UT’s Campbell mulling over minor depth issues

Rockets' head coach Matt Campbell directs his team during the spring game last Saturday.
Rockets' head coach Matt Campbell directs his team during the spring game last Saturday.

Among Matt Campbell’s top concerns coming out of spring ball is depth at linebacker. Backing up his veteran starters is a mixture of freshmen and non-scholarship players.

In other words, University of Toledo’s football coach heads into the summer with answers to the big questions and questions about minor things.

Campbell on Thursday summarized the recent 15 spring sessions, suggesting his team adhered to the program’s objective to get “two percent better every day.”

He shed light on several hot button topics, from the ongoing quarterback competition to a handful of unsung players ascending the depth chart to the need — or lack of — for incoming freshmen to vie for early playing time.

Concerning the quarterbacks, Campbell said, “I didn’t really know what to expect of their performance, but it was really consistent.” He will announce a starter in fall camp, determining if the Rockets are best served with the presumptive favorite Phillip Ely or to turn to Logan Woodside or Michael Julian. With Julian nursing a minor shoulder injury, Ely outplayed Woodside in Saturday’s spring game, firing two touchdowns and totaling 220 passing yards in the blue team’s 20-7 win. Woodside hit Corey Jones for a 41-yard TD strike but was intercepted twice, a concern given the coaching staff’s heavy emphasis on ball security.

Though Julian did not line up under center after injuring his shoulder a week earlier, Campbell saw enough positives to say the redshirt freshman made greater strides in the spring than the other two contenders.

Campbell confirmed a fourth quarterback will arrive in the fall. New Orleans-area quarterback Quentin Gibson recently signed a letter of intent with the Rockets, rescinding his commitment to grayshirt at Louisiana State. Gibson, a two-star prospect, was introduced to Toledo late in the recruiting process by renowned quarterbacks guru George Whitfield, Jr., after Gibson excelled at various QB camps.

“Athletic kid, can make all the throws,” Campbell said.

Gibson (6-2, 175 pounds) is the first quarterback and 24th pledge in Toledo’s signing class.

Unlike in past seasons, when there were holes at many defensive positions, Campbell is not relying on incoming talent to crash the depth chart.

“I think only if they’re good enough,” he said.

Campbell said Davi’on Riley (tight end) and Terry Swanson (running back) could plug gaps at their respective positions.

Ja’Wuan Woodley, a 2013 signee who grayshirted last year over academics, arrives in the fall to add punch to a linebackers group thin on numbers. Woodley, who spent his formative years in Toledo before moving to Columbus, can play inside or outside.

“Ja’Wuan Woodley is in my opinion a huge addition to what we have,” Campbell said.

Another young linebacker, sophomore walk-on Robert Buckwald, is among several unheralded players that caught Campbell’s eye in the spring. The group also includes offensive lineman Paul Perschon, defensive end Keenen Gibbs, and running back Marc Remy. The emergence of Remy, a sophomore who ran for 103 yards and a TD in a season-ending loss at Akron, instills confidence in the run game amid the tenuous position of senior Cassius McDowell. Campbell said McDowell, whom he shut down midway through last season for academic reasons, is “day to day.”

STONY BROOK: Toledo announced it will host Division I FCS member Stony Brook to open the 2015 season, giving the Rockets seven home games for the first time since 1999. The game will be played Thursday, Sept. 3.