Photo Credit: Joe Medlen

Ohio Football: ‘Cats Look to Depth to Continue Winning Ways in 2019

Posted on:

< < Back to

ATHENS, OH — For most programs in the Mid-American Conference, losing 12 starters could spell a rebuilding year for the football team. 

But the Bobcats are not one of those teams. Rather than a rebuilding year, the ‘Cats are looking to retool their roster to make another run at the ever-elusive MAC Championship.

“Generally speaking, I really like our football team. I really like the depth at a lot of positions, but there are somewhere we’re going to have to bring some young guys along,” Ohio head coach Frank Solich said. “I like the ability of the young guys to come along and be a big help to what we’re going to be about this year.”

The depth of the 2019 Bobcat team was a major talking point at the team’s annual media day Wednesday morning at Peden Stadium and for good reason.

Losing the likes of A.J. Ouellette, Papi White and Joe Lowery from the offense and Evan Croutch, Kent Berger and Kylan Nelson from the defense leave big holes for new faces to fill. The bulk of the roster turnover comes on the offensive side of the ball, with seven starters missing from the 2018 squad, hitting both the line and the skill positions hard.

However, despite losing nearly 3,100 total yards of offense and 32 touchdowns from last year’s record-setting offense, the coaching staff believes they have to talent to pick up right where they left off.

“I like the (running back) group. I think they’re talented…as a group, I’m very excited,” Ohio offensive coordinator Tim Albin said. “They’re (wide receivers) very much like the running backs, talented, but young. As a whole, taking into consideration how young they are, it’s a really good group. Cam [Odom] is the most experienced, and we have to get him targeted more.” 

“We have about 5 running backs that are competing for the job in order to take over for A.J. and Maleek (Irons) and that’s not a small task,” Solich said. “I do like the guys in our system there’s a nice combination of some guys with some real speed, some guys with some real power. We think we can have the complete back.”

The key returning member of the Bobcats’ offense is two-time second-team All-MAC quarterback Nathan Rourke, but even with the amount of inexperience that will surround Rourke, Solich believes that they will not lean on him too much.

“We’re expecting our running backs to be able to go from the start and play great football for us. We run the ball, we come off of our play-action passes and we expect Nathan and our other quarterbacks to throw the ball really well,” Solich said. “I really like our receivers, and we want to be a complete football team and display that from the start.”

The skill positions aren’t alone in having to replace key players from the past few seasons. The offensive line graduated three of the five starters from last season.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the whole (O-line) group. They’ve set the standard and the tone, along with Nathan,” Albin said. “The best summer we’ve had and I never, ever thought we’d have a better summer than we did last year with that group. Those guys took it to another level.”

The defense only fared slightly better in the loss department, losing five starters. Four of those were losses to the front seven. First-year defensive coordinator Ron Collins knows that not only developing the players to fill in the starting roles but also making sure each position area has depth is key to the season.

“We have to be able to develop our backups because that is what we’re going to be defined by at the end of the year. It’s development and continuing to practice at a very high, intense manner,” Collins said. “The more we can get them reps, the better they can be.”

The Bobcats may have a fair amount of gaps to plug in the 28 days between leading up to their season opener against Rhode Island at the end of the month, but that hasn’t stopped themselves, or anyone else from having championship expectations of the 2019 Bobcats.

The ‘Cats were still picked as the unanimous favorites to win the MAC East and received a majority of the votes to win the MAC Championship at MAC Media Day last month. 

But that was the case in 2018 as well. 

The Bobcats know that they can’t fall into the same traps they have in the past if they want to snap the 51-year MAC Championship drought.

There was a play or two that kept us out of the MAC Championship Game. I’d like to think that if we’d gotten in, the way that we were playing at the end of the year, we would have had a shot at winning it,” Solich said. “I think we were the strongest team in the MAC at the end of last year. We’re hoping to get done what we want to get done this year.”