By: Steven Lassan | 5/21/12, 11:12 AM EDT
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MAC East PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Frank Solich, 50-40 (7 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Tim Albin & Gerry Gdowski | DEF. COORDINATOR: Jimmy Burrow
In the months leading up to the 2011 season, Ohio coach Frank Solich decided to implement a full-time no-huddle offense. His reasoning? “Our average gain per play has really been good,” he said. “We need more plays.”
Considering the Bobcats shattered school records for points, total yards and passing yards with their new attack, Solich and his staff apparently made the right choice. And with junior quarterback Tyler Tettleton back to run the no-huddle, Ohio plans to push its scheme even further in 2012.
“We’re looking to operate at a little faster tempo yet,” Solich says. “We’re working with double cadences, things that will give us the possibility to get out of a bad play and get into something else.”
Tettleton, a third-team All-MAC pick who threw for 3,302 yards and 28 touchdowns last season while rushing for 658 yards and 10 scores, lost the top three members of his supporting cast, most notably wide receiver LaVon Brazill, a sixth-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts.
Junior split end Donte Foster (30 catches, 352 yards, five TDs) and senior tight end Jordan Thompson (24 catches) figure to be Tettleton’s top targets at the outset. Juniors Beau Blankenship (462 yards, four TDs) and Ryan Boykin (465 yards) will split the carries.
Led by second-team All-MAC guard Eric Herman, who delivered more than 80 pancake blocks last season, Ohio welcomes back three starters on the offensive line. Solich says junior right tackle Ryan McGrath enjoyed a terrific spring filling the shoes of graduated first-team All-MAC performer Joe Flading.
The Bobcats return seven starters from an impressive group that finished second in the MAC in scoring defense (22.1 ppg). “We’re hoping we’ll have our best defensive team since we’ve been here,” Solich says.
Ohio’s strong secondary is headlined by cornerback Travis Carrie, a second-team All-MAC pick last season, and senior free safety Gerald Moore, who had four tackles for a loss in ’11. Junior safety Xavier Hughes missed the final eight games last year as well as spring ball due to a shoulder injury, but he’s expected to be ready to go for the opener at Penn State.
“Our secondary can really run,” Solich says. “They’re ball-hawking guys. They could very well be the best secondary we’ve had.”
Second-team All-MAC defensive end Tremayne Scott leads a veteran defensive line. Ohio will miss middle linebacker Noah Keller and his 438 career tackles, but Solich believes senior Jelani Woseley and junior Keith Moore can handle the inside spots.
Senior kicker Matt Weller, who ranked second nationally last year with 25 field goals (in 34 attempts), was voted the MAC’s Special Teams Player of the Year. Redshirt freshman Grant Venham has the inside track on the punting job. Punt returner Travis Carrie and kick returner Ryan Clark are solid.
Ohio won a bowl game for the first time in school history last season, beating Utah State 24–23 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. It also produced 10 wins for the first time in 43 years. But the Bobcats failed to bring home their first MAC title since 1968 as they squandered a 20–0 halftime lead to Northern Illinois. That gives this experienced and talented Ohio squad plenty of motivation to bring home its third MAC East title in four seasons.