- Mid-American Conference preseason media poll — first in MAC West Division winner of MAC championship game.
- Phil Steele — first in West Division and return to Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
- Sports Illustrated — first in West Division and MAC championship game winner. Tim Beckman named “coach on the rise.”
REASONS TO BOAST
- The running game, which features the best corps of backs in the MAC. Adonis Thomas emerged from the shadows last season to rush for 1,098 yards, and David Fluellen averaged 5.9 yards per carry as a freshman. Morgan Williams will also be counted on, along with Darius Reeves and David Pasquale, who was converted from quarterback to running back in fall camp.
- A run-plugging, pass-rushing, much-improved defensive line. It says a lot about how deep the defensive line is when four-star recruit Andre “Tank” Sturdivant can’t find a starting spot, let alone expect any playing time. The Rockets feature seniors Malcolm Riley, Johnathan Lamb and Johnie Roberts and junior T.J. Fatinikun up front, and they’re backed by a talented trio of sophomores that will push them for playing time.
- The loss of returning defensive starters Isaiah Ballard, who was kicked off the team in May, and Mark Singer, who is out for the season with a torn labrum. Ballard at the star and Singer at free safety were expected to anchor a defense that was fifth in the nation last season with 34 forced turnovers and was expecting to welcome back nine starters. Now, that number has dwindled to seven and a lack of depth at safety could be a problem.
- Special teams, which has perpetually been a thorn in Beckman’s side. Last season, the Rockets ranked 117th in net punting (31.7) with four punts blocked, had just one touchback on 66 kickoffs, and converted just 6-of-14 field goals. Ryan Casano is back from a torn ACL and J.D. Detmer was recruited because of his strong leg, so the Rockets are cautiously optimistic those statistics will improve.
OFF THE CUFF
- A late addition to the 2011 recruiting class, offensive lineman Chase Nelson signed with the Rockets over the summer after spending one season at North Dakota State College of Science, where he and junior tight end Colby Kratch were teammates. Nelson stands 6-foot-8, weighs 345 pounds and is tied with Erik Faasen (2001-02) as the tallest UT football player ever.
- As a quarterback/safety at Tiffin Columbian from 2005-08, Kagy led the Tornadoes to four straight league titles and playoff appearances, and as a senior he was named the Division III defensive player of the year after recording 90 tackles and two interceptions. Kagy decided to walk on at UT, and he’s now listed as a second-stringer at strong safety entering his sophomore season.
- The Rockets have three players on their roster who were born outside of the United States. Kicker Ryan Casano was born in Rome but grew up in Texas, defensive end T.J. Fatinikun was born in Lagos, Nigeria but grew up in Perrysburg, and cornerback Ibrahim Yayah was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone but grew up in Columbus.
Austin Dantin and Terrance Owens have been locked in an almost constant quarterback competition since the spring of 2010. Dantin beat out Owens in preseason practices last year, and although no starter for the season- opener has been named yet, Dantin is the odds-on favorite to land the job again. It’s expected, however, that both will see time against New Hampshire.
No. Name Pos. Class Hometown/High School
2 Bill Claus P/PK Sr. Perrysburg/St. John’s
12 Eric Page WR Jr. Toledo/Springfield
23 T.J. Fatinikun DE Jr. Perrysburg
36 Cheatham Norrils DB Fr. Toledo/St. John’s
45 Graham Miller CB Fr. Toledo/Toledo Christian
51 Derek Batt LB Fr. Bowling Green
55 Ray Bush LB R-Fr. Toledo/Rogers
59 Joseph Missler DB R-Fr. Toledo/Whitmer
68 Kyle Cameron C Fr. Toledo/Central Catholic
71 Chris Castillo DT Fr. Toledo/Central Catholic
94 Clay Simpkins PK R-Fr. Wauseon