Toledo coach weary of Florida’s strength
Published: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 at 3:18 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 at 3:18 p.m.
In his team's first-ever trip to The Swamp, Toledo coach Matt Campbell is not expecting to see last season's Gators.
* What: Gators vs. the University of Toledo Rockets.
* When: 12:21 p.m. Saturday.
* Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, aka The Swamp, UF campus.
* TV: SECN (WOGX Channel 13 in Gainesville).
* Radio: AM-850, 103.7 FM.
* Information: Visit www.gatorsports.com.
While the Rockets' fellow non-BCS conference teams Bowling Green and Louisiana Lafayette forced Florida into come-from-behind wins a year ago, Campbell won't let his players count on seeing another sputtering UF offense on Saturday in their season opener.
"I think we're going to get a completely different Florida team than last year," Campbell said. "First time offensive coordinator last year, first time quarterback starting, and I think that coach (Will) Muschamp did such a great job. What a great record they had with so many young guys and so many changes in the program."
Instead, Campbell is looking for his own returning weapons off a 9-4 team, headlined by senior All-MAC running back David Fluellen, to lead an offense returning nine starters this season.
Though injuries and illness have the Gators entering the weekend missing four potential starters, including sophomore tailback Matt Jones, Campbell is anticipating Florida will find production from backups Mack Brown, Mark Herndon and Valdez Showers.
"I know from their entire running back stable that they've got guys, not just Matt, that can run the ball with extreme success," Campbell said. "Then you look at Jeff (Driskel) in the quarterback spot, and you see how dynamic of a runner he can be when he runs the football."
Campbell, the second-youngest Football Bowl Subdivision coach at 33, returns four starters from a rushing defense that tied for 78th in the nation last season with 182.3 yards per game allowed. In Campbell's inaugural season with Toledo, the Rockets opened 8-1 before losing three of their last four games.
"At the end of the day, you look at how they've run the football at Florida over at least the last year, there's a lot of guys touching the football and it wasn't just Matt Jones," Campbell said. "More than anything you've got to prepare how you're going to defend against that really talented offensive line and all the different formations and the tempos that they run at you."
Toledo has not played a school from the SEC. The Rockets are making up for that by playing back-to-back games against SEC foes, at Florida on Saturday and at Missouri on Sept. 7.
At 33 years old, Toledo's Matt Campbell is the second-youngest head coach in the FBS, one year older than Western Michigan's P.J. Fleck.
John Boothe is a Gainesville Sun correspondent.