Getting To Know The Toledo Rockets

(Editor's Note: IlliniGuy Mike Cagley talked with Kyle Roland of the Toledo Blade on the I On The Illini podcast earlier this week)

August 31, 2023

(Cover photo courtesy Toledo Athletics)

Mike Cagley -- Toledo is coming off a (Mid-American Conference) championship last year and they have star quarterback DeQuan Finn returning this season.  Tell us a little bit about him. And what makes him so special.

Kyle Roland -- I mean, he's really good. There's no doubt and he's played well in big games. I mean, the score was not pretty last year when Toledo played Ohio State; it was 70-21. But he made some really big time plays in that game.  I used to cover Ohio State and Michigan. So I'm still very active in their Twitter space. And many people on Twitter during the first half of that game were like 'oh my gosh, can come to Ohio State' because everyone kind of knew CJ Stroud was gonna leave after the year. I don't know if he's quite that good. I mean, he's a very talented player. He's a great Group of five quarterback, as you mentioned, I mean, he's, he's a true dual threat. And he is really good with his legs. He was Mr. Football in the state of Michigan as a high school senior, led his team to a state championship. And he was basically a runner in high school. He's just one of those guys who is a great athlete; just let them have the ball every snap and let him do his thing.

MC -- Is there anybody (who he compares to)? Or is it kind of his his own creature?

KR -- I don't know. His arm almost reminds me of like (former Ohio State and NFL quarterback) Terrelle Pryor. I mean, I think you could kind of say he's a poor man's Pryor. I think you could say Finn is kind of his level. And then in terms of how is the offensive line. Illinois boasts a pretty good front seven. And they've got three guys in particular, you know, with Newton, Randolph and Gabe Jacas that really, the guy who gets single covered is going to be a handful.

MC -- You've given praise to Illinois coach Bret Bielema.  What in your mind makes Bret Bielema a good match for this Illini program?

KR -- I mean, it's about to get a whole heck of a lot harder. It's already difficult. But I mean, when you're adding these PAC 12 schools that makes it more difficult. I'm a Big 10 guy. I'm born and raised in Ohio, went to Ohio State covered Ohio State and Michigan, so I mean, it's in my blood. I've always thought Illinois is a sleeping giant and they have just so vastly underachieved and a lot of it just comes down to like poor coaching hires. When he took over Wisconsin, it had those Barry Alvarez years and they were they were good again or whatever, but I just I think his methods on offense can work well at Illinois. I think he's just a good coach. I just think his whole mentality. I think it fits with Illinois. It's a culture. There's just certain guys that that work in certain locales, if that makes sense.

MC -- Since you have an Ohio State background, I'm going to ask you this: if you put Ryan Day in Champaign, and you put Bret Bielema in Columbus, would Ohio State be any better? And would Illinois be any better?

KR -- Yeah, that's a great question. I mean, I almost think that Bielema would be better suited for that or have more success. I mean, yes, part of it. It's Ohio State. But I mean, Ryan Day's offense would be pretty hard to run in cold, wind-swept Champaign, Illinois.  I've been to Illinois 1,000 times. And I mean, it's always been this gray, gloomy place like when I see the weather forecast and it's gonna be like 90 and sunny Saturday. I do not believe it. I don't think it's possible for it to be that way in Champaign, but I'm certainly looking forward to it.

 

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