2013 CFN Preview - Ohio Bobcats
Ohio QB Tyler Tettleton
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Ohio Bobcats
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So what's missing? Why can't Ohio get over the hump and win the MAC?
Head coach: Frank Solich
9th year: 59-44
15th year overall: 117-63
Ten Best Ohio Players
1. QB Tyler Tettleton, Sr.
2. RB Beau Blankenship, Sr.
3. WR Donte Foster, Sr.
4. LB Keith Moore, Sr.
5. OG Jon Lechner, Sr.
6. SS Josh Kristoff, Jr.
7. RB/KR Daz'mond Patterson, Soph.
8. TE Troy Hill, Sr.
9. OT John Prior, Sr.
10. CB Larenzo Fisher, Jr.
8/31 at Louisville
9/7 North Texas
9/21 Austin Peay
9/28 OPEN DATE
10/5 at Akron
10/12 Central Michigan
10/19 at Eastern Michigan
10/26 Miami Univ.
11/5 at Buffalo
11/9 OPEN DATE
11/12 at Bowling Green
11/19 Kent State
11/29 at UMass
Frank Solich has been nothing short of fantastic for the Bobcat program since taking over in 2005, leading the way to three MAC East titles, two bowl wins, five bowl appearances, and four straight winning seasons. However, he's 0-3 in those MAC title games and, despite the dominant 45-14 victory over ULM in the Independence Bowl, his team collapsed in what should've been a run to a possible BCS appearance.
Northern Illinois got to the Orange Bowl, and Kent State would've gone had it pulled off the MAC title, and that's sort of the point – Kent State?! Ohio was brilliant in the emotional opener against Penn State, it came up with a shootout win over Marshall, and it ripped up the dregs on the slate on a way to a 7-0 start before losing four of the final five regular season games. All of a sudden, the offense fell flat, the defense occasionally went bye-bye, and Kent State went off to the conference title game as the East representative.
It wasn't a lack of pop and explosion – the Bobcats led the league in passing efficiency. Overall, it wasn't the defense – Ohio finished fourth in the league in total and scoring D. The competition got tougher over the second half of the season, but the Bobcats were better than Miami University, Ball State and Bowling Green, and they were as good as Kent State, but they lost all four games.
It was the exact opposite of 2011 when the team sputtered early on and rolled late, and it was different than 2010 when the first month stunk, the last two games were losses, and in between was a fun seven-game winning streak.
It's all about consistency and momentum. The Bobcats have to bounce back quicker from tough losses, and they need to win all the 50/50 games. Losing a MAC title game is one thing, but to gag against a bad Miami University and get blown away at Ball State and Kent State wasn't okay. To pull off the wins against the teams at their own level, they need to take advantage of the experience on offense with eight starters back, and they need more playmakers and all-stars on defense.
The coaching staff is in place, and there are more than enough good talents on both sides of the ball to ensure a bowl appearance, and there's enough depth to expect more big wins. In a year of transition for the MAC, it's time to expect that slight jump up from very good to champion.
What to watch for on offense: The trio. Ohio might not have the best quarterback, running back or wide receiver in the MAC, but it'll be hard to find a better trio than QB Tyler Tettleton, RB Beau Blankenship and WR Donte Foster. They're all seniors, they're all experienced, and they're all extremely productive. If they're all healthy and doing what they're supposed to do, everything else should fill and be fine. The line might not be great, but it's good enough. The receivers to complement Foster might not be deadly, but they're productive and occasionally explosive. Daz'mond Patterson is a nice backup running back, but he's a home run hitter and the offense always produces big rushing production. The stars are there, and now the offense has to let them do their thing.
What to watch for on defense: Just how quickly can the front seven go from good to great? There's experience, and the D isn't starting from scratch up front, but five of the seven starters are gone around end Nic Barber and star linebacker Keith Moore. The secondary should be fine with plenty of returning experience and enough talent to play around with several alignments, but it would be nice if the defense could run a steady 4-3 instead of getting quirky. JUCO transfers are helping to bulk up the interior, and junior linebackers Brandon Atwell and Tim Edmond should be ready to shine on the outside now that the gigs are theirs, but …
The team will be far better if … The pass rush works. It all sort of fits together. Interceptions were a problem for the Ohio corners, and the team came up with seven of the 13 in just three games, but that's partly due to the lack of a steady pass rush. It's not a coincidence that the second half slide went hand-in-hand with the problems the line had getting to the quarterback. Ohio didn't come up with a sack in its last three regular season games, and lost all three. It came up with five sacks in the bowl win over ULM, and the back seven came up with three picks.
The schedule: Ohio was able to shock the world with a win over Penn State to start 2012, can it come up with a win at Louisville to kick off 2013? Three home games in a row against North Texas, Marshall and Austin Peay should make up for the tough start, and then there's a two week break before going to Akron to start MAC play. A run of four road games in six weeks would normally be tough, but getting away to face Akron, Eastern Michigan and Buffalo isn't that bad. However, finishing off the stretch by going to Bowling Green won't be fun. Finishing up with Kent State at home and UMass on the road shouldn't be bad.
Best offensive player: Senior QB Tyler Tettleton. Running back Beau Blankenship might but the biggest producer for the offense, and receiver Donte Foster might be dangerous and on his way to an All-MAC season, but this is Tettleton's offense; he's the tone-setter. At 6-0 and 198 pounds he's not big, but he's a tough, gutty runner who'll do whatever is needed to move the chains, and when he's on, he's deadly accurate and he's dangerously efficient. A good starter for the last two seasons, he doesn't make a slew of mistakes and he's a great leader, but is he a MAC champion? His career will be defined by what happens in December.
Best defensive player: Senior LB Keith Moore. He's not big, but he's a very quick, very active middle linebacker who might get a long look from an NFL team as an outside option. A terrific, pure tackler, he came up with 16 stops in the win over Buffalo and ten in the loss to Miami University, and he could do more from time to time as a pass rusher if needed. Things don't have to be funneled his way, but he'll eat up everything that does.
Key player to a successful season: Senior DE Ty Branz. The pass rush has to be ramped up a few levels, and it might have to come from Branz on the outside. The former JUCO transfer had a few nice moments in his first year in the rotation, and while he didn't dominate as a pass rusher, he got one in the bowl game to go along with two in the regular season. That might not seem like much, but he tied for the team lead in sacks. Not only does he need to at least double his production – or someone up front has to be a six-plus sack defender – but he needs to change games at times.
The season will be a success if … Ohio wins the MAC title. It would be nice to shock Louisville in the opener, and getting by Marshall would be nice, but with a favorable schedule and a strong team returning, getting to the MAC championship is a must. The program is done with just getting close; now it's time to finally get over the hump.
Key game: Nov. 12 at Bowling Green. If all goes according to plan, the Bobcats should be favored in every conference game up until the showdown in the East with the Falcons. With Kent State coming to Athens a week later, a win over Bowling Green on the road would likely set the tone for the finishing kick. Win this, and Ohio should be off to the MAC title game.
2012 Fun Stats:
- Turnovers: Opponents 25 – Ohio 10
- Punt Return Average: Ohio 9.6 yards – Opponents 3.3 yards
- Rushing Touchdowns: Ohio 24 – Opponents 12
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