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Football is not a perfect science, but as the University of Toledo pounds its way through spring drills, Tim Rose is busy concocting some kind of formula he hopes will help solve the defensive maladies that have afflicted the Rockets in recent seasons.
Rose, the new defensive coordinator at UT, plans to use the month of spring football to evaluate, experiment and test market a number of potential remedies.
"This is a big laboratory out there," Rose said about the UT Glass Bowl, "and we will be trying out a lot of different things. We'll use different concepts and approaches, and be constantly looking at what we have and what we can do with it. It should be a very active period, with changes taking place all of the time."
Rose, who was the defensive coordinator at Louisiana Tech in the 2004 season, has a long and proven track record as a professor of defense. He has 18 years of experience as a defensive coordinator at eight Division I-A schools, and every place he has gone the defenses have improved.
"We know coach Rose is a veteran guy who has excelled on the defensive side," UT junior linebacker Anthony Jordan said, "so everyone is excited about him putting his touch on our defense. He thinks we can be a lot better, and every guy out there wants to see that happen. I think we're anxious to get spring ball started so that process gets going."
Rose likely will be burning the midnight oil for a while as he tries to reconfigure a UT defense that was ninth in the Mid-American Conference in total defense last season, allowing 417.5 yards per game. The Rockets were dead last in red zone defense, allowing the opposition to score on 50 of 57 trips inside the 20.
"I think we've got good athletes here, good personnel, and these kids know how to win," Rose said. "I like their attitude and their eagerness to practice hard and practice like champions. The winning tradition here gives you a great environment to coach in,
and I expect these kids will do whatever we ask of them to improve defensively."
Rose plans to tinker with a number of different configurations, and hinted that the Rockets could end up with a base defense that includes three down linemen instead of the four linemen approach preferred by former defensive coordinator Lou West.
"That's one of the nice things about spring ball - it gives you the time and the opportunity to look at a lot of things," Rose said.
"I've got a bunch of ideas after looking at film, but once we spend some time outside and we see what these kids can do, then we'll know a lot more about which direction we want to take with this."
Rose will have one of the best trios of linebackers in the conference to work with in Jordan, Keon Jackson and David Thomas.
The former head coach at Miami likely will spend more time looking at the line, and the secondary, after Toledo finished 13th in the MAC in pass defense, allowing 275 yards per game through the air.
"Anytime you have a chance to get better, you have to utilize that chance," Jordan said. "Since we're putting in a new defense, this is everybody's time to really focus in and get ready for camp and for next season. There's a lot of excitement involved in putting together a new look."
UT coach Tom Amstutz said he likes to create an environment during spring practice where a lot of tweaking and tinkering takes place, in all aspects of the team, not just on defense. Amstutz said the Rockets, the defending champions in the MAC, will need to change in order to get better.
"We'll be evaluating what we do offensively, defensively and in the kicking game all of the time," he said.
"We'll make a lot of adjustments, and we'll look at some things in the springtime that we may use on a limited basis next year, or things that might end up taking us in a new direction. We use this as a time to experiment in a number of areas, and really evaluate our entire football program. We are not afraid to shake things up."
Jordan said the revamping of the defense puts everyone in a position where they have to prove their worth all over again, and he thinks that is healthy.
"Coach Rose has seen film on who can play and who has been there before, but you definitely have to go through every play in the spring like you are proving yourself again," Jordan said.
"You never know when somebody else could be hungry for your spot. It's competitive, and it's good competition, and you appreciate that because that competition and the changes we are going through will ultimately make us a better team."
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