Game Preview: Toledo Rockets
The University of Arizona begins its 2010 season tomorrow night against the Toledo Rockets at the Glass Bowl in Toledo, Ohio. Despite being a mid-major program, the Rockets feature a high octane offense that utilizes the spread formation and favors passing the ball as its first priority. Toledo is not the typical early season cupcake that many higher caliber schools schedule to prepare for conference play as proven by ranking 12th in total offense last season.
The Rockets will be relying on sophomore quarterback Austin Dantin to fill the vacancy left by Aaron Opelt, who threw for just under 2,000 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. Luckily for Dantin, he will have fellow sophomore wide receiver Eric Page to throw to as his primary target. Page led Toledo’s receiver corps with 82 receptions, 12th best in the nation, last season and will have to step up his game in order to compensate for the inexperience of Dantin.
Arizona is expected to use more nickel (five defensive backs) and dime (six defensive backs) to counter the spread attack and match speed with speed on the field. The Wildcats’ secondary is anchored by junior cornerbacks Trevin Wade and Robert Golden with support in the two safety positions by seniors Joseph Perkins and Anthony Wilcox. Sophomore sensation Adam Hall is expected to be utilized in the nickel and dime packages along with highly touted freshmen Marquis Flowers, Shaquille Richardson and Jonathan McKnight. If the secondary can keep Page occupied and unable to break free in coverage, the task for the defensive line will be reduced to stuffing the Rockets’ running game and keeping pressure on Dantin in the pocket.
No one has questioned the ability for the Wildcats’ offense to move the ball and score points throughout all of the preseason training camps but the defense has been the biggest question mark.
The linebacker trio of Jake Fischer, Derek Earls and Paul Vassallo have zero starts between them but the addition of an extra defensive back and subtraction of a linebacker in the nickel and dime packages should give them an easier transition to being on the field for an entire game. The defensive line features twin pass rushing specialists Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore, both of whom will be depended on greatly for collapsing the pocket and hopefully creating turnovers on bad passes or tipped balls.
Arizona should be able to beat Toledo but it may not come as easily as some fans may expect. The margin of victory will depend on the defense’s ability to slow down the passing attack, shut down Eric Page and force Toledo’s young quarterback into making poor decisions.