September 4 – The University of Toledo’s upgraded football defense is put to the test on Saturday night at the Glass Bowl in their week 1 matchup against Norfolk State.
Opposing quarterback Juwan Carter is the preseason offensive player of the year for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and has been put on a watchlist for the Walter Payton Award, the FCS version of the Heisman Trophy.
For a missile defense that has improved exponentially over the past season, Carter presents an intriguing challenge.
“We have to do a great job keeping him in his pocket, delimiting the lanes where you allow him to escape and get out of the perimeter and play with his legs,” said Toledo coach Jason Candle.
Norfolk State has chosen the 2020 season. In 2019, Carter led the MEAC with 2,632 passing yards, threw 23 touchdowns and recorded three 300-yard passing games.
Spartans coach Dawson Odums likes the chances of his offensive.
“I think we have a good offensive line, a good receiving corps, a good quarterback, a good running back, so we should be able to move the football,” Odoms said this week.
Toledo’s opponents on Saturday will play a game for the first time in 651 days.
“They want to compete, they are ready to play, but there are a lot of unknowns,” said Odums. “There are many hidden factors that you do not yet know. How is your body supposed to hold up against a jersey of a different color? You haven’t had that kind of contact for a long time.”
For the Rockets, offensive lineman Mitch Berg (St. John’s Jesuit) missed surgery last season after his recovery. Berg returns to the offensive, along with the preseason All-MAC selects center Bryce Harris, guard Vitaliy Gurman and attacks Nick Rosi.
Candle stressed that consistency on the offensive line will be a key factor in the Rockets’ success, starting against a Norfolk State defensive line that features Senior Bowl candidate De’Shaan Dixon.
The story goes on
“Having our boys back in their home base and having them in our positions that I think they are most comfortable in will, I believe, give this unit the opportunity to develop and grow,” said Candle. “You can’t play winning football in this conference if you don’t have a great offensive line.”
When the Rockets take to the field in front of fans for the first time since 2019, they’ll create a team based on veteran experience. The Rockets have starters again in every position, including three starters from 2019.
During the fall camp, the veterans led by example and held themselves and their younger teammates accountable.
“I think when you have player-centric accountability, you have player-centric authenticity. I think when you have player-centric goals and dreams, good things happen, “said Candle. “The coaching staff doesn’t always have to. And I think that’s a good thing.”
First published September 3, 2021, 11:18 am