The Rockets rank No. 90 in Athlon's Top 130 for 2020
The MAC West is wide open and without a clear favorite for the 2020 season. Toledo finished 6-6 and missed out on a bowl game for the first time under coach Jason Candle. However, with the uncertainty surrounding the rest of the division, along with 13 returning starters, the Rockets are primed to rebound in 2020. Settling the quarterback battle between Eli Peters and Carter Bradley will be a priority in the fall. The one-two punch of Bryant Koback and Shakif Seymour is one of the top tandems at the Group of 5 level and should power the offense until the passing game is ready for take off. Toledo has room to improve off a defense that gave up 32.2 points a game last season, but new coordinators Vince Kehres and Craig Kuligowski should help this group show immediate improvement in 2020.
Previewing Toledo's Offense for 2020
Without the benefit of spring ball to sort out the competition, the Rockets will approach the 2020 season with an active battle for the starting quarterback job. Senior Eli Peters has the inside track after going 6–4 in his 10 starts over the past two seasons when he threw for 2,665 yards and 24 touchdowns. Sophomore backup Carter Bradley has been impressive in his more limited work.
With All-MAC junior Bryant Koback (1,187 yards, 12 touchdowns in 2019) and senior Shakif Seymour (2,008 career yards with 22 touchdowns), there is proven punch at running back. Seniors Bryce Mitchell and Danzel McKinley-Lewis lead the receiver group, with Mitchell coming off an All-MAC season with 35 receptions for 679 yards and four scores. Three returning starters provide security and strength up front, led by 2018 All-MAC center Bryce Harris, who comes back after missing last season due to injury, and guard Nick Rosi, a freshman All-American in 2019.
Previewing Toledo's Defense for 2020
Toledo will lean on seven returning starters, led by All-MAC end Jamal Hines, a junior who has 101 career tackles and 17.5 tackles for a loss, and a veteran-laden secondary. Hines is joined up front by returning starters Nate Givhan at the other end (39 tackles, 3.5 TFLs in 2019) and sophomore tackle Devan Rogers. Seven additional letter-winners give the line group ample depth.
Junior Saeed Holt (74 tackles, 11.0 TFLs) is the lone returning starter at linebacker, where Daniel Bolden and Dyontae Johnson are expected to line up after gaining significant experience as 2019 reserves.
There is a wealth of proven talent on the back end, where starting corners Samuel Womack and Chris McDonald return. Womack led the MAC with 15 pass breakups in 2019. Add Justin Clark, a 2018 starter back from an injury-plagued year, to the group. Senior safety Tycen Anderson returns after recording 84 tackles a year ago, and he will get help from sophomores Nate Bauer and Zachary Ford.
Previewing Toledo's Specialists for 2020
Senior punter Bailey Flint is in his fourth year as a starter after leading the MAC in 2019 with a 47.3-yard average before suffering a season-ending injury. Sophomores Thomas Cluckey and Evan Davis shared placekicking duties last season and could follow the same script. The top 2019 return men, speedsters Devin Maddox and McKinley-Lewis, are also back.
The Rockets look to rebound from a 2019 season of underachievement. Fifth-year head coach Jason Candle’s seat is warm, at a minimum, due to the built-in expectations at Toledo, where a string of nine straight winning seasons was broken with the 6–6 finish last year.
Candle brought in three new coordinators and speaks of a renewed energy throughout the program, but with spring practice cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rockets lost precious get-acquainted time. With 13 returning starters, including five all-conference talents, and ample depth across the roster, the Rockets have the firepower to return to their status as one of the MAC contenders. With a home date against San Diego State sandwiched in between road battles with Tulsa and Michigan State in the first three weeks of the season, Toledo’s bounce-back plan will be tested early.
National Ranking: 90
(Top photo courtesy of University of Toledo)