>

Toledo Rockets 2016 Preview and Prediction

COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2016 PRESEASON TOP 25

#79 Toledo Rockets

NATIONAL FORECAST

#79

MAC West PREDICTION

#2

HEAD COACH: Jason Candle, First year | OFF. COORDINATOR: Anthony Johnson, Brian Wright | DEF. COORDINATOR: Brian George

One of the MAC’s most consistent program doesn’t show signs of slowing down despite another coaching change. Matt Campbell has left for Iowa State, passing the job to offensive coordinator Jason Candle. The new coach’s offense will be loaded as usual in Toledo, but he’ll have big shoes to fill. The Rockets have won at least nine games in four of the last five years.

Follow Athlon Sports on Twitter: @AthlonSports
 

Previewing Toledo’s Offense in 2016
 

New Toledo head coach Jason Candle’s offense is loaded with experience, all-conference talent and an explosive running attack. Candle won’t need any introductions — he was the Rockets’ offensive coordinator before replacing Matt Campbell in the top job at Toledo when Campbell departed for the same job at Iowa State. Candle has the luxury of two All-MAC running backs to work with since senior Kareem Hunt battled injuries for part of 2015 after piling up 1,631 yards and averaging 8.0 yards per carry the previous season. While Hunt was sidelined, junior Terry Swanson rushed for 923 yards and 6.5 yards per carry, and Hunt managed to gain 973 yards despite missing significant time. 

The dynamic duo will run behind a veteran line that Candle expects to provide the offense’s real leadership. That group is anchored by first-team All-MAC left tackle Storm Norton and three additional returning starters. 

The quarterback job goes to junior Logan Woodside, who was listed as the backup but did not play in the 2015 season after going 8–2 as the starter in 2014, when he threw for 2,263 yards and 19 TDs. When the Rockets go to the air, Woodside’s primary target will be wide receiver Corey Jones, whose speed and quickness have led to 123 pass receptions and 10 TDs the past two seasons. Junior Cody Thompson is a big-play specialist, averaging 22.3 yards per catch in 2015, third-best in the country.

Order a copy of Athlon's 2016 National College Football Preview, which includes an in-depth look at all 128 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

Previewing Toledo’s Defense in 2016
 

Toledo relied on a dominant group up front to lead its defense a year ago, but graduation has thinned the ranks and opened the door for a rush of new talent to audition. Two-time All-MAC senior tackle Treyvon Hester is a well proven entity, with 23.5 tackles for a loss and 16 quarterback hurries over the past three seasons. While Hester will demand the attention of opposing offensive lines, senior Earl Moore, a graduate transfer from Miami (Fla.), and sophomore end Olasunkanmi Adeniyi will have to be disruptive. 

Things are a little more settled at linebacker, where senior Jaylen Coleman and junior Ja’Wuan Woodley are both proven tacklers and pursuit artists. Candle has stressed the need for solid coverage in a secondary that is led by senior safety DeJuan Rogers, who notched 67 stops last season and earned third-team All-MAC honors. Senior safeties Connery Swift and Delando Johnson are expected to quickly assume active roles in the back end of the defense, while junior cornerback Jordan Martin returns after starting in 2014 and missing last season with an injury.

Related: Athlon's 2016 College Football Rankings: No. 1 to 128

Previewing Toledo’s Specialists in 2016

Stability reigns in this area as the Rockets return all their specialists, a group led by senior punter Nick Ellis, who displayed his accuracy in field position exchanges. Sophomore placekicker Jameson Vest is back after taking care of the field goal and extra point work in 2015. Jones, a first-team All-MAC pick last season, is dynamic in the return game.

Final Analysis
 

The Rockets’ new head coach brings little in the way of major change since Candle has been with the program since 2009. This is his offense, and it is talented and solid, so Candle won’t mess with what has worked so well. Under Candle’s direction, Toledo produced 35.0 points and 460.9 yards of offense per game in 2015, and he will keep his foot on the throttle. The real challenges come on the defensive side, where too many new faces could force the Rockets to have to outscore their opponents until they figure out how to stop them. Non-league dates with Fresno State and BYU will test Toledo early in the season, but the Rockets are good enough to challenge for a MAC West title once again.