Defense Steals Spotlight From Quarterback Competition In Spring Game

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If the mantra “defense wins championships” applies to spring practice, the Ohio Bobcats seem destined to have a prosperous season ahead. The Bobcat defense held the offense to just one field goal and emerged victorious in the 2014 installment of the annual Green and White game.

While key defensive starters Ben Russell, Nathan Carpenter, and Antwan Crutcher sat out of Saturday’s action, the defense dominated from the first two series. Redshirt freshman Chad Moore intercepted a pass from quarterback Derrius Vick and scampered 31 yards to the house on the third play of the game, and redshirt junior cornerback Ian Wells halted the offense’s drive with an interception of quarterback JD Sprague’s pass.

“That’s what we need,” Vick said. “Obviously, you’d like to see us not turn the ball over, but I’m glad they were able to get some turnovers today because if we can rely on them, the more the merrier.”

The defense finished the game with four interceptions, two from each Vick and Sprague. Success in defending against the passing game highlighted the defensive accomplishments, but sophomore defensive lineman Terell Basham said that stopping the run has been the number one goal.

“We had too many 200-plus rushing yards on us last year, so coming into this year we just stressed stopping the run,” Basham said. “We play run first and leave the DBs and secondary in mainly one on one.”

Basham recorded two sacks on the day and the entire defensive line was able to squander any kind of production from the offense’s rushing attack.

While neither had a brilliant performance on Saturday afternoon, Vick and Sprague remain tangled in a competitive battle for the starting quarterback position. Many fans expected Vick to be the unquestioned heir to the throne after he saw consistent action alongside Tyler Tettleton in 2013, but Sprague’s play throughout spring practice has left the starting position undecided after five weeks of practice.

Co-offensive coordinator Scott Isphording said that both quarterbacks would enter the summer at No. 1 on the depth chart. Isphording was known for constructing dual quarterback systems during his tenure with the Toledo Rockets, so it is not out of the realm of possibility that the Bobcats could use Vick and Sprague interchangeably.

“I’m the kind of guy that likes a clear-cut number one going in, but it’s got to take shape,” head coach Frank Solich said. “Someone has to earn it and has to really separate himself. If that happens, there will be a clear-cut number one. If it doesn’t happen, you know I think we could win with more than one guy at our quarterback position.”

The competition becomes even tougher to decipher when coaches and fans see how similar the two players’ skill sets are. Both are able to throw the ball well, but also have the ability to take off and run if need be.

“You can’t really worry to much about who’s in front of you and who’s behind you,” Vick said. “If you just focus on yourself, each day, step by step it’ll take care of itself.”

“I know I can start and I know I can play well, but I know [Vick] can play well,” Sprague said. “Everyday, I just worry about myself. I can’t really worry about anything Derrius is doing or what Greg [Windham] is doing. I just have to get better everyday.”

The Bobcats now enter a month-long break before beginning summer practice on the second week of May. The freshman recruiting class is not required to report to campus until later in June.