Updated Thu, Aug 23, 2012 10:59 am
In the spring, one of the finest classes of wide receivers in Bobcat football history waved goodbye to Ohio University. LaVon Brazill, Riley Dunlop, Phil Bates and Jerry Gross combined for 4,158 receiving yards and 32 touchdowns.
Brazill, who set five individual records during his senior campaign as well as career records for receiving yards and receptions, now wears a blue and white Indianapolis Colts jersey.
Bates, a converted quarterback who dazzled at Ohio’s pro day, currently dons the blue, bright green and silver jersey of the Seattle Seahawks.
Back in Athens, the door suddenly busted wide open for a bevy of young receivers to earn significant playing time. Other than Donte Foster, an Oklahoma native who burst onto the scene last season with 352 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns, not a single returning Bobcat receiver caught a touchdown pass or eclipsed 200 receiving yards in 2011.
Sophomore Chase Cochran realizes the situation he and his fellow receivers are facing.
“Obviously, the majority of us hadn’t had a lot of playing time,” said Cochran. “This will kind of be our first experience at it, but we’ve learned a lot from the guys ahead of us: LaVon, Riley, Phil Bates, all of those guys like that. So we’re just trying to take what they’re taught us to the games.”
Despite having never caught a pass in an official game, Cochran is showing signs of being one of the top dogs on the receiving corps this season. The Lebanon, Ohio native hauled in a 46-yard pass from Tyler Tettleton during the second and final intrasquad scrimmage and has been lining up with the first-team offense.
“He’s really done a nice job in terms of putting in the work and now he’s benefitting from it and he’s continuing to put that work in,” said receivers coach Dwayne Dixon.
Three seniors jockeying for playing time alongside Cochran are Bakari Bussey, Tyler Futrell and Ryan Clark. Bussey and Futrell serviced the offense last season by combining for 17 receptions and 202 yards. Clark, meanwhile, is playing on the offensive side of the ball for the first time at the collegiate level after lining up at cornerback for his first three seasons. He punched in a touchdown in the second scrimmage on a two-yard pitch from backup quarterback Derrius Vick.
Dixon made note of Clark’s “impressive speed,” Bussey’s sure hands and Futrell’s superb ability to get open.
“Tyler Futtrell has really done some nice things in his route-running ability,” Dixon said. “We feel impressed that he’s a guy that we can count on knowing what to do when there’s a blitz and things like that. He can make the decisions that will benefit us.”
Junior Mario Dovell is also expected to play an integral role on the offense, provided he stays healthy. Dovell hauled in eight receptions for 151 yards last season, averaging just under 19 yards a catch.
The youngest of the receivers with potential to make a major impact this season is true sophomore Landon Smith. Said Dixon: “He’s playing quicker, he’s playing faster and he’s more knowledgeable about what he’s doing. I really feel good about that.”
Although experience in this year’s group of receivers is lacking in comparison to a season ago, Cochran made it clear that expectations haven’t slipped one bit.
“We always say, ‘We want to do better than them.’ They were great players, probably the best that have ever come through here, but we want to leave our own legacy.”
The first chapter of that legacy will be written on Sept. 1 when Ohio’s new group of pass catchers are put to the test against Penn State.