By AF, Toledo Football Beat Writer
*Blows dust off of keyboard* Does this thing still work? Seems like it.
Guess who’s back! That’s right – your favorite Toledo Football writer is back to bring you another action-packed season of #RocketPower! Last year ended in not so great fashion losing to those backwoods mountain men from App State in the bowl game, but we have a combination of a short memory and CTE here, so we’ll pretend that never happened.
The 2018 season is poised to be one of the best season of Toledo Rockets football ever. How though? We lost the GOAT Logan Woodside, Terry Swanson, Ola Adeniyi (who had a monstrous preseason for the Steelers by the way), and many others. But fear not, Rocket Nation, for Toledo is arguably the deepest team in the MAC talent wise. We got Jason Candle locked down with an extension so that he doesn’t leave the TOL like that douchebag PJ Fleck did to Western Michigan (still has me blocked on Twitter too – not to brag). And the lineage at running back and wide receiver is longer than my, well, it’s long.
Coach Jason Candle
Let’s start with wide receiver, shall we? We shall. Back from injury is the preaseason Biletnikoff watchlist and guaranteed to play on Sundays next year star Cody Thompson. In the four full games he played last year before injury in game 5, he had at least 5 catches in each game and over 100 yards in each game with 4 total TDs. Guy is a stat sheet stuffer. Snag him in your PPR leagues if you can. Alongside Cody is Diontae Johnson who only put up a cool 1278 yards on 74 receptions with 13 TDs in Toledo’s 2017 campaign. Add in Jon’Vea Johnson, Desmond Phillips, and Danzal McKinley-Lewis who all contributed last year, and you got yourself an embarrassment of riches at WR for the Rockets.
#25 Cody Thompson
The running backs are going to be a menace for the rest of the MAC and whatever other scrub schools (looking at you Miami) the Rockets play this year. Last year I labeled him as “The Next Big Thing,” but Shakif Seymour is officially the guy at RB for Toledo. At 5’11 218 lbs, this kid is a bruiser between the tackles, but has the agility and acceleration to break away in the open field. He’s a true three down back in a day and age where there aren’t many of those left. As a redshirt freshman last year, he had 702 yards on 116 rushes (that’s a 6.1 yards per carry average for the nerds out there) and 12 touchdowns. He also added 10 catches for 104 yards and a touchdown. Like I said, three down back. I expect a monster year from Seymour this year, and you should too!
#21 Shakif Seymour
But don’t forget I said Toledo is deeeeeep, and that is true at RB as well. Art Thompkins has been a mainstay and performed marvelously as Terry
Samsonite Swanson’s backup last year. The 5’8 180 lbs RB will provide that quickness and change of pace for the Rockets on offense. He played in all 14 games last year and racked up 630 rush yards with two touchdowns along with 16 catches for 123 yards. In addition to the Smash & Dash duo, the Rockets landed a transfer from Kentucky, Bryant Koback, who was granted immediate eligibility and has 4 years of eligibility left. He is going to contribute early and often for the Rockets after having an impressive spring. I don’t know much about him yet, but I have a feeling we’re gonna get real familiar real fast against VMI this week.
#33 Art Thompkins
Sadly, we lost the GOAT Logan Woodside to the NFL this offseason. The MAC’s leading passer went to Cincy which really stings, but that begs the question – who is QB1 for the Toledo Rockets? That honor goes to Mitch Guadagni aka The Godfather (that’s an Old School reference for the kids out there).
Old School (2003)
Mitch-a-palooza kicks off on September 1st against VMI. We’ll see if he has what it takes to fill Woodside’s shoes. He did have some designed run plays last season for the Rockets, which could add a new wrinkle to the Toledo offense that we didn’t see with Logan at QB. He’s still wet behind the ears despite being a redshirt Junior since he hasn’t seen much playing time, but with Candle and this coaching staff as well as the seasoned veterans on the field, the guidance and support will be there to help The Godfather lead his men to glory.
And don’t forget arguably the biggest factor for this Toledo juggernaut of an offense. Jameson Vest is back and ready to split uprights like freshmen are going to split Uber rides to Chasers all year. Das Boot is a major weapon for the Rockets, and honestly, he should get an invite to New York in December for the Heisman ceremony. Has a kicker ever won before? No clue, but Jameson Vest should. He was 25/30 on field goals last year and 56/58 on PATs totaling 131 points of production. If you look closely, 131 is just 3 points between two uprights. Brilliant.
#37 Jameson Vest
There’s an old saying – “Defense wins championships.” Well, Toledo has plenty of defense too! Statistically speaking, Toledo was middle of the road in the MAC last year, but they brought home the championship, so they must be pretty damn good. They fly around and play aggressive football, which leads to turnovers and poor decisions by their opponents. This defense has plenty of junior and senior leadership which should go a long way since they know the system and know each other. Kahlil Robinson is poised to have a monster year at safety. He posted 67 tackles in 14 games and had 4 INTs as well. Senior linebacker Tyler Taafe provides a presence and voice at middle linebacker to lead this defense as well. Taafe has 129 career tackles, most of which came in the past two seasons, and he’ll need to step up the production in a big way this year for this team. Someone will need to replace Ola Adeniyi as well. He was virtually unstoppable last year, and that production will be missed dearly. But there is plenty of talent on this defense. They just have to play up to their potential.
#27 Kahlil Robinson
Folks, Toledo has all of the pieces to put together another magical season. Last time a team repeated as MAC Champs was Northern Illinois back in 2011 and 2012. Can Toledo do the same? Yes they absolutely can. Will they? That remains to be seen (yes). It’s about to be a fun ride this year. #RocketPower is BACK!