Football: Aggressive Defense Headlines Ohio Spring Game

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Both offensive units looked about as cold and dreary as the weather in Athens Saturday as the White won a defensive battle in the annual Ohio spring football game. The culmination of Ohio’s spring practices saw a lot of aggressive play by the defensive units.

“Defensively, I thought they really hit well today. I think it’s an aggressive bunch,” said head coach Frank Solich after the scrimmage.

Redshirt freshman Devin Bass stood out with two interceptions, both against returning starting quarterback Tyler Tettleton, as an up and coming corner. Bass is one of many players trying to compete for playing time in a crowded secondary. “I know with (Travis Carrie) and Jamil (Shaw) and Larenzo (Fisher), who all played a lot last year, I have to try to step my game up just so I can play with them too, so I’m just trying to get out here and work hard,” said Bass.

Defensive linemen Nick Barber and Tony Davis also played well, racking up a pair of sacks apiece. “I think we did great on all aspects,” said Barber about the defensive effort. “We got a good pass rush made some good hits on them, so I’m satisfied with how we did.”

Barber was right. It was a physical game for most of the afternoon. The defenses brought the intensity early on and held the two offensive units to just three points in the first half. However, in the second half, both sides were able to get some things going offensively. Running back Beau Blankenship led the way with 76 rushing yards on five carries, and running back Ryan Boykin and tight end Art Jordan scored the only two touchdowns on the day.

But the biggest challenge for Ohio today was finding open receivers and connecting down the field in the passing game. Tettleton finished the day 7-17 for 136 yards and four interceptions, and second stringer Derrius Vick was 12-21 for 85 yards, a touchdown and two picks. “It was frustrating,” said Tettleton, who returns as the starting quarterback from last season’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl winning team. “But the who spring, we showed strides and got better. Hopefully today wasn’t a setback, but I felt like we had a good spring.”

Solich attributed the sloppy passing to a number of factors, including the inexperience in the wide receiving corps. “I’ve got a concern about our receivers right now and their ability to break off routes, get open, and so we’ve got to come a ways with our receiving crew,” said the coach.

Replacing LaVon Brazill, who is anxiously waiting for next week’s NFL Draft, could be an issue for the Bobcats; the Ohio receivers struggled to make plays against a physical and aggressive secondary Saturday. Donte Foster, who reeled in a game-high three receptions, will likely hold the number one spot as the team’s leading returning pass catcher. Chase Cochran could also be a major contributor, as the redshirt sophomore hauled in a 58-yard bomb from Tettleton in the first half. Overall, 13 different receivers caught passes in Saturday's game, so Solich has several options to chose from. Ohio does have its second, third and fourth leading rushers returning in Blankenship, Tettleton and Boykin, though. The Bobcats will count on the run game a lot next season to open things up offensively.

While Saturday’s game was sloppy at times, Ohio did make a lot of progress during spring practices. “I thought as a team we did pretty well in terms of progressing,” said Solich. “I was ready to pull my hair out after the first two weeks, but the third week I think things started to come together a little bit better…I thought individually we had a lot of guys make a lot of progress, and as a unit, you’re never quite satisfied with that progress, but we did make some.”

Ohio opens its season in a hostile environment on September 1: The Bobcats will travel to Happy Valley to take on Penn State in front of well over 100,000 fans in Blue and White.

“We’re gonna need to get some things done over the summer, and we’re gonna need to have a real good fall camp,” said Solich.