Preview: Ohio Begins Spring Football March 12

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The 2012 football season was full of ups and downs for the Ohio Bobcats. They started off strong with a come-from-behind win over Penn State and carried momentum into a Top 25 ranking midway through the season.

But injuries derailed the Bobcats’ season. Ohio dropped four out of its last five regular season games before finishing strong with a 45-14 drubbing of Louisiana-Monroe for its second straight bowl win.

That was last year, though, and there’s no point in living in the past.  Spring practice begins March 12 and the annual Green and White game is scheduled for April 13. That gives the ‘Cats one month to get some things figured out before they go into full motion this summer.

Ohio lost some key players, most notably three of their starting offensive lineman and the four main members of the defensive line. But they do return a number of important guys from last year’s team. Tyler Tettleton and Beau Blankenship return to power the offense that led the ‘Cats to a 9-4 record. On the defensive side of things, Keith Moore returns to lead an Ohio defense that was wrecked by injuries last season and lost a lot of depth to graduation.

Here are the main components to keep an eye on this spring.

New Guys to Watch:

Ohio added 22 men to their 2013 recruiting class last month. Four of those players are already enrolled at Ohio University and will be taking part in the practices this spring.

·      Jarid Brown, a freshman CB from Fork Union Military Academy

·      Dyquan Stewart, a freshman CB from Fork Union Military Academy

·      Tarell Basham, a freshman DE from Hargrave Military Academy

·      Watson Tautuiaki, a sophomore DL from Los Angeles Harbor Community College

Players to Watch This Spring:

·      Daz’ Patterson – The true freshman shined in 2012, appearing in 12 games and making one start. He flourished on special teams thanks to his blazing fast speed. With a season under his belt, expect the running back to show off his playmaking skills even more this year. It won’t be easy with seniors Blankenship and Ryan Boykin ahead of him on the depth chart, but with his breakaway speed, Patterson is sure to find his way on the field no matter what.

·      Derrius Vick – Normally the backup quarterback wouldn’t make this list, especially since there’s no chance of him taking the starting job away from Tettleton, but since it’s spring football, Vick makes the list. He’ll be going head to head with Tettleton in the Green and White game in April and after his stellar performances last season, he should be able to pull off some exciting plays this spring. He’s the future of the Ohio offense after 2013, so it’s a good time to get to know the young quarterback.

Offensive Focus:

Keep an eye on the offensive line. With three longtime starters gone, Ohio will be looking to establish some consistency on the line this spring. In particular the ‘Cats will be looking to replace center Skyler Allen with someone moving inside to fill the void. Jon Lechner, Ryan McGrath and John Prior are all back after successful junior seasons and surely all three will be starters. That leaves two spots open and a number of guys who’ve had solid performances in limited roles before. Bryce Dietz and Sam Johnson both played well in brief stints last season. Mark Smith missed all of the 2012 season but played well previously. There are also a number of soon to be sophomores who are itching to make an impact.

Receiving will also be an area of focus this spring. Ohio lost Bakari Bussey and Tyler Futrell to graduation. Donte Foster, Chase Cochran and Matt Watters will all be back and ready. Landon Smith will still be recovering from knee surgery after suffering an injury against Eastern Michigan last season. While the team is returning a lot of receivers, these guys will all be fighting to take over the No. 2 and No. 3 spot, especially with a trio of talented freshman arriving in the summer.

Defensive Focus:

The defensive line is going to be the main area of focus this spring. Ohio lost Tremayne Scott, Neal Huynh, Corey Hasting and Carl Jones to graduation after the 2012 season. Of the 14 guys returning, only Ty Branz and Antwan Crutcher have seen serious playing time before, recording 25 and 40 tackles, respectively. So the defensive line is wide open for guys to come in and earn a spot for themselves. Basham and Tautuiaki, two of the early arrivals from the 2013 recruiting class, will be fighting for a spot in the line rotation. Expect some fierce competition there this spring.

The ‘Cats will also be focusing on the cornerback position this spring, with two young playmakers, Brown and Stewart, already in town looking to make an early name for themselves. The ‘Cats will need to find someone to step up to replace Alphonso Lewis and Jelani Woseley at the linebacker position. The two combined for 120 total tackles last season and are leaving a huge void that the staff will be looking to address this spring. Overall the defense is likely to have more position battles going on this spring than the offense, and should be an interesting watch.

Special Teams:

Losing a kicker might not seem like much on the surface, unless that kicker is Matt Weller. Weller capped off an incredible career at Ohio in 2012 becoming the program’s all-time leader with 409 points. Replacing the four-year starter won’t be easy, but nothing worth having ever is. Matt Amnicone and Josiah Yazdani are two strong legged guys who will be battling it out this spring and summer to take the reins. It might not be the sexiest position battle going on this spring but it’s certainly one of the most important.