The Rockets rode an especially volatile quarterback carousel this spring, searching for their next offensive leader and the guy to replace four-year starter Aaron Opelt. During a month of practice and several action-filled scrimmages, the candidates for the starting job moved up and down the depth chart, but not much was resolved.
Sophomore Austin Dantin was generally believed to be the front-runner for the job, based on his accumulated experience filling in for the injured Opelt for a few games in 2009. Senior Alex Pettee started spring as the backup, but slipped to fourth on the depth chart prior to the final scrimmage.
Sophomore David Pasquale, a "wildcat" specialist in the past, jumped into the backup role by the end of spring workouts. Redshirt freshman Terrence Owens, an option-style quarterback, assumed the third position on the QB list.
Following the spring game, questions remained about the pecking order, and if Dantin had done enough to earn the starting job. Toledo's second-year head coach Tim Beckman did not do much to clear the air.
"It's wide open," Beckman said about the four-man contest to win the starting job. "They all have their strengths, and we're going to have to make a determination next fall."
The Rockets likely won't know until camp opens in August if Beckman is just using some psychology to try and push his young quarterbacks, by extending the competition through the summer. If he truly does not know who is the best of the bunch, then Toledo's offensive questions will hang over fall workouts like a dark cloud.NOTES, QUOTES
--Toledo's coaching staff gave a number of the skill position players time on the stage in the spring game, with four quarterbacks, 13 receivers, and four running backs seeing substantial action.
--The Rockets, whose defense allowed a troubling 37.7 points per game in 2009, hope the 21-14 final score in the spring game indicates their defense is improving.
--In years past, Toledo had to deal with the elements during spring ball, whether it be snow or rain or wind and cold. With the opening of the new $9 million Fetterman Training Center, a complete indoor football facility, those days are over.
DB Isaiah Ballard -- The biggest shoes that needed filled on the defense are those that belonged to four-time, first-team All-MAC safety Barry Church. Ballard's performance this spring, when he made play after play and showed his speed and instincts, have made Church's departure for the NFL a lot easier to handle.
DE T. J. Fatinikun -- A year of seasoning and duty as a backup rotating in along the defense line seems to have motivated Fatinikun and left him hungry for more. He had a very strong winter workout, and likely pushed himself ahead of some older veterans on the very fluid depth chart.
QB David Pasquale -- Looked at as primarily a "wildcat" option last season when his surgically-repaired shoulder was not ready for a full throwing motion, Pasquale seemed type-cast and stuck down the depth chart. That changed this spring when the sophomore demonstrated a sound motion and improving accuracy.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "All of our quarterbacks have their strengths. Each one has had good scrimmages this spring. Great competition in the spring will only help us get better next fall." -- Toledo coach Tim Beckman on his search for a starting quarterback.STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010 OUTLOOK: The Rockets fell short of Beckman's ambitious first-year goals of competing for the MAC title, posting a winning record, and playing in a bowl game. The bar still sits on those lofty targets, and with a new quarterback and a leaky defense that lost its best player to the NFL, the optimism here should be guarded. Beckman's second season in charge of the program should be a bit better, since the familiarity factor is important, and now he knows his personnel better, and they are more aware of his style and demands.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Rockets auditioned four quarterbacks throughout the spring, and still don't know who their starter will be this fall. The cast around that player-to-be-named-later showed how solid it is, however. The veteran line should be Toledo's dominant unit, while receiver Eric Page gives the receivers an explosive quality, and running back Morgan Williams appears ready for the workhorse role. The rest of the Rockets look capable of taking some of the pressure off the new starter at quarterback.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: This is the area that needed the most work, and the personnel shuffle was endless throughout the spring. The Toledo coaching staff wanted a good look at everyone, searching for guys who can make plays. What they already knew was that linebacker Archie Donald could do just that, and spring reinforced the notion that he will be the leader. The line is very much in a state of transition, and Toledo needs seniors Alex Johnson and Douglas Westbrook to lead an across-the-board upgrade in performance.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: The Rockets expect to see a big improvement here, since for the first time, their kickers and punters have been able to work out indoors throughout the winter. Bill Claus looks steady as the returning starter at punter, while senior Brett Brodbeck and junior Ryan Casano will continue their competition for the kicking job. Eric Page left little question about who gives Toledo its best chance for a big play in the return game.
--OL Nate Cole did not take part in the spring game while he recovers from an undisclosed injury.
--DE Alex Johnson was kept out of contact work this spring while he continues to recover from off-season surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. Johnson suffered the injury in the final game of the season against Bowling Green.
--TE Danny Noble, who demonstrated the running ability that will allow him to play either tight end or wide receiver, sat out the spring game while he was nursing an injury.
Previous Report: 04/28/2010