Aug 14 – The Toledo Rockets are a week in fall camp and a week closer to the actual games.
The arrival of the 2021 season is just under the three-week mark, creating both urgency and excitement every afternoon at the Fetterman Training Center and the Carter Field complex. Much of the starting positions are fixed, but the Rockets are working their way through a few injuries and creating the all-important cohesion that is a prerequisite for any championship-quality football team.
“Really good competitive spirit,” said UT coach Jason Candle. “Of course there will be mistakes. But the old teaching model of previewing, viewing and reviewing remains. It’s not really about making mistakes. The challenges that come with making those mistakes and trying to fix them are the culmination of what we want to achieve. “
There is no secret about expectations.
Toledo has grown into one of the Group of Five’s most consistent programs and has been in the top 20 in all of college football since 2010. During that period, the Rockets have had seven seasons of at least eight wins, six of at least nine wins, two double-digit winning seasons, and an 11-win campaign that coincides with the 2017 Mid-American Conference title.
Before 2010 was UT’s last season with nine wins in 2005. And there were 13 years between the MAC championships. What Tim Beckman and Matt Campbell started, Candle advanced through recruiting and player development.
Three years of poor performance, mixed with injuries, poor quality quarterback play, and inexplicable losses, are slated to retire in 2021.
“For me, competition is healthy,” said Candle. “The minute you stop competing I’ll be done with the coaching. That’s the fun part of it all. It’s not, do you love football? It’s, do you love to compete? That’s one It’s a key business. Iron “sharpens iron.”
Throwing the soccer ball through the air and scoring points will continue to grab the attention of the fan base. But 2020’s upgraded defense, a unit defensive coordinator Vince Kehres and co-defensive coordinator Craig Kuligowski, who were turned around seemingly overnight, is the X-factor as the Rockets attempt to reverse their current MAC drought a decade before their previous losing streak to end.
The story goes on
“ was a great confidence factor, “said Senior Safety Tycen Anderson.” And we all had the same players. Knowing that we could do it was a trust factor. We can be a special group of players together if we keep paying attention to the details, if we keep having fun, if we keep trusting each other. “
At first glance, defenses are judged by wins, losses, yards and points.
But one of the most important indicators is third place, an area where UT excelled during the shortened schedule of six games. In 2019, opponents converted 42 percent of their third downs against the Rockets. Toledo ranked third nationwide in 2020, allowing down conversions only 27 percent of the time, an improvement of 92.
“Being able to leave the field earlier lets us make more moves,” said senior cornerback Samuel Womack. “It helps with our tiredness. It helps our offensive to believe in ourselves. That trust in the person next to me alone makes it a lot easier.”
Even a week after camp begins, there comes a point where players want to stop beating each other up and instead face another team. Toledo accomplishes this goal while eagerly awaiting Norfolk State on September 4th.
Until then, the camp will continue to torment itself, but not thoughtlessly. Candle and Co. have a midnight blue and gold imprint for how to move the Rockets forward.
“I think we have a very tight team,” said Candle. “We need to be able to understand that in really, very difficult times we have to rely on each other because adversity will come throughout the year, be it in the form of injury or possible loss. You are ultimately defined by how well you deal with such situations and react to adversity. Adversity must be a catalyst for growth. We have learned some tough lessons in the past few years. We have to keep doing this because right now everyone is telling you how good you are, what the expectations are and creating a lot of hype.
“I’m cautiously optimistic that this is a good group of guys who can have a good season. But there is so much to do and there are so many Ts to cross and puncture. We have to do a few Breaks and we have to stay healthy. “
First published August 12, 2021, 11:21 am