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Toledo Football: 2021 Rockets Season Preview and Prediction

The Rockets rank No. 80 in Athlon's Top 130 for 2021
Bryant Koback, Toledo Rockets Football

Bryant Koback and the Toledo Rockets should boast one of the top offenses in the MAC

Led by 21 returning starters, Toledo will be among the favorites to win the MAC for the 2021 college football season. An improving defense should continue to progress under coach Jason Candle. Also, the Rockets aren’t lacking for firepower on an offense that averaged 35 points a game last season. The Sept. 25 road trip to Ball State looms large in the MAC West title race.

Related: Athlon Sports' College Football Top 25 for 2021

Previewing Toledo's Offense for 2021

With starting experience returning at every position, there won't be a lot of intrigue involved as the Rockets' offense takes shape — except at the quarterback position, where the absence of senior Eli Peters has left Toledo with a full-blown competition. Peters, who started 14 games over the past three seasons, ended his career in the spring due to nagging injuries. Now the Rockets look for Carter Bradley, who made a couple starts in 2020, to battle with Tucker Gleason, Dequan Finn and Gavin Hall for the starting nod. Bradley threw for a career-high 432 yards against Central Michigan last season.

The line returns all five starters, including two-time all-conference center Bryce Harris and former Freshman All-America tackle Nick Rosi. They anchor a unit that helped Toledo's offense rank second in the MAC in total offense (494.0) and first in passing offense (325.8).

Junior running back Bryant Koback is a two-year starter who provides punch, rushing for 2,626 yards and 30 touchdowns in three seasons. The receiver group is led by junior Isaiah Winstead, a third-team All-MAC pick, along with seniors Danzel McKinley-Lewis and Bryce Mitchell. McKinley-Lewis has 87 catches and five scores in his career, while Mitchell, a second-team All-MAC selection in 2019, has 55 receptions and nine touchdowns.

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Previewing Toledo's Defense for 2021

There is no way to overstate it — the defense is loaded as it brings back many players from the two-deep in 2020's final game, including four all-conference performers.

The line boasts both strength and depth with 10 lettermen, led by a pair of juniors — two-time All-MAC edge rusher Jamal Hines and 2020 All-MAC tackle Desjuan Johnson. Hines has 130 tackles and 22 TFLs in his career, while Johnson has 75 tackles, 15 TFLs and 4.5 sacks.

The linebacker group is led by All-MAC junior Dyontae Johnson, who collected 47 stops in the six-game 2020 season. The secondary has all-conference safeties in senior Tycen Anderson and sophomore Nate Bauer. Anderson has 182 career tackles and has played in 45 games as a Rocket. Senior cornerback Samuel Womack has led the MAC in pass breakups for the past two seasons and will be joined at the other corner by veteran Justin Clark.

Previewing Toledo's Specialists for 2021

This group returns four-year starting punter Bailey Flint, who led the MAC in 2019 at 47.3 yards per punt. Sophomores Thomas Cluckey and Evan Davis handled the placekicking in 2020 and will battle it out again, while senior Ronnie Blackmon is an experienced return man.

Final Analysis

A pair of three-point defeats kept the Rockets from making the conference championship game last season, and a roster brimming with experienced personnel at every position should give Jason Candle ample firepower to challenge for the title again in his sixth season as head coach.

With the NCAA granting players additional eligibility due to the abbreviated 2020 season, Candle has 60 letter-winners on his roster, including six who earned all-conference honors last season. The Rockets get a stern test in the season's second week at Notre Dame and then should make a run at the MAC title.

National Ranking: 80

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