No. 59 Toledo
The departure of another head coach to a Power Five program — the fourth time since 1991 — didn't slow down Toledo. Following Matt Campbell's jump to Iowa State last year, the Rockets went 9-4 to give them 19 wins the last two years, the highest two-year total since 2000-01 (20 wins).
Head coach Jason Candle and senior quarterback Logan Woodside have the program rolling and are seeking to represent the Group of Five in a New Year's Six Bowl.
2016 Record: 9-4 (6-2, MAC)
Toledo was even better last year than their 9-4 record suggests. They did lost to MAC champion Western Michigan by 20 points in the regular-season finale but their other three losses came by a total of 10 points.
A balanced offense led to a 38-point scoring average, and though the defense twice yielded 55 points, a lot of young players made big strides.
Head Coach: Jason Candle (2nd year, 10-4 overall)
After picking up a victory in his first game as head coach — the 2015 Boca Raton Bowl — Jason Candle went 9-4 in his first full season. The 37-year-old first-time head coach was promoted from offensive coordinator — just as Campbell was in 2012 — and has the Rockets in position for another run at the MAC title.
He is also crushing recruiting; Toledo's 2017 class included 17 three-star players and ranked first in the MAC, and their 2018 class ranks second in the conference and 58th nationally with nine three-star commits.
Key Returning Offensive Players
QB Logan Woodside, RB Terry Swanson, WR Cody Thompson, WR Jon'Vea Johnson, OT Elijah Nkansah, OT Brant Weiss, G Nate Jeppesen
Six of Toledo's seven First-Team All-MAC selections came on offense, led by quarterback Logan Woodside. He played well in relief on injured starter Phillip Ely in 2014, did not play (and redshirted) in 2015 and exploded for 4,129 yards and 45 touchdowns in 2016. He was in the only quarterback in the FBS with at least 4,000 yards, 40 touchdowns and a completion percentage above 68.
Woodside was named MVP of the 2017 Manning Passing Academy this summer and is primed for a huge senior season.
"He's been remarkable," said Jason Candle. "What I admire most is the preparation and the willingness to be better and get better each and every day, and never to be satisfied. His team and his teammates have fed off of that. He's developed into being our leader because of the work ethic and just how [his] attention to detail is at an all-time high."
Running back Kareem Hunt is gone but Terry Swanson is back. The senior has 2,238 career yards and 17 touchdowns, averaging six yards per carry over three years. At receiver, All-MAC First-Teamer Cody Thompson is back after ranking ninth in the FBS with 19.8 yards per catch and could challenge for an All-American selection.
Two-year starter Elijah Nkansah returns at tackle, where he helped the Rockets rank ninth nationally with only 12 sacks given up in 2016. Fellow seniors Nate Jeppesen (guard) and Brant Weiss (tackle) also return.
Key Returning Defensive Players
DT Marquise Moore, DE Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, LB Ja'Wuan Woodley, LB Tyler Taafe, CB Tevon Mathis, CB Ka'dar Hollman, S Josh Teachey
Toledo ranked in the nation's bottom half in red zone defense, turnover gained and interceptions, among countless other defensive categories. They lose a few disruptive players in the front seven and talent in the secondary but there are enough pieces to be a good, advantageous unit in 2017.
Linebackers Ja'Waun Woodley and Tyler Taafe return after combining for 150 tackles and 19 tackles for loss, as does rising end Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, who had four sacks as a sophomore. The Rockets ranked 97th in the FBS with only 1.6 sacks per game (21 in 13 games).
In the secondary, corners Ka'dar Hollman and Trevon Mathis headline their key returners. Hollman, a 6-foot, 190-pounder had eight passes defended in 2016 after playing sparingly as a freshman. Junior safety Josh Teachey is dangerous at the line of scrimmage, registering five tackles for loss.
Notable Player Losses
RB Kareem Hunt, WR Corey Jones, TE Michael Roberts, OT Storm Norton, G Mike Ebert, DT Treyvon Hester, DE John Stepec, CB Connery Swift
It's almost shocking that Toledo should contend for the MAC championship despite losing five First-Team All-MAC selections, four of which were on offense.
Running back Kareem Hunt — one of three draft picks for the Rockets — is gone after 5,550 total yards and 45 career touchdowns, as are receiver Corey Jones and tight end Michael Roberts. Roberts is a 6-foot-6, 270-pounder who had 16 touchdowns. Linemen Storm Norton and Mike Ebert also graduated and are competing for spots on NFL rosters this summer.
Defensively, disruptive end John Stepac had 14.5 tackles for loss last year, and tackle Treyvon Hester — another First-Team All-MAC selection — added 8.5 tackles for loss. Cornerback Connery Swift led the team with two interceptions.
Notable Player Additions
DT Reggie Howard, S Jordan Williams
Only two newcomers appeared on Toledo's two-deep this spring: JUCO transfer Reggie Howard and redshirt freshman Jordan Williams.
Howard is a 6-foot-3, 280-pound defensive tackle from Cincinnati who arrived from Fort Scott Community College, while Jordan Williams — listed as a starter at safety in the spring — was a two-star prospect in their 2016 class.
Do you love MACtion? Toledo's 2017 schedule has a lot — seriously, A LOT — of MACtion.
After playing two non-conference road games in September and three-straight Saturday conference games in October, things get wild for the Rockets. They don't play a Saturday game after Oct. 21 and in all play games on four different days: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
|Thursday, Aug. 31||vs. Elon|
|Saturday, Sept. 9||at Nevada|
|Saturday, Sept. 16||vs. Tulsa|
|Saturday, Sept. 23||at Miami (FL)|
|Saturday, Oct. 7||vs. Eastern Michigan|
|Saturday, Oct. 14||at Central Michigan|
|Saturday, Oct. 21||vs. Akron|
|Thursday, Oct. 26||at Ball State|
|Thursday, Nov. 2||vs. Northern Illinois|
|Wednesday, Nov. 8||at Ohio|
|Wednesday, Nov. 15||at Bowling Green|
|Friday, Nov. 24||vs. Western Michigan|