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UT notebook: 3 questions about Rockets

08/28/2016, 12:17am EDT
By By BRIAN BUCKEY BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Season starts Sept. 2 at Arkansas State

UT notebook: 3 questions about Rockets

Defensive tackle Treyvon Hester, chasing Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk in 2014, is a key for the UT defense. BLADE/ANDY MORRISON

3 questions about Toledo

1. How will the transition be for the new coaching staff?

Jason Candle leads a staff of mostly new faces as the team transitions from the leadership of Matt Campbell, who left for the head job at Iowa State. Offensive coordinator Brian Wright comes to UT from Florida Atlantic, and defensive coordinator Brian George comes to UT from Kent State. Many of the position coaches are in their first year with the Rockets as well.

2. How will the defense perform after losing key contributors from last season?

Last season, Toledo ranked as the top team in the MAC in scoring defense at 20.8 points per game and fourth in the MAC in total defense at 374.8 yards per game. The defense returns key cogs in safety DeJuan Rogers and defensive tackle Treyvon Hester, but the Rockets lose All-MAC performers at cornerback and both defensive ends.

3. Can Toledo finally beat Northern Illinois?

The Rockets have lost six straight times to Northern Illinois, and several times it has cost UT a trip to the MAC championship game. Toledo gets the Huskies at a neutral site this season as the teams will play at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago.

RELATED CONTENT: Rockets trying to ignore expectations of outsiders ■ Norton has become key cog for UT ■ Briggs column

3 things they are saying

1. “One of the MAC’s most consistent programs 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.” — Athlon Sports

2. “Toledo is the most consistent team in the MAC. The Rockets make only good hires and almost never finish with a losing record. They also haven’t been to a MAC title game since 2004 because they can’t get past NIU. Does that change in 2016?” — SB Nation

3. “Four teams tied for the top in the MAC West last year. Toledo was arguably the best of the four as they had the best overall record (10-2) and the best yards per game (+129.3). Of those four teams this year, Toledo has the fewest amount of returning starters (11), face two of the other three on the road, and are the only one of the four with a brand-new head coach. Despite those factors, the Rockets are still a clear contender for the West title in 2016.” —Phil Steele

3 tough games

Sept. 30 at Brigham Young: The Cougars finished last season 9-4 overall and were a perfect 6-0 at home, including a win over Boise State. BYU will offer a strong test for Toledo in its fourth game of the season.

Nov. 9 vs. Northern Illinois at U.S. Cellular Field: Toledo will try to snap its losing skid against the Huskies and earn a big conference win.

Nov. 25 at Western Michigan: Western Michigan is picked to win the MAC West in the preseason poll. This game could decide who goes to the MAC championship game.

3 things to know

1. Toledo has three running backs with more than 1,000 career rushing yards: Kareem Hunt leads the way with 3,470 yards in three seasons. Junior Terry Swanson has 1,655 in two seasons, and Damion Jones-Moore has 1,137 in three seasons.

2. The Rockets have three graduate transfers on the roster: Safety Desmond Frye (Virginia Tech), linebacker Jeremi Powell (Florida), and defensive tackle Earl Moore (Miami, Fla.) look to contribute to the UT defense.

3. Toledo was a perfect 6-0 on the road last season: This year’s schedule will challenge the Rockets to accomplish the same feat. Road contests with Arkansas State, BYU, and Western Michigan will be tough matchups for UT.

3 players to watch

1. Kareem Hunt, senior RB: Hunt turned down a shot at the NFL to return for his senior season. He rushed for 973 yards last season after rushing for 1,631 yards as a sophomore. He is a preseason Doak Walker Award candidate.

2. Storm Norton, senior OT: Norton was a first-team All-MAC performer at left tackle in 2015 and was a member of the 2015 AP all-bowl team after his performance in UT's win over Temple in the Boca Raton Bowl.

3. Treyvon Hester, senior DT: Hester earned second-team All-MAC honors in 2014 and was third-team All-MAC as a freshman in 2013. This season he was named to the Bronko Nagurski Trophy preseason watch list.

Last 3 years

2015: 10-2 overall, 6-2 MAC

2014: 9-4 overall, 7-1 MAC

2013: 7-5 overall, 5-3 MAC

Last 3 bowl games

2015 Boca Raton Bowl: 32-17 win over Temple

2015 GoDaddy Bowl (2014 season): 63-44 win over Arkansas State

2012 Idaho Potato Bowl: 41-15 loss to Utah State

SCHEDULE

Sept. 2: at Arkansas State, 9 p.m.

Sept. 10: Maine, 7 p.m.

Sept. 17: Fresno State, 3 p.m.

Sept. 30: at BYU, 10:15 p.m.

Oct. 8: at Eastern Michigan, 3 p.m.

Oct. 15: Bowling Green, 3:30 p.m.

Oct. 22: Central Michigan, TBA

Oct. 27: Ohio, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 2: at Akron, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 9: vs. Northern Illinois (at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago), 8 p.m.

Nov. 16: Ball State, TBA

Nov. 25: at Western Michigan, TBA

Contact Brian Buckey at: bbuckey@theblade.com or 419-724-6110.

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