University of Toledo head football coach Jason Candle, left, and his team will begin a heavily anticipated season Thursday against Elon. BLADE PHOTO
It has been a preseason full of noise for the University of Toledo football season. From conference championship predictions in preseason polls to players on preseason award watch lists, there is a lot of buzz surrounding this Rockets team.
UT coach Jason Candle has heard it all and is ready to see how his team handles its first test Thursday in the season opener against Elon at the Glass Bowl.
RELATED: The Blade’s Toledo football preview
“Ultimately, no matter who you are playing, it’s a measuring stick of where you are at as a football program,” Candle said. “We’re a lot of hype right now. We’ve heard about all the preseason accolades and guys on the watch lists. The reality of it is we lost our last two football games and we have not played yet this year. We have a hungry team and have some guys that are ready to go out — like everybody else across the country — and play as one unit and put a great product out on the field.”
Toledo was selected by the media and the Mid-American Conference coaches to win the West Division and ultimately claim its first MAC title since 2004.
Senior quarterback Logan Woodside, who has garnered a lot of the individual attention this preseason after a historic 2016 regular season, said he and his teammates try to block out the hype.
“After a while it gets a little old and we’re just ready to go out there and play and have fun and execute,” Woodside said. “We try not to pay attention to any of that at all. That’s really not going to win us any games.”
Candle, in his second full season as Toledo’s head coach, has been around Rockets teams that have captured some preseason attention, including several times as the team’s offensive coordinator. He knows that means little when the games are decided on the field.
“It’s kind of hype season and if that means anything, then there would be no reason to play the games,” Candle said. “It turns out you still have to play the games. It turns out you still have to play really well as an individual. It turns out you still have to coach really well. We’re looking forward to going out and having the ball kicked off and having reasons to talk about our team with what happened and not what could happen.”
That being said, there is high praise for Toledo in the preseason for a reason, and Candle said his team won’t shy away from being the odds-on favorite in the MAC.
“Sometimes with the expectations, you can either run from them or hit them head on,” Candle said. “When you have expectations, your team to a certain extent has earned that. When you’re picked last, you have earned to be picked last. When you’re picked to be first, you have earned that. You still have to go out and prove that and go out and attack each and every day and see where it falls.
“We have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder from last year finishing the way we finished. I think we’re ready to get on the field and prove who we are instead of just hearing about who everyone thinks we are.”
CAPTAINS NAMED: Woodside, receiver Cody Thompson, defensive tackle Marquise Moore, and cornerback Trevon Mathis were announced by Candle as the team’s four captains. All are seniors.
“Those are four great guys and guys that were voted on by the team,” Candle said. “They are four great leaders and four great representatives of what our program should look like. They are guys that already have their degree or are right on the doorstep of getting it. They know what the longevity of being a Toledo football player looks like and certainly know what good, hard, day-to-day work looks like. I’m really proud of them and I’m looking forward to watching their senior year.”