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Getting to Know the Toledo Rockets: Q&A with

Another week, another national game for our Buffaloes, hopefully with a much better result this time.  We sat down with Toledo Rocket blog, Let's Go Rockets to find out more about this Friday's opponent.

Update: Let's Go Rockets has posted our answers to their questions.

The Ralphie Report (TRR): Last week was Tim Beckman's first game as the Toledo head coach. What was your impression and what is his main strategy on offense and defense (attacking defense, spread out offense, etc.)

Let's Go Rockets (LGR): Toledo fans have a lot to be excited about in Tim Beckman. He has brought enthusiasm and energy back to a program that was tiring under it's old regime. Toledo still has work to do before it climbs back to sit atop the MAC where it spent the first part of this decade, but it was obvious on Saturday, despite the loss, that Beckman could get us back there. One of the changes apparent in the first game of the season was in the offensive play calling. Beckman's staff includes QB coach Scott Satterfield, who prior to his time at Toledo, served as QB coach at Appalachian State for six seasons. During that time the Mountaineers won three consecutive NCAA FCS (formerly Division I-AA) championship titles from 2005-07. Satterfield also mentored junior quarterback Armanti Edwards, who was named the 2008 Walter Payton Award winner as the offensive player of the year in the FCS. With a slightly stunted running game (Toledo's Morgan Willliams was suspended) and the run not materializing against Purdue, Toledo went to the air with a strong passing game, and Satterfield's influence was obvious. That type of passing barrage coupled with a strong running game (Collins and Williams) should make for a strong offense and dual threat, which is something that Toledo hasn't had coming into the last few seasons. 

TRR: Talk a little bit about WR Stephen Williams. What makes him a special player? Buff fans are looking ahead to the matchup between Williams and Jimmy Smith, two NFL type players. 

LGR: Overshadowed by the Rockets' losing seasons, Stephen Williams has quietly approached the top of Toledo record books in relative obscurity. He is a gifted player in many ways: his height (6'5") lets him go up over smaller defenders and come down with the ball, he has a natural ability to get himself open, and his speed at running routes is daunting. His 15 catches for 185 yards and 2 TD's against Purdue showed that he does not back away from strong opponents.  During his time at Toledo, he has gained 2,222 yards, good enough for 3rd in school history and is only 555 yards from breaking the all time record held by current New Orleans Saint, Lance Moore.


TRR: Colorado had a tough time stopping the big play against Colorado State who had a very experienced offensive line. Toledo also has a very experienced offensive line and it looks like they can throw the ball around a little bit. From your perspective, should Buff fans be worried and how good is this offensive line?

LGR: While Toledo's line is experienced, they have underachieved the last few seasons so it's difficult to gauge their true potential. From the Purdue game, it's apparent that the O-line is capable of giving Opelt plenty of time to get rid of the ball and allow a play to develop. While the running game never really got traction against Purdue, we expect to see it come into play more and more this season. If the line is as effective against Colorado as it was against Purdue in delaying the defense from getting into the backfield and disrupting plays, whether pass or run plays, it could be a long night for the Buffaloes.
Note: Some really good linemen have come through the Toledo program, most recently New England Patriot and super bowl winner, Nick Kaczur, and St. Louis Ram, John Greco.

TRR: The Toledo defense gave up over 300 yards of rushing yards against Purdue. Is Purdue's running game that good or do the Rockets have some issues upfront that you think teams will try to exploit all season long?

LGR: A new defense is in place this season.  As expected, these new assignments and new schemes take some time for the players to learn and for them to become second nature under game time pressure.  Purdue averaged 8.1 yards per carry, but their game isn't really that strong - credit their success to exploiting the weakness in our new scheme. Directly following the Purdue game, changes were being implemented and techniques adjusted to fix the problems that surfaced in our first game of the season. We fully expect the defensive problems to be addressed and corrected by game time on Friday when Colorado comes to the Glass Bowl. 

TRR: Toledo's top running back, Morgan Williams was suspended for the first two games of the year. How big is that loss for the team considering the Rockets only rushed for 3.2 yards a clip with Aaron Opelt getting the bulk of the yards. Two other defensive players were suspended for the first game and are returning for the Buffs' game. Will the return of Daris Quinn and Chris Faison have a big impact on the defense?

LGR: While DaJuane Collins is still our "go to" running back, the loss of Morgan Williams was felt in the Purdue game. When Williams is available, it takes some of the pressure/direction off Collins and allows the Rockets to use some two-back sets, with both backs capable of breaking loose for a big gain. Despite injuries that plagued him all season, Collins was able to amass 700 yards rushing and Williams delivered 1010 yards. Behind those two backs, it wouldn't be surprising to see Jake Walker or even Adonis Thomas get a few carries, this season. Having a two (or even three) pronged running back system would be huge this season. 
The defense will be sured up by the addition of Daris Quinn and Chris Faison who were suspended for the Purdue game. Quinn is a former starter who had 77 tackles last season and his impact should be felt immediately at linebacker.  Faison was listed as the #3 safety in the preseason, so his impact may not be immediate, but he adds much needed experience and depth to the defensive roster.

TRR: Prediction time: 

Colorado wins if?:  they are able to get their run game going and can be successful with that all night. We're less susceptible to passing attacks, but still vulnerable to the run. It Toledo fails to fix it's defensive mistakes from last week's game, and allows Colorado to start running, it will be a long night.

Toledo wins if?:  the defense adjusts from the lessons learned at Purdue, and the offense attack is more balanced (still pass heavy, though) Our home field advantage has helped against Big 12 opponents in the past and we have a tendency to light it up at home.

Final score prediction?: Toledo - 48 Colorado - 41