By: Steven Lassan | 6/3/11, 1:41 PM EDT
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MAC East PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Frank Solich, 40-36 (6 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Tim Albin & Gerry Gdowski | DEF. COORDINATOR: Jimmy Burrow
Not long after getting pounded 48–21 by Troy in the New Orleans Bowl, Ohio decided it needed to install a no-huddle attack. Where did the Bobcats’ offensive staff visit during the offseason to pick up tips on the no-huddle? Troy, of course.
With several talented receivers and multiple quarterbacks who can move the ball, Ohio wants to take advantage of its weapons more often.
“Our average gain per play has really been good,” coach Frank Solich says. “The number of plays we’ve been running isn’t very good. We need more plays. With the receivers we’ve got and the quarterbacks we’ve got, it could be really good for us.”
With senior Phil Bates out for spring ball after undergoing surgery on his non-throwing shoulder, accurate sophomore Tyler Tettleton (son of former MLB catcher Mickey Tettleton) took the lead in the quarterback derby.
Though it finished 102nd nationally in passing yardage last season, Ohio boasts several prime targets, led by fifth-year senior LaVon Brazill. He caught 12 passes in three games in 2010 before injuries forced him to redshirt. Second-team All-MAC tight end Jordan Thompson and wideouts Riley Dunlop and Donte Foster are threats to rack up big numbers.
Senior Donte Harden (961 career rushing yards) inherits Vince Davidson’s workhorse role at running back, though Ryan Boykin and Dallas Brown will get chances, too.
Whoever totes the ball gets to run behind a line that boasts five returning starters, including two all-conference tackles, Joe Flading (first team) and A.J. Strum (second team).
Ohio lost eight starters from the MAC’s No. 5 scoring defense (23.8 ppg), but the Bobcats will regain the services of some key players coming off injuries.
Free safety Gerald Moore, a 2009 Freshman All-American, was lost for the ’10 season with a foot injury in Game 1. He’s back and ready to go. And Noah Keller, the nation’s No. 6 tackler in 2009, also went down with a foot injury, in Week 3. Both Moore and Keller are all-conference-caliber players.
Ohio lost four fifth-year senior starters on the defensive line, but senior end Curtis Meyers started in 2008, and former backup tackle Carl Jones finished second on last year’s squad with 3.5 sacks.
Keller will be surrounded by solid vets at linebacker — senior weak-side backer Eric Benjamin is the team’s top returning tackler — while Moore and returning cornerback Travis Carrie lead the secondary.
Ohio has been brilliant on special teams since Solich’s arrival, and the Bobcats return all the key pieces this fall. Punter Paul Hershey and his coverage crew led the MAC and ranked eighth nationally with 39.6 net yards per punt. Kicker Matt Weller made 11-of-14 field goals, and all three of his misses were blocked. Carrie averaged 10.4 yards per punt return, while Harden averaged 20.6 yards per kick return.
This will be Ohio’s 50th season since joining the major-college scene in 1962. The Bobcats are still looking for their first bowl win, though they’re coming off back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time in school annals.
If Tettleton is as accurate and as solid as he appeared during the spring, then the Bobcats should put up plenty of points. With Keller and Moore healthy, the defense should be good enough to have Ohio in the thick of the race for the MAC East title.