2011 Ohio Preview
Ohio OT Joe Flading
CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Ohio Bobcats
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With four six-plus win seasons in the last five years and with three bowl appearances and two MAC Championship appearances, Ohio has been very good. Now it's time to be great.
Head coach: Frank Solich
7th year: 40-36
13th year overall: 98-55
Off. 29, Def. 23, ST 5
Lettermen Lost: 24
Ten Best Ohio Players
1. LB Noah Keller, Sr.
2. WR/PR LaVon Brazill, Sr.
3. OT Joe Flading, Sr.
4. OT A.J. Strum, Sr.
5. LB Eric Benjamin, Sr.
6. FS Gerald Moore, Jr.
7. PK Matt Weller, Jr.
8. QB/WR Phil Bates, Sr.
9. P Paul Hershey, Sr.
10. TE Jordan Thompson, Jr.
Sep. 3 at New Mexico St
Sep. 10 Gardner-Webb
Sep. 17 Marshall
Sep. 24 at Rutgers
Oct. 1 Kent State
Oct. 8 at Buffalo
Oct. 15 Ball State
Oct. 22 at Akron
Oct. 29 OPEN DATE
Nov. 2 Temple
Nov. 10 at Central Michigan
Nov. 16 at Bowling Green
Nov. 22 Miami Univ.
Central Michigan was the MAC's star for a four year stretch. Ball State in 2008 and Northern Illinois in 2010 were phenomenal, even though they didn't win the title during their respectively great seasons. Miami University, Akron, and Buffalo have recently won MAC championships, Temple has gotten a ton of respect and press for turning things around, and Bowling Green and Toledo have received plenty of MAC press for a variety of reasons. But Ohio has flown under the radar.
The Bobcats under Frank Solich haven't been all that sexy, and they haven't been flashy, but they've been able to pull off several great seasons and this one has the potential to be the best in the current run. However, they have to hope that everything comes together.
One year the running game rocks but the passing game is sad. The next year the offense finds ways to score, but the consistency isn't there. Last year, the loaded team suffered injuries to the two players who couldn't get hurt – LB Noah Keller and WR/PR LaVon Brazill – and the season fizzled late when it was time to close.
After a huge win over Temple and the chance at the MAC East title there for the taking, the Bobcats were stuffed by Kent State. On to the New Orleans Bowl, they were bombed on by Troy in a blowout. While getting to a bowl game is always a plus, Ohio is 0-3 in bowls under Solich and 0-5 all-time in the post-season. Throw in the 2009 loss to Central Michigan in the 2009 MAC Championship, and the loss to the Chippewas in the 2006 title game, and coming through when the lights are on has been a problem.
That has to change this year.
The defense technically gets just four starters back, but the linebacking corps should be among the best in the MAC thanks to the return of Keller. The secondary should also be terrific with FS Gerald Moore back from injury and JUCO transfer Mose Denton about to shine as a nickel defender.
The special teams should be the best in the league and among the most effective in the country with placekicker Matt Weller, punt returner Brazill, and punter Paul Hershey among the best at what they do.
The offense gets all the starters back up front and should be loaded at receiver, and if the running backs can stay healthy and the quarterback situation can be settled in a hurry – with Tyler Tettleton, Phil Bates, and Kyle Snyder working for the job – the attack should be more consistent.
Can this be the year Ohio finally gets over the hump and wins the MAC title? There's no reason for this to not be the time to shine.
What to watch for on offense: The backfield. The line will be terrific and the receiving corps is loaded, but the offense will sputter unless the running backs shine and a starting quarterback emerges. Donte Harden is a talented back, but injuries have kept his career under wraps. Tyler Tettleton and Kyle Snyder are decent passing options, and Phil Bates is a dangerous running quarterback who could move to receiver, but there's a major prove-it factor for a backfield that has to be more productive than it was last year.
What to watch for on defense: The play of the defensive front. The back seven can hang with anyone in the league, but the front four has to replace all four starters and has to prove it can be as stout as last year's line was against the run. Getting into the backfield is a must for a unit that was mediocre when it came to hitting the quarterback, but it's a good-sized group that has the potential and ability to be good with a little bit of time.
The team will be far better if … A passing quarterback emerges. Phil Bates might be the MAC's most dangerous running quarterback, but he might end up moving to receiver and won't be much of a passer. Tyler Tettleton has decent passing skills and can run, but he's not a bomber. Kyle Snyder could be the best passer on the lot, but he doesn't have any experience. One of them has to step up and show that the passing game won't be along for the ride after finishing 102nd in the nation in passing. The receiving corps is terrific, but it won't get a chance to show off without some help.
The schedule: The non-conference slate starts out nice and easy with New Mexico State and Gardner-Webb to start, and then comes the mid-level bowl-like game against Marshall before the Rutgers game. The Bobcats don't face a team that went to a bowl last year until the season finale against Miami University, and that's at home. They miss arguably the three best teams in the West - Northern Illinois, Toledo, and Western Michigan – and they get Miami and Temple at home. Basically, there's no excuse whatsoever to not come up with a big year.
Best offensive player: Senior WR LaVon Brazill. Offensive tackles Joe Flading and A.J. Strum will both be All-MAC stars, but Brazill is the gamebreaker who should load up as the No. 1 target and as a top punt returner. He was great in the three games he was able to play in last year, but leg and hand injuries kept him under wraps. Now he should be used as a runner, returner, and a receiver to give the offense some more pop.
Best defensive player: Senior LB Noah Keller. He was expected to be in the mix for the MAC Defensive Player of the Year honors, and he looked the part with 26 tackles in the first three games with a sack, a forced fumble, and a blocked kick, but he suffered a foot injury and was knocked out for the year. On the plus side, the injury happened early enough to allow him to medically redshirt to get another year. It'll be a shocker if he's not an All-MAC star.
Key player to a successful season: Besides the eventual starting quarterback, junior DT Neal Huynh. The Bobcat defense was fine against the run last year with the late Marcellis Williamson clogging things up. Now it'll be up to the 6-3, 303-pound Huynh, one of the team's biggest defensive forces, to take over the role. Big, strong, and tough, he has the ability and the talent to be an anchor to work around. If he does his job right the rest of the line should be better at getting into the backfield.
The season will be a success if … Ohio wins the MAC title. Again, there isn't a game against a 2010-2011 bowl team until the season finale against Miami University. Even if the offensive backfield isn't 100% settled, and even if the return of Keller, Brazill, and Moore from injury doesn't provide the expected boost, the team is more than good enough to win the East and take care of the whole ball of MAC wax. Finally. Anything less will be a major disappointment.
Key game: Nov. 22 vs. Miami University. Ohio will almost certainly be favored in every game but Marshall, at Rutgers, and Miami University. The Temple game comes off a bye week and no one else on the slate will have a chance if the Bobcats play up to their potential. It all sets up for a show down with the defending MAC champions, but the game is in Athens.
2010 Fun Stats:
- Punt Returns: Ohio 28 for 273 yards (9.8 yards per try) – Opponents 8 for 53 yards (6.6 yards per try)
- Third Quarter Scoring: Ohio 94 – Opponents 39
- Onside kicks: Opponents 3-of-4 – Ohio 0-of-0
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