Jon Heacock wasn’t in Toledo the past few years, but he has seen the numbers.
The new University of Toledo defensive coordinator didn’t care for them.
“I don’t know the past other than I know the standings where the Toledo defense has been,” Heacock said.
“I understand that, and we can’t be there.”
The Rockets’ up-and-down defense has been the difference between good seasons and great ones.
In the past four years, Toledo has allowed 34 or more points 16 times. In the same time period, Toledo has allowed an average of 48.5 points per game to Northern Illinois, its biggest division rival, and lost all four games.
Injuries significantly weakened Toledo’s defense last season, but the Rockets believe they are much deeper than a year ago. Competition has been prevalent at many defensive positions, which the Rockets believe will help at the end of the season.
“We’re switching guys’ spots every day in practice, trying to figure out who’s going to get that spot,” linebacker Trent Voss said. “It’s a lot of competition, and that’s a great thing to have because it means you have a lot of depth when you need it.”
Heacock identified the defense’s mentality as the area in which it needs to grow. He said he wants training to match game-level intensity because he thinks it will be the only way to finish the season the way Toledo wants.
Toledo was the worst team in the MAC in red-zone defense last season, and it ranked 106th in the country in both third and fourth-down defense.
The Rockets also lost six games in November during the past four seasons.
Changing all of that for the better, the Rockets believe, will require being consistent in how they prepare.
“Our defense is real athletic, and I feel we have a lot of good players, but we got to go into the season and just continue to have the same mentality all throughout the season,” safety Jordan Haden said, “even into November.”
Whereas Toledo’s defense faltered late in the past few seasons, Heacock believes everybody on the roster must be ready at all times. Anything less, he said, is not good enough.
“It’s just as important to coach the 10th guy as it is the first guy. That’s always been my philosophy,” Heacock said. “There needs to be two of everything. You’re not going to play championship defense into November without two of everything.”