Updated Mon, Mar 10, 2014 4:27 pm
With two new coaches on staff, a number of familiar players absent due to graduation, and a brand new indoor facility opened, the commencement of Ohio’s 2014 spring football practice not only marked the start of a new season, but a whole new era.
The Bobcats practiced in the new Walter Fieldhouse for the first time on Monday, bringing the long-time vision of an indoor facility to fruition.
“It’ll pay huge dividends for our football team and our football program,” head coach Frank Solich said. “It’ll mean a great deal during the season when we get bad weather. Now we won’t get chased off of the field and into the locker room. We’ll get chased off the field and into the indoor.”
While the football team is able to practice indoors, the facility is far from completion. A four-lane indoor track has still not yet been installed, leaving pieces of old Peden Stadium turf to cover the exposed concrete.
Aside from the change in scenery, a number of familiar faces are no longer present and donning the green and white. Ohio’s new co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Scott Isphording returns to Ohio after leaving to spend the last four seasons at the University of Toledo. Isphording is responsible for filling various holes in offensive skill positions left by departing seniors Tyler Tettleton, Beau Blankenship, and Donte Foster.
Quarterback Derrius Vick appears to be the strong front-runner for the starting position, but redshirt sophomore JD Sprague could provide healthy competition against Vick throughout the spring.
Junior Daz’mond Patterson currently holds the top spot on the running back depth chart, but Ohio coaches will likely wait until freshman standouts Maleek Irons and Papi White arrive on campus to decide which back will carry the majority of the load in the 2014 season.
New offensive line coach Dave Johnson started his first season with the Bobcats on Monday after spending the 2013 season with the UMass Minutemen. Johnson, who has also coached at major programs such as the University of Georgia, West Virginia University, and the University of Cincinnati, inherits the task of mending an offensive line that experienced its fair share of struggles last season.
The Ohio offensive front comes in to spring practice with depth on the left side of the line, but far fewer options on the right side with the loss of redshirt senior John Prior to graduation. A noticeably bulkier redshirt sophomore Troy Watson currently holds the first-team right tackle spot, but Ohio will have to wait for the offensive-lineman heavy recruiting class to arrive in the spring to fill in all of the slots of the depth chart.
“We have a few guys out with shoulder surgery from the season, so that hurts us with depth there,” Solich said of his offensive line. “We should have good depth once we get that new freshman crew because we have six guys coming in there.”
After years of stability, such a large amount of new faces brings some uncertainty to the Ohio program, but the raised level of uncertainty makes the 15 spring practice sessions even more vital to assessing the team’s talent and make-up.
“We have more young guys that will have to contribute than what we’ve had in the past,” Solich said. While the team is young, Solich added that he likes “the quality of the players that we’ve got.”
The Bobcats will continue spring practice until April 9 and will conclude their spring schedule with the annual Green and White Game on April 12 at 2 p.m. at Peden Stadium.