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HomeSportsUT
Published: Saturday, 4/17/2004

Rockets backups get shot to step up

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Amstutz Amstutz
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This evening might offer a sneak preview of coming attractions when the University of Toledo football team plays its annual spring game at the Glass Bowl.

The stars won t steal the show, since the plan is to give the bulk of the playing time to the guys who are battling for a place in the lineup or a backup role.

UT coach Tom Amstutz knows what quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, wide receivers Lance Moore and Steve Odom, and running back Trinity Dawson can do – they all have a track record of success with the Rockets offense. Amstutz wants to use the loose format of the spring game to take a longer look at some of his other players.

“The spring game concludes a period where we ve done a lot of evaluating, and had the opportunity to really look long and hard at some of our personnel,” Amstutz said. “We ve looked at the backups from last season, some players from the scout team, and even considered who we might want to move from offense to defense. Spring just gives you the chance to really see what you ve got.”

Amstutz expects to use his established starters sparingly to give the rest of his team a chance to showcase its talents in a live environment.

“There are some pretty good battles going on – some for starting jobs and some for the top backup roles,” Amstutz said. “There has been good competition and a number of guys have shown me that they really want to play. That kind of atmosphere is always a positive thing.”

While Gradkowski is set at quarterback after finishing second in the nation in pass completion percentage (71.2 percent) last season as a sophomore, there is a two man race between a pair of redshirt freshmen for the right to back him up. Marques Council from Aliquippa, Pa. and Michael Faulds from Rockwood, Ont., both get the chance to state their case tonight.

A similar competition is underway for the backup role at tailback behind Dawson. Junior Quinton Broussard has the most experience, but he is being pushed hard by sophomore Jeremy Wright and redshirt freshman Lance Johnson.

Toledo returns 14 starters from last season, eight on offense, five on defense and junior placekicker Jason Robbins. The Rockets finished 8-4 last season, and were second in the Mid-American Conference s West Division at 6-2.

“It was different this spring, because we had a starting quarterback who knows the offense – that s the first time that s happened since I ve been head coach,” said Amstutz, who prepares for his fourth season running the program at UT. “Bruce knows the system, so that allows us to move on to other things. We put our base offense in in about six days, and now we ve been putting in some new wrinkles and adding some things.”

The spring game kicks off at 6:30 p.m. and will last about 90 minutes. The Rockets will scrimmage for four quarters with a running clock under an offense vs. defense format. Admission to the game is free.

Contact Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6510.



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