2011 Ohio Preview – Offense
Ohio WR LaVon Brazill
CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Ohio Bobcat Offense
Preview 2011 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: Thanks to the running quarterbacks, the Ohio running game improved from 106th in the nation in 2009 to 47th last year, but the passing game didn't come through. The offense was balanced, averaging 164 rushing yards per game and 162 passing yards, and it kicked in the production over the second half of the season scoring 30 points or more in seven straight games before struggling late. Now the attack could be even more dangerous thanks to a veteran offensive line with five starters returning and with star WR LaVon Brazill returning from leg and hand injuries. The running backs have to start doing more, with Donte Harden needing to stay healthy, and the quarterback situation has to be settled, but the pieces are there for the nation's 95th ranked offense to be far better.
Star of the offense: Senior WR LaVon Brazill
Passing: Phil Bates
9-23, 178 yds, 1 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Phil Bates
78 carries, 519 yds, 3 TD
Receiving: Riley Dunlop
27 catches, 387 yds, 3 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore QB Tyler Tettleton
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OG Jon Lechner
Best pro prospect: Brazill (as a punt returner)
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Brazill, 2) OT Joe Flading, 3) A.J. Strum
Strength of the offense: Line, Receiver
Weakness of the offense: Quarterback, Reliable Running Back
State of the Unit: The passing game didn't do much, averaging just 162 yards per game, but it was relatively efficient and balanced out the running attack almost perfectly. Boo Jackson took back his starting job after missing time hurt, and while he threw 18 touchdown passes, he had problems with 17 interceptions. An interesting mix of talents are back to take over for Jackson, but the goal is to find one player who can step up and take the job by the horns.
Former Iowa State transfer Phil Bates is a freak-of-nature type of athlete with 6-2, 226-pound size and tremendous running skills finishing second on the team with 519 yards and three scores, averaging 6.7 yards per carry. He saw spot duty, mostly in garbage time, and struggled with the passing attack completing just 39% of his passes for 178 yards and a score with three picks. While he'll never be Peyton Manning as a passer, he's too good of an athlete to keep on the sidelines and he might end up starting at receiver.
Sophomore Tyler Tettleton got into the quarterback mix as a true freshman in 2009 and got in a little bit of work completing 9-of-23 passes for 128 yards and two picks. After sitting out last year, he's deep in the mix for the starting job, and he'll get it if he can consistently throw. Only 5-11 and 206 pounds, he's not built like a big bomber, but he has a good arm and is a strong enough runner to be a major part of the ground game total. He'll fight for the starting job with Bates and redshirt freshman Kyle Snyder, the best pure passer of the three. At 6-1 and 217 pounds, Snyder isn't huge, but he's accurate and can push the ball all over the field. While he's mobile, he's the worst of the three as a runner.
Watch Out For … Snyder. Bates will certainly be a part of the equation in some way, possibly as a wide receiver and do-it-all playmaker, and Tettleton will likely start out the season as the No. 1 man on the depth chart, but Snyder could quickly come in to add more passing to the mix.
Strength: Three decent options. Bates is a runner, Snyder is a passer, and Tettelton is a good mix of the two. The Ohio ground game will be helped by all three players, but in vastly different ways, and all three bring something unique to the mix.
Weakness: Passing efficiency. Bates will never be an accurate passer and Tettleton and Snyder still have to prove they can produce. Depending on who's under center, the efficiency simply might not be there.
Outlook: The Ohio passing game will be along for the ride. The veteran offensive line will pave the way for the ground attack, and all the quarterbacks have to do is keep the chains moving by any means necessary. Keeping the interceptions to a bare minimum would be nice. Expect Tettleton to be the No. 1 man with Snyder working as the main backup and Bates filling in when needed while working at receiver.
Unit Rating: 5
State of the Unit: The Bobcat running game has been the bread and butter of the Frank Solich era, even with a few down seasons, but most of the time the quarterbacks have provided a bulk of the production. Last year the team's second (Phil Bates) and third (Boo Jackson) rushers were quarterbacks, with the two combining for over 850 yards with ten scores, but the team's leading rusher, Vince Davidson, paved the way with 549 yards and six scores. There are decent options returning, but again, others will help out the cause for a ground attack that finished fourth in the MAC.
Donte Harden has been a part of the mix throughout his career, but he has never been the main man. The 5-10, 183-pound senior showed excellent flashes as a freshman averaging 5.2 yards per carry, but he was knocked out for the year with a torn labrum. Hurt over the last two years as well, he hasn't done much with just 244 yards and three touchdowns in seven games of work in 2010. When he's right he has the speed and the flash to be a weapon, but he has to prove he can stay on the field.
Sophomore Ryan Boykin is a big, strong, 6-1, 218-pound option who got in a little bit of work running for 213 yards and three touchdowns on just 41 carries, but he has the talent and ability to be the exact type of back who can thrive under Solich. The Georgia native can be more than just a change-of-pace pounder; he has just enough speed to get by.
Ready to be part of the mix is former Iowa State Cyclone Beau Blankenship, a 5-9, 184-pound sophomore who ran four times for 11 yards as a freshman, with all the production coming against Kent State, and now he'll be a walk-on for the Bobcats as he tries to get his career going. He's a quick, darting back who'll hit the hole in a hurry.
Watch Out For … Harden. He can't seem to stay healthy and he can't be counted on for a full season, but he's productive when he gets his chances. Give him a hole and he'll fly through it, but he needs to be a bigger part of the passing game and he has to be in the mix for 12 games.
Strength: A possible rotation. Harden can be the speed runner, Blankenship has good quickness and toughness, and Boykin can pound away. Between the three the Bobcats should be able to get things moving.
Weakness: Injury history. Harden has always been dinged and Ohio backs tend to get beaten up. Last year, Davidson was never quite right and didn't do enough for a full season.
Outlook: The running game will be fine. Harden has big-time potential if he can break a few big ones here and there, and Boykin and Blankenship can both produce. Of course, the more the quarterbacks can provide, the better.
Unit Rating: 5
State of the Unit: The receiving corps was in place and ready to explode, and it didn't happen. Terrence McCrae was the main man with 35 catches and nine touchdowns, but the wealth was spread around to several different targets. Injuries were a bit of an issue, and inconsistent quarterback play was a big problem, but the receivers will be in place once again to make the passing game shine. Now someone has to get them the ball.
Everything was all set up for senior LaVon Brazill to have a special season. One of the school's all-time greatest receivers and top punt returners, he caught 12 passes in the first few games, missing time with a leg injury, and then was done for the year with a broken hand. Now he's back, healthy, and ready to be one of the league's top weapons. At 5-11 and 191 pounds he's not huge, but he has decent size and he plays very, very fast. He caught 53 passes for 702 yards and six scores two years ago, while also averaging 13.5 yards per punt return. Now he'll be the team's main man at the Z position, backed up by sophomore Mario Dovell, who caught four passes for 32 yards in his limited time. At 6-0 and 203 pounds, Dovell is a strong, thick target who's great for the inside.
The team's leading returning receiver should be even more of a playmaker at the F position. Senior Riley Dunlop caught 27 passes for 387 yards and three touchdowns. While he didn't blow up in any one game, with his biggest performance in the bowl loss to Troy with 91 yards and a score on four catches, he was steady. At 6-2 and 195 pounds he has good size, is over the shoulder injury that kept him down two years ago, and he should be a deep threat. 6-2, 206-pound junior Bakari Bussey has great size and good upside as the main backup. He caught six passes for 107 yards and a score.
6-1, 186-pound sophomore Donte Foster is about to take the next step up after catching seven passes for 123 yards, with 47 coming on one play against Bowling Green, in his first year. The Oklahoma native is extremely athletic and can stretch the field at the X position, but he's still improving after shining as a basketball player at the JUCO level for Seminole State. An Oklahoma state champion high jumper, he has special athleticism.
Returning at tight end is 6-4, 247-pound junior Jordan Thompson, who finished fourth on the team with 21 catches for 204 yards and three scores. He has nice size, decent deep speed, and the hands and athleticism to be a main target. An okay blocker, he's at his best as a short-to-midrange target. 6-3, 262-pound senior Zac Clark caught two passes for 30 yards as a reserve, but he's mostly used as a big blocker.
Watch Out For … Phil Bates. He could be a starting quarterback, or at least a part of a rotation, but the offense needs more of a passing element and that's not his game. If he's not under center, he'll probably push out Foster from the starting X position.
Strength: Talent. With the return of Brazill to go along with Dunlop, Foster, and Thompson, this is a talented corps that can stretch the field and make things happen on the move. Now this group needs …
Weakness: Someone who can deliver the ball. Boo Jackson and Phil Bates weren't able to get the passing game going well enough, and now the idea will be for Tyler Tettleton and Kyle Snyder to start pushing the ball deeper, but the Bobcats are lacking a proven playmaker.
Outlook: The loss of McRae will hurt a bit, but Brazill will pick up the slack and Foster's emergence should make the Bobcat receiving corps potentially special. As long as the quarterbacks are merely adequate, the passing game will be effective. The corps isn't going to put up a ton of yards, but it'll be effective.
Unit Rating: 5.5
State of the Unit: The Bobcat offensive front was a positive last season allowing just 22 sacks while paving the way for a decent ground game. With all five starters back and plenty of decent-sized backups, the potential is there to be among the MAC's best lines, and with a little luck, this could rival the linebacking corps as the team's best unit.
Anchoring the left side once again will be Second Team All-MAC performer A.J. Strum, a 6-5, 296-pound veteran who started most of 2009 at left guard before moving over one spot and shining at tackle. Despite being banged up and missing a chink over the second half of the year, he was still good enough to get all-star recognition. He's not huge, but he beefed up a little bit and has been a rock in pass protection and a road grader for the ground game. 6-6, 289-pound sophomore Jon Prior started out his career at Florida State before transferring over to Ohio. He can play either tackle spot, but the left side will be his job next year.
Strum is good, but senior right tackle Joe Flading was better last year lasting all 13 games and earning First Team All-MAC honors. He wasn't expected t be an all-star a few years ago, but he took over the job in the fifth game of the 2009 season and hasn't let it go since. At 6-4 and 290 pounds he has a good frame and moves extremely well. More than anything, though, is his consistency with few mistakes and plenty of pancakes. Working as the bigger understudy is 6-6, 298-pound sophomore Ryan McGrath, a nice-looking backup who saw time in every game and has the look of a future star at one of the tackle spots.
Back in the middle is 6-3, 290-pound junior Skyler Allen, a steady, good blocker who was ultra-consistent and did a nice job of leading the line. He's not a blaster of a run blocker, but he's versatile, has great technique, and will grow into the position over the next two seasons. He'll be backed up by 6-5, 296-pound junior J.D. Bales, a backup with nice size and enough experience to step in and produce when needed. He has slimmed down a bit and should be more athletic.
Back at right guard after taking over the job early last year is Eric Herman, a massive 6-4, 313-pound run blaster who was tough enough to become a mainstay on the line and become one of the better run blockers. He's not doing to move much, but he's strong, tough, and versatile enough to play either guard spot. Working in the rotation is 6-3, 304-pound sophomore Sam Johnson, a little used reserve who brings the bulk.
Sophomore Jon Lechner will take over the full time left guard job from Vince Carlotta. However, Lechner stepped in and took over the starting gig halfway through the season and probably won't let it go for another three years. At 6-5 and 339 pounds he's the team's biggest blocker, and while he's just okay in pass protection, he's a big hitter for the ground game. He uses his girth to bury defenders, while 6-3, 270-pound sophomore Mark Smith is more of an athletic, technical blocker. The Florida native could work at tackle if needed.
Watch Out For … Prior. He's not going to push Strum out of a job, but he's the future at left tackle. There's a reason that Florida State wanted him.
Strength: Experience. All five starters are back from a line that was pretty good last year and should be fully jelled now. Lechner, Allen, and Herman know what they're doing in the interior.
Weakness: Backup experience. There's a good chance that some of the reserves, like Prior and McGrath, will turn out to be better players than the incumbents, but there needs to be more time logged in among the backups. They probably won't get much if this line turns out to be a rock of consistency.
Outlook: The line went from mediocre to good last year, and now the potential is there to make the next jump up to great. 2010 was about rebuilding and loading up, and now the work should pay off with experience, all-stars, and good potential among the backups. Don't be shocked if at least three of the blockers – Strum, Flading and Lechner – earn All-MAC honors.
Unit Rating: 6.5
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