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Toledo Football: 2018 Rockets Preview and Prediction

Diontae Johnson, Toledo Football

Diontae Johnson, Toledo Football

For all of the success Toledo has enjoyed in recent years, Jason Candle's 2017 Rockets accomplished something that had not been done at the school since 2004 -- win a MAC championship. The Rockets possess all of the necessary ingredients to be the first team in the league to repeat since 2012 -- with one huge question mark, the all-important quarterback position.

Previewing Toledo Football's Offense for 2018

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The Rockets won the 2017 MAC championship with an overpowering offense led by senior quarterback and MAC Player of the Year Logan Woodside. The NFL-bound signal caller threw an astounding 73 TDs in his final two seasons, second only to Baker Mayfield (83) during that span.

Toledo looks for a new leader for a still-potent attack that features one of the most productive receiving corps in the nation. Seniors Cody Thompson, who missed much of 2017 with an injury, and Jon'Vea Johnson along with junior Diontae Johnson, should post gaudy stats once again. Thompson had 1,269 yards and 11 touchdowns in his last full season. Jon'Vea Johnson has caught 82 passes for over 1,400 yards the past two seasons, and Diontae Johnson had 74 receptions for 1,278 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2017.

Who is lucky enough to throw to this talented trio? Junior Mitchell Guadagni is battling sophomore Eli Peters for the quarterback job, but experience is sorely lacking (a combined one career completion).

Sophomore Shakif Seymour and junior Art Thompkins combined for 1,331 yards rushing while splitting carries behind 1,300-yard rusher Terry Swanson. They should both take on a larger part of the offense in 2018.

The offensive line lost some talent, so junior Bryce Harris and seniors Yazeed Atariwa and Sami Kassem will be called on to use their significant experience to help rebuild the unit.

Previewing Toledo Football's Defense for 2018

Toledo ranked seventh in the conference in defense in 2017, allowing 385.0 yards and 26.2 points per game. Good but not great -- but it didn't matter, because the Rockets were able to outscore almost everyone on their schedule. With a new QB this season, the defense might have to play a bigger role.

The strength is in the secondary, where cornerback Ka'dar Hollman and safeties Josh Teachey and Kahlil Robinson all return as starters. They led a group that was third in the MAC with 15 interceptions.

Junior tackle Nate Childress anchors the line after making 10 starts in 2017. Ends Willie Ross and Tuzar Skipper, both veterans, cover the outside.

Senior linebacker Tyler Taafe has made 27 straight starts and registered 118 tackles over the past two seasons. He will lead that group along with senior Richard Olekanma, who had 45 stops in a key backup role last season. Sophomore Tre'Shun Wilson and junior Jordan Fisher add some depth to the group.

Previewing Toledo Football's Specialists for 2018

Senior Jameson Vest is a first-team All-MAC pick who hit 25-of-30 field goals last season, with five from beyond 40 yards. Sophomore Bailey Flint returns at punter. Diontae Johnson and Danzel McKinley-Lewis give Toledo the league's top return tandem.

Final Analysis

If either Guadagni or Peters emerges as a viable replacement for Woodside, then it's all systems go. But if the offense struggles a bit, the defense will have to do its part. And that defense will be tested early with non-conference dates against Miami (Fla.), Nevada and Fresno State. The Rockets do catch a break in league play by not having to face either Ohio or Miami, the two favorites in the East.

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