Call it a slump, a funk, or a case of a player spinning wheels. Ray Bush had it.
Remember Bush? The former City League defensive player of the year had a promising redshirt freshman season in 2011, made further strides the following spring, and then ...
“Disappeared,” University of Toledo coach Matt Campbell said.
Bush, whose contribution to the team a year ago was limited to one game and zero tackles, has reappeared this offseason. The 2010 Rogers graduate had another good spring but this time he piggybacked with a strong fall camp to secure a spot on the defensive rotation. Bush, a redshirt junior, is listed as Junior Sylvestre’s backup at Will linebacker on a depth chart released Wednesday.
“I got out of the slump, and now I’m rolling,” Bush said.
Added Campbell: “Ray kind of fought back.”
Bush, who switched positions in the spring to the pass-rushing Leo role from defensive end, moved again weeks ago to fortify linebacker depth in the aftermath of Jaylen Coleman’s knee injury. Bush (6 feet, 3 inches and 245 pounds) can still play Leo if needed, although the Rockets list two good ones on the depth chart in seniors Jayrone Elliott and Christian Smith.
“We expect him to play a lot of football for us, and he’s earned that right,” Campbell said of Bush. “That’s what you appreciate as a coach. He said that’s what he wanted to do, and he kept his word and put together an unbelievable spring and a great camp. I’m proud of him.”
Bush, who was part of a playoff team his senior year at Rogers, attributed his struggles a year ago to making the same mistakes over and over instead of advancing to new principles.
“I was getting it, but I wasn’t getting it,” he said.
He watched from the sidelines as the Rockets climbed into the Top 25, appearing in only the Western Michigan game and not traveling with the team by the end of the year. He recorded fewer tackles — zero — than two quarterbacks, a running back, and a wide receiver.
No one is expecting Bush’s season to resemble 2012.
The preseasons couldn’t have been any different.
“Every player is kind of like an apple,” defensive coordinator Tom Matukewicz said. “They don’t all ripen at the same time. Sometimes it takes a kid longer than others. It seems like he’s really caught on. He’s really hungry to play. He’s doing little things to get himself on the field.”
MOORE TO START: As expected, true freshman Marquise Moore is listed atop the depth chart — but at defensive end and not defensive tackle, where he had been projected. Campbell said Moore, of Whitmer, will play either position depending on the package.
Of note, senior captain Christian Smith is the backup at defensive end to Jayrone Elliott. Campbell said the two will play together on four-man fronts and rotate on three-man fronts.
Chase Nelson beat out Rob Lisowski at right tackle, Chris Collins edged Treyvon Hester at nose tackle, and the safety jobs belong to Ross Madison (strong) and Chaz Whitaker (free). Winning key backup battles were quarterback Logan Woodside and running back Cassius McDowell.
Fifteen freshmen are listed on the two-deep, including four in the secondary. Only two seniors — Madison and Elliott — are projected to start on defense.
2014 OPENER: For the second time in four seasons, the Rockets will open with a home game against New Hampshire. The Aug. 30, 2014, matchup caps Toledo’s 2014 non-conference slate. The Rockets will host Missouri and play at Cincinnati and Iowa State.
Toledo won the last meeting against New Hampshire, 58-22, to start the 2011 campaign. The Wildcats, who compete in the Football Championship Subdivision, have posted nine straight winning seasons.