Photo Credit: Keegan Shaw

Ohio Football’s Wide Receivers Are Done With Excuses

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It’s the next man up mentality for the Ohio Bobcats’ receiving group.

On August 27th, Elijah Ball, a projected starter for the Bobcats this season, announced via Twitter that he would miss the entire 2017 season with a torn ACL. The loss of Ball is a huge blow to an offense that does not have much experience at the receiver position.

Redshirt senior Brendan Cope, a leader on the receiving core, was saddened to learn the news about Ball. Cope, who will be one of the starters this Saturday against Hampton, acknowledged that he’s going to have to step up his game.

“I was absolutely stunned and saddened when he first told me,” Cope said when he found out that Ball would be sidelined for the season. “He told me, well you’ll be having to make a couple more plays now. But now, it’s the next man up mentality for us and whether you’re a senior or you’re a freshman, it’s the same system so you have to be ready to go.”

Ball leaves big shoes to fill in the Bobcat offense, so for a guy like Cope, it’ll be extremely vital that he remain on the field to make plays alongside Papi White. Cope was in and out of the lineup with nagging injuries last season. He focused on getting healthy in the offseason in preparation to be a vital piece in the offense.

“Right after the [Dollar General] bowl game [last year], I got surgery, so obviously it wasn’t the best Christmas being in a sling all winter,” Cope said. “I did a lot of therapy in the spring so that way when the summer and fall came, I had most of my strength back and I was ready to go.”

The Bobcats will need their veteran to be all systems go and be one of the leaders of a young position group. 10 of the 16 receivers on the Bobcats roster are underclassmen, so it will be important that guys like Cope and White lead by example on the field.

Bobcats head coach Frank Solich had nothing but high praise for Cope, who in a press conference on Monday, said that Cope was one of the fastest players on the team. Cope was humbled to receive that praise and hopes that it will translate on the field.

“I take that as a compliment,” Cope said with a big smile on his face. “Don’t want to be prideful, but I believe it’s accurate. I just want to make sure that I can display that speed on Saturday’s and that I’m conditioned enough to do it for four quarters.”

Cope’s fully aware that the depth at receiver has to go past him and White. Slated to fill Ball’s role in the offense is redshirt freshman Cam Odom. Cope believes that Odom is ready to take on a large responsibility in the Bobcat offense.

“Cam is the next man up,” Cope said. “He’s returning from a stinger he suffered early in camp, but he’s ready to go and I’m excited to see what he can do.”

Odom, who played behind Ball during Fall Camp was crushed to learn that he and Ball couldn’t share the field this year. For Odom, it hurt a little more because he and Ball are roommates and it felt like losing a brother. Last year, Odom watched from the sidelines as his brother tore up defenses.

Now this year, his brother will be watching him try to do the same.

“We were excited all offseason and getting the chance to play together since I didn’t play last season,” Odom said. “All we talked about was scoring touchdowns and celebrating together so that really hurt when he told me that. I’m dedicating this whole season to Elijah.”

That dedication begins with his work ethic on the field. Odom realizes that every little detail in practice matters.

“Every day I’m grinding at practice, making every play count and playing fast,” Odom said. “I have the same mindset every day and that starts on Saturday.”

Odom is carrying that killer instinct with the hope that things in Detroit will end differently than they did a year ago. Odom did not play in that game so he didn’t get a taste of it, but this year he plans on rewriting the script.

“Last year seeing the seniors go out with back-to-back losses put a chip on everyone’s shoulders,” Odom said. “We’ve seen it. We got a taste of it. But we want a different outcome this year.”

Odom and the rest of the ‘Cats know that if they want a different result this year, the offense has to be clicking on all cylinders. He’s extremely excited to see what he and the rest of the offense can do on the field with starting quarterback Quinton Maxwell.

“Me and Q [Quinton Maxwell] talk all the time about making plays,” Odom said. “Q is not only excited about me but all the receivers and weapons he has this year. We have a lot of speed and a lot of guys that can make plays.”

Saturday’s home opener against Hampton will be the first chance for Odom, Cope and the rest of the weapons on offense to show that they can be one of the most dynamic offenses in the MAC.