hunt and Terry Swanson are all going to be playmakers. The offensive line as a whole will be the heartbeat of the offense, along with Logan Woodside and Jon Vea' Johnson. Logan had proven himself my senior year, but the guy is an absolute gamer and shows up in big moments. I'm excited to see what his growth over the last year looks like. Jon'Vea is a playmaker and has a chance to shine this season, he's easily one of the fastest guys on the team, I'm really excited to see him this year."
Zach - Question #4: And what are your expectations for the Rockets this year?
Derek: "The great thing about Toledo is that expectations never change. Whether you're a player, former player, coach, or fan, the expectation is to win a MAC Championship. I still know a lot of these guys they expect to be champions and I truly think they will hold that trophy up in Detroit when it's all said and done. I do know one thing, no team they play this year will be more talented, work harder, or be better prepared than this group. Coach Candle will have these guys ready."
Zach - Question #5: "And do you expect to make it to any games this season and keep in contact with the guys?
Derek: "Yeah I'll be back for a game or two. It gets a little more difficult being all the way in South Carolina, but I'll definitely be back. I do still keep in touch with a lot of guys that were there when I played."
Fullback - Zac Rosenbauer (2010-2014)
Toledo Career: Played in 12 games as a defensive end in 2011 before making the switch to fullback and tight end. Would play in 22 games at tight end/fullback during his career.
Zach - Question #1: What was your reaction to the Coach Candle hiring?
Zac: "When I heard Candle was hired as the head coach, it was a sigh of relief for myself and a lot of other alum. The last four or so years, Coach Campbell and his staff and my teammates built a culture that I believe not only translates to winning on the field but also, in life. I know Jason was a huge part of that culture and I'm sure his direction will build on the foundation he helped lay as an offensive coordinator. Coach Derek Sage always did a great job with the wideouts while I was there as well and I'm sure that will continue. Coach Ward recruited me and I was glad to hear that he'd be returning to the Glass City. Other than Nate Cole (one of the OGs that laid the foundation for my class) and Andrew Terwilliger, I'm not too familiar with the rest of the staff."
Cornerback - Chris Dukes (2012-2014)
Toledo Career: 109 total tackles, would play in 37 games and record 62 total tackles alone in 2014 with one interception.
Zach - Question #1: What are your thoughts on Coach Candle taking over?
Chris: "I think Coach Candle will be an excellent fit for the Rockets. I think the team will really gravitate towards him and his staff - he brings a lot of juice!"
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