There’s an old adage that goes, keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
With that saying in mind, Gator Country introduces what will be a weekly series introducing Florida’s opponent each week. Today we take a look at the Toledo Rockets who will meet the Gators at 12:21 p.m. on Saturday and kickoff the 2013 season. Each week we will preview Florida’s opponent, filling you in on everything you need to know about who the Gators will face that Saturday and give you an inside look at their team and program.
Location: Toledo, Ohio
School Mascot: Rocky the Rocket
Conference: Mid-American Conference (MAC)
Head Coach: Matt Campbell (Campbell is the youngest head coach in the FBS)
2012 Record: 9-4 (6-2 MAC)
Series History: 0-0 (This is the first meeting between the two schools)
Last Meeting: N/A
Starters Returning: 16 (9 offense, 4 defense, 3 special teams)
Starters Lost: 10 (2 offense, 8 defense)
Record vs. Top 25: 7-12 (Toledo beat #9 Pittsburgh in 2003. That is the highest ranked team that the Rockets have ever beaten.)
Rockets to Watch:
- Kicker, Jeremiah Detmer – The junior kicker was named to the preseason Lou Groza Award watch list.
- Running Back, David Fluellen – Fluellen was named to the Maxwell Award watch list and ran for 1,489 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.
- Center, Zac Kerin – A pre-season Rimington Award watch list honoree, Kerin is the Rockets best offensive lineman.
- Quarterback, Terrance Owens – The senior dual-threat quarterback was listed on the Davey O’Brien Award Watch List.
- Wide Receiver, Bernard Reedy – The do it all wide receiver will return punts, kicks, catch passes and even carry the ball as a running back for the Rockets. He’s a Jack-of-all-trades and a dangerous player that the Gators need to account for.
The Rockets run a spread offense but are more balanced than most teams who run a spread attack. Toledo ran the ball 54% of the time last season but still had the fifth ranked passing offense in the MAC, averaging 252 passing yards a game. They also ranked as the fifth rushing offense, averaging 193.23 yards per game on the ground.
Toledo returns nine starters on offense including, 4-of-5 offensive linemen, their quarterback, running back and their top four pass catchers (three of which were starters).
Toledo’s offense spreads defenses out, which opens up running lanes for David Fluellen and the running game. When they pass, the Rockets will use short, quick routes to try to negate Florida’s dangerous pass rush.
Toledo runs multiple defensive sets like Florida does. They have a hybrid linebacker/defensive end position similar to Florida’s BUCK position and play a lot of nickel coverage.
Toledo gave up an average of 182.31 yards per game on the ground last season and 290.8 through the air. They return just four starters on defense and have a total of 14 freshmen or sophomores on their two-deep defensive depth chart. The defense is young and unproven and will face a much improved Florida offense who is ready to perform and stop hearing about how the defense carried the team in 2012.