2014 Missouri Tigers football preview: Toledo

Darren Hellwege is previewing each of Missouri’s football opponents for the 2014 season. The previews are being published Aug. 1 – 13 and will appear in the order of play.

Missouri v. Toledo
Date and time:
Sept. 6, 11 a.m.
Record: Toledo was 7-5 in 2013, including a loss to Missouri 38-28 in Columbia.

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Darren Hellwege, Sports Commentator

Quarterback
The big question mark is at quarterback. With Terrance Owens’ graduation, there’s still open competition. Sophomore Logan Woodside is the only one with game experience, but Junior Phillip Ely, a transfer from Alabama, was pretty sharp in the Rockets’ spring game.

Running Backs
The Rockets also graduate at stud at RB with the loss of David Fluellen, but sophomore Kareem Hunt got plenty of opportunities with Fluellen’s injury woes last year. Hunt took advantage, averaging over six yards a carry to finish second in the MAC—to Fluellen. Coach Matt Campbell calls Hunt “a complete back.” Small but very fast Damion Jones-Moore and Cassius McDowell will spell Hunt.

Receiver
Another scary weapon is two-time All MAC receiver Alonzo Russell. The question is will there be others who can take on some of the responsibility. There’s experience, with seniors Dwight Macon and Justin Olack, but frankly neither’s in Russell’s league. Alex Zmolik plays H-Back/tight end more to block than to catch passes.

Offensive Line
The obvious strength of this team is the offensive line, with a great deal of talent returning. What many considered the best line in the MAC in 2013 brings back four starters. LG Greg Mancz has started 38 games in a row, and can play either position on the right side, he’s tough in run blocking and pass protection. Mancz is on the preseason watch list for the Rimington Trophy. Another all-conference lineman back for more is Jeff Myers. Few teams anywhere in any league can match these two guards. Athletic LT Josh Hendershot and enormous RT Chase Nelson also return to a line that gave up just six sacks in 12 games last year for UT, the lowest number in the nation. There’s also considerable depth here.

Defensive Line
The defensive line also has depth, and returns some awfully good players, led by returning all-MAC DT Treyvon Hester. 7.5 tackles for loss ain’t bad for a freshman, and Hester will be a pest for opposing OLs for a while. The other tackle position also saw outstanding play from a freshman in 2013 in Marquise Moore. With Jayrone Elliot’s graduation, the Rockets need to find an outside rusher, but there are good players fighting for the end spots, including Juco transfer Tre James. The Toledo line more than held their own early last year against SEC competition, playing well at Florida and Missouri.

Linebacker is the strong point for the defense, with a great one in Junior Sylvestre joined by Trent Voss and Chase Murdock. The Sporting News named Sylvestre the preseason Defensive Player of the Year in the MAC. All three are high motor guys who know how to tackle. Sylvestre had 13 tackles, and the speedy Murdock 12 against the Tigers last year in Columbia.

While seniors Cheatham Norrils (all-MAC in 2012) and Cameron Cole return at cornerback, and there’s some depth with several highly touted recruits coming in the last few years and with experienced sophomore Jordan Martin returning. But the unit wasn’t terribly impressive in 2013, and will need to step it up this season. Safety is also a position with several options, look for Jordan Haden, who started his college career at Florida, to come back strong after spending much of last year battling injuries.

Oh, and if the game is close, be very worried—Jeremiah Detmer’s one of the finest kickers on all of college football, maybe the best.

But, this game shouldn’t come down to kickers. Missouri’s too tough for the Rockets and wins by two touchdowns to move to 2-0.

Darren Hellwege is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the United States Basketball Writers Association

 

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