Updated Sat, Aug 31, 2013 11:49 am
When the Ohio Bobcats take the field for the first time in 2013, it will look much the same as the few years past. Frank Solich is back for his ninth season, and many pieces of Ohio’s prolific offense return for another year. However, there are also a significant number of new starters on all sides of the ball for the ‘Cats. Here’s a look at how each position will look this fall.
Tyler Tettleton has been a rock at quarterback for the Bobcats the past two seasons. In that time he’s rewritten the Ohio record books. The redshirt senior is already the program’s career leader in passing yards, touchdowns, and completions, along with a handful of other records. With Tettleton behind center once again the ‘Cats have their leader in place.
Backing up the Oklahoma native for the second straight season is Nebraskan dual-threat Derrius Vick. In his first season of action Vick proved to be a more than capable fill-in for Tettleton as the starter battled through injuries in 2012. By default (following the arrest of redshirt freshman quarterback Greg Windham) redshirt freshman J.D. Sprague has earned the third-string quarterback spot, but it’s unlikely he sees much of the field in 2013.
After a breakout season in 2012 that saw him smash the Ohio single-season rushing record, and finish ninth in the nation in total rushing yards, Tettleton’s old high school teammate Beau Blankenship is also back for a swan song. Behind Blankenship is fellow redshirt senior Ryan Boykin. The big back has suffered from numerous injuries throughout his career, but has been taking reps throughout fall camp, splitting time with Blankenship, and appears healthy and ready to take on a bigger role. True sophomore Daz’ Patterson provides Ohio with a change of pace out of the backfield, and despite undergoing offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder has been full-go all camp. Together those three should provide Ohio with a formidable running attack once more.
Wide receivers and tight ends:
The receivers are one of two key positional areas where the most new names will be seen this fall. Two of the top producing wideouts from 2012 are gone. Tight end Jordan Thompson also graduated, and position mates Derek Roback and Tyler Knight are both no longer with the team due to lingering injuries. Donte Foster returns as Ohio’s No. 1 receiver. Providing depth at the position is fellow starter Matt Waters. Slots Chase Cochran and Mario Dovell provide Tettleton with excellent targets as well. Daz’ Patterson has also been taking reps at slot in an effort to get him more touches this fall.
At tight end, Troy Hill, Ohio’s leading contributor from the position in 2012, is back after his first full offseason without injuries. Solich brought in North Carolina State graduate student transfer Anthony Talbert to add depth. He is penciled in right behind Hill in the depth chart and provides the team with a good blocker and plus receiving option from the position. But behind those two, questions still remain. A pair of true freshman, Troy Mangen and Mason Morgan will likely see significant playing time this season due to an overall lack of depth.
Three starters from 2012 are gone. Ohio is replacing its starting right guard, center and left guard from 2012. John Prior (left tackle), John Lechner (left guard) and Ryan McGrath (right tackle) provide the team with significant previous starting experience at three positions. But the team will rely on a platoon from redshirt sophomore Lucas Powell and redshirt junior Mark Smith at center. Right guard Sam Johnson, a redshirt senior, has also seen limited action in his time in Athens, but has looked good all fall.
While tight end may be the weakest position in terms of depth, the defensive line must replace the most in terms of production. Three starters from a year ago are gone, along with a fourth player who would have been a starter had injuries not derailed much of his senior season. To fill the void, defensive line coach Jesse Williams announced in the spring (and Solich has since reiterated several times) that the team will opt for an eight-to-nine man rotation. Ty Branz and Kendric Smith are penciled in as the starting ends, providing Ohio with much-needed experience. Nose guard Antwan Crutcher and defensive tackle Brandon Purdum provide size in the middle. But, Ohio will rely on a heavy rotation of players to keep the line fresh and make up for an overall lack of experience.
Names such as true freshman Tarrell Basham, redshirt freshman Kurt Laseak and redshirt senior Nic Barber will see time at the end positions, while junior college transfers Cameron McLeod and Watson Tautuiaki and junior Tony Davis add more depth up the middle.
The ‘Cats lost two starters from last season, but bring back 2012 leading tackler Keith Moore. The redshirt senior is moving from middle linebacker or “Mike” to weak-side backer, allowing redshirt sophomore Ben Russell to step in at Mike. Joining those two experienced linebackers is athletic redshirt junior A.J. Grady. Nathan Carpenter returns as the team’s starting nickel back. These four will see a majority of the action this season.
In 2012 the secondary was arguably Ohio’s weakest position, with two starting corners lost for the season by the end of Week 1. But with both Travis Carrie and Jamil Shaw returning to action this season, along with Ian Well and Devin Bass—both redshirt sophomores—the ‘Cats find themselves with a wealth of experience at corner. For now, Carrie and Shaw are listed as starters, but Wells and Bass have both vastly improved and will see significant time once again in 2013. Josh Kristoff is back at safety, along with Xavier Hughes to fill out Ohio’s secondary.
Ohio lost a huge piece when its four-year starter at kicker, Matt Weller, graduated. But Solich has announced that he’ll go with a two-starter platoon to help make up the difference. Though the team still has yet to announce exactly how this will work, Oklahoma State transfer Matt Green will likely be the team’s kickoff specialist and long-range field goal kicker, while fellow redshirt sophomore Josiah Yazdani will likely be relied upon for closer-range kicks.
Punter Grant Venham is back, along with long snapper Miles Chapman. In the return game Daz’ Patterson will once again bring back kicks, and could see some action in punt return. Travis Carrie will be relied upon as the team’s primary punt returner.