Football Expectations

We are less than three months from August practices, signaling the start of the football season and we are just a matter of weeks away from summer workouts at the Glass Bowl. And after two straight 5-7 seasons head coach Tom Amstutz and the 2008 Toledo Rockets have a very pivotal season ahead.

We are less than three months from August practices, signaling the start of the football season and we are just a matter of weeks away from summer workouts at the Glass Bowl.

Head coach Tom Amstutz and the 2008 Toledo Rockets have a very pivotal season ahead. A once MAC powerhouse with 12 straight winning seasons and more MAC Championships since 1967 than any other MAC school has stared at two straight losing seasons of 5-7.

The last time Toledo had two straight losing seasons was 1977 and 1978. That's thirty years ago!

There is reason to be optimistic about 2008 though. Each of the last two seasons were filled with injuries, especially in 2007. Several starters on defense missed most or all of 2007 because of injury. Free safety Tyrrell Herbert, defensive end Sean Williamson, and defensive end Douglas Westbrook all received medical hardships from the NCAA and will be back in 2008. So will cornerback Desmond Marrow, who missed the entire season. Linebacker Archie Donald is also expected to be back this fall after being academically ineligible last season.

That's five of six players that were expected to be starters last year and didn't play. The sixth one was cornerback Nigel Morris who missed most of last season after suffering an injury in the opener against Purdue. He has decided to end his collegiate career after suffering several injuries the last two seasons.

The Rockets also signed a couple of players in the 2008 recruiting class that could make immediate impacts on defense this fall. Junior College transfer Albertson Alexandre enrolled at Toledo in January and participated in Spring practices. He has impressed coaches with his ability and aggressiveness and will add immediate depth on the defensive line.

Other signees that could make an impact this year include DB Kenny Veal, LB Darius Quinn, DB Jermaine Robinson, and DB Isaiah Ballard.

Kenny Veal was a steal by the Rockets. His 4.4 speed in the forty yard dash enables him to play a number of positions, including defensive back, wide receiver, running back, and kick returner. He was selected to the Big 33 All-Star Game and listed as the #30 cornerback in the nation by ESPN.com. He chose Toledo over offers from West Virginia, Miami Univeristy, Eastern Michigan, Bowling Green, Ohio University, and Akron. The Rockets need a player of his ability and speed in the defensive backfield and I expect him to make a difference right away this fall.

Darius Quinn is a junior college transfer that will provide a much needed presence in the middle of the Rocket defense. He had 70 tackles last season for Joliet JC as a linebacker.

Jermaine Robinson originally committed to West Virginia, but changed his commitment to Toledo shortly before signing day. He chose Toledo over offers from West Virginia, Iowa, and Akron. He is expected to fill a safety position at Toledo and he has excellent 4.4 speed in the forty. Robinson will be able to provide depth at safety with players like Barry Church and Tyrrell Herbert there to help him grow as the season goes on.

One last player I expect to provide depth to the defense this fall is Isaiah Ballard. Ballard is a local kid from Rogers High School in Toledo, OH. Ballard is expected to play a safety position for Toledo, like Robinson. He was named the co-player of the year in the Toledo City League in 2007. He also has the ability to return kicks and punts for Toledo. He chose the Rockets over offers from Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green, and Eastern Michigan.

Adding those new faces with the return of five players that didn't play last year and Toledo should have a much better defense in 2008.

Offensively the Rockets are loaded once again. The key is going to be keeping junior quarterback Aaron Opelt healthy. If he stays healthy the Rockets have the best wide receiver duo in the MAC in senior Nick Moore and junior Stephen Williams. On the ground Toledo lost Jalen Parmele to graduation, but junior DaJuane Collins is ready to take over the load with sophomore Gordon Warner providing a great 2nd option at running back for the Rockets.

So 2008 is going to be a pivotal year for Toledo, but there is reason to expect good things from this football team.

Stan Joplin was fired as the head men's basketball coach at Toledo after just one losing season. He was just one year removed from a MAC Regular Season Title, but a terrible 2007-08 basketball season and the inability to make it to the NCAA Tournament was all that was needed for Toledo to let him go.

Tom Amstutz has to feel that he is on the hot seat now himself. Toledo hasn't won the MAC Championship since 2004. A fourth year without a MAC Championship and a third straight losing season would be all the ammunition the Univeristy would need to bring in a fresh coach to turn things around.

I don't want to see that happen and I don't expect too. I expect to see this Rocket football team get back to their winning ways and contend for the MAC Title and play in a bowl game this season. They have to. Rocket fans expect it, and deserve it.



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