Leading the Toledo Rockets to a 28-13 record (.683 winning percentage) during his tenure thus far, head coach Jason Candle has built the program up to a yearly contender in the Mid-American Conference (MAC).
While building up a consistent winner, the program has done an admirable job developing next level talent, putting players like Diontae Johnson, Logan Woodside and Tuzar Skipper into the NFL in recent seasons.
Heading into the 2021 college football season, the Rockets boast a handful of NFL hopefuls who profile more than likely UDFA candidates with a couple threatening draftable status.
While the team’s week two matchup against Notre Dame leaves little hope to pull any sort of upset, the program continues to ascend under coach Candle. Optimism is high and a lot of that credit can go to the core of these NFL hopefuls.
Matthew Landers, RS Junior WR (6050e, 200e)
Playing for the Georgia Bulldogs across three seasons, wide receiver Matt Landers looks to buoy the Toledo passing offense, currently sitting as the team’s only draftable grade according to National Football Scouting (NFS).
Blessed with outstanding size and length, Landers looks to make a huge impact on the Toledo passing attack this fall after garnering a modest role with the Bulldogs. He wins most frequently at the catch point, using his high level reach and spinginess to elevate effectively.
His SEC background and potential production in the MAC conference will help to potentially hear his name called next April. If the production doesn’t come, the lack of vertical speed and explosiveness will do little to attract suitors.
Vitaliy Gurman, RS Senior OT (6032v, 307v)
A standout for Division II Edinboro University, the majority as a center, Vitaliy Gurman took over the starting left tackle spot for the Rockets during the 2020 season and excelled in doing so.
A part of his excellent campaign, Gurman remained dependable and consistent on a game to game basis. His biggest hangup will be his lack of size/length (sub 32” arms) for the position. That will ultimately push him inside, where teams may be intrigued by his sound technique and plus foot quickness to develop.
There are some clear limitations to Gurman’s game, mostly due to size, but still offers some late round hope with a big season.
Regardless, it is incredible to think that he could go from Edinboro University to an NFL opportunity in just two years. It is a truly remarkable story.
Trycen Anderson, RS Senior DB (6020v, 207v)
Boasting a next level frame on the backend, senior safety Trycen Anderson is entering his fifth season of major contributions for the Rockets.
Manning the strong safety position for the team, Anderson does a large majority of his work on the second level. Usually tasked as an extra box defender, Anderson also has made some impact blitzing off the slot.
Toledo seems very intent on getting him involved in the action as much as possible. That does lead to some inexperience and work in progress in pass coverage. Anderson is rarely tasked to work from depth, limiting his projection to a true deep safety role.
That makes his impact on special teams even more crucial to his transition. Without a real niche as a pass defender, ability as a core teamer with some ability in DIME situations will go a long way for Anderson to stick.
Samuel Womack, RS Senior DB (5092v, 185v)
Small and feisty, cornerback Samuel Womack is among the National leaders in pass breakups over the last two seasons (23 total).
While he doesn’t currently boast a draftable grade from the NFL, Womack may be Toledo’s best bet to stick long term at the next level.
There are some obvious limitations to last on the outside with lack of size and ordinary long speed but his tenacity and ball production will give him a puncher's chance. Moving inside to nickel full time will be a natural fit for Womack. He plays with outstanding effort and physicality to work in tight spaces and working the alley.
With how important the position is in the modern NFL, the nickel position has become a de facto starter. Special teams will be a sticking point for Womack. If his film is any indication, effort will be zero issue.
Bryant Koback, RS Junior RB (6000e, 210e)
The engine behind the Rockets’ offense, Koback has accounted for 2,974 total yards and 34 touchdowns over the last three seasons. Originally a member of Kentucky, Koback opted to transfer after just one season with the Wildcats.
Since he’s been a part of Toledo, he has quietly put together an impressive resume as a lead ball carrier. Sporting a solidly built frame, Koback is a one cut and go type of runner who does an admirable job sorting through contact.
There is a no nonsense approach, choosing to get vertical in a hurry. The Rockets also featured him in the pass game this past season, hauling in 24 passes in only six total games. There is nothing flashy about Koback’s game.
He is an ordinary athlete who lacks the lower body explosion to create a bunch of chunk plays.
His overall athletic profile may lack the intrigue to offer a long term outlook unless he can make some impact as a core team special teamer.
Jamal Hines, RS Junior DE (6030e, 250e)
A consistent contributor for the Rockets over the course of his career, defensive end Jamal Hines is a high effort edge rusher without any standout trait to lean on.
With just middling height for a base 4-3 defensive end, some may toy with employing Hines as a standup rusher in certain situations.
Unfortunately he lacks the movement skills to work in space a ton. His best reps come working off of loops, showcasing an outstanding motor to the echo of the whistle.
With admiral tackle for loss numbers during his career (22 total), in the run game where Hines has to make his living. He lacks the flexibility and explosiveness to win the outside track at a high rate.
Ultimately it’s going to be very difficult for Hines to stick long term, offering little upside on passing downs while also having limitations navigating space.
Bryce Harris, RS Senior OL (6024v, 298v)
Rock steady and dependable, super senior center Bryce Harris brings a wealth of experience (43 career games) to the Toledo offensive line.
Now entering his sixth year with the program following the NCAA’s decision to grant all players an additional year of eligibility, Harris provides a stable communicator on the team that his coaches and teammates revere.
Boasting an underwhelming size profile, Harris possesses just ordinary physical traits. He’s an adequate mover with little length to counteract a ton of size in tight spaces. Harris’ game must be predicated on movement, forcing some scheme dependence.
There is enough experience and consistency here to garner a look but ultimately his lack of physical gifts could make it hard for Harris to latch on long term.
Judging by the volume of the group, it can be assumed that the Rockets have a realistic chance to contend in the MAC this fall. Their week two matchup against Notre Dame can go a long way to showcase just how much of a run the team can make in the conference.
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