In 2021, Toledo entered the fall with a backfield lacking just about any game experience, and left it with a 10-3 record and a run in the state tournament.
So the Riverhawks could be excused for being excited about returning a couple starting backs this time around.
Senior Geoffrey Glass returns for his second season as the primary dive man in the option attack at fullback, after leading Toledo in carries and rushing yards as a junior. If that’s not a good enough familiar sight for Riverhawk fans, he’ll also have fellow senior Zane Ranney leading the way again, along with getting more touches of his own at tailback.
“Having those two, it helps a lot,” head coach Mike Christensen said. “Especially with blocking; that’s a big part of what we do. Just getting the kids to know who to block and when, that’s always a headache. But if you have a returning running back, that really, really helps. Especially a kid like Zane, who was a great blocker for us last year.”
Those two — who will both also feature heavily on the defensive end — will take a significant weight off the shoulders of first-year quarterback Austin Norris.
Norris, who started his career as a split end for the Riverhawks, is the latest in a long line of players Christensen tabbed to play quarterback their final year at Toledo. Last season, Wyatt Nef turned his lone season as a starting signal-caller into an all-area campaign with 29 total touchdowns, setting the standard for Norris this coming fall.
“He’s good,” Christensen said. “He still has some room to grow, but I think he’s got a good overall grasp of the offense, and he’s worked hard over the summer. I’m seeing about what I expected for now, which is good.”
Up front, Toledo will have to find new players to make holes for the returning backs and keep Norris clean, replacing nearly its entire line. But Christensen said that while the Riverhawks lack in experience in the trenches, their numbers are actually in a better spot than usual, giving the coaching staff a deeper pool to work with.
“It would be nice to have seven guys you feel really good about playing offensive line for you,” he said. “We haven’t had that in the past, but I think we have more of that this year. We have a little more depth there, but inexperience. I think when those get experience they’ll be really good football players for us.”