What you need to know ...
Nine starters return to a defense that got shoved all over
the field against the run and bombed on by anyone who could throw a
football overhand. The linebacking corps will be the strength with MLB
Matt Muncy among the best in the country and Tyler Russ and Michael
Graham strong returning starters on the outside. The secondary should be
far better even after the loss of all-star CB Dion Byrum thanks to a
good-looking group of safeties. Finding some semblance of a pass rush
will be the key up front.
Matt Muncy, 115
Jameson Hartke, 4
Interceptions: T.J. Wright, 3
Star of the defense: Senior LB Matt Muncy
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore
CB Mark Parson
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Jameson Hartke
Best pro prospect: Muncy
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Muncy, 2) LB Tyler
Russ, 3) CB T.J. Wright
Strength of the defense: Linebacker
Weakness of the defense:
Proven pass rush
Three starters are back with the one non-returning
starter, Jameson Hartke, likely to be the best of the group. There was
no pass rush whatsoever from the front four outside of Hartke, and the
run defense was appallingly average considering how big the line was.
Shane Yates getting a sixth year of eligibility is a big boost for the
inside, while Brett Sykes has to become more effective on the outside.
Help is on the way for the pass rush with JUCO transfer Alan Goff ready
The key to the unit: Be far stronger against the run and help the
Bobcats get a much more consistent pass rush.
Defensive Line Rating: 4.5
- DE Brett Sykes, Jr. - 27 tackles, 4 TFL
Sykes has the size at 263 pounds to be a top playmaker against the run,
but he's not a pure pass rusher even though he's a good athlete. He
needs to be more consistent and has to generate some sort of pressure
from the outside.
- DT Landon Cohen, Jr. - 28 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 9 TFL
Cohen bulked up to 278 pounds and should be an All-MAC candidate as the
year goes. Despite playing inside, he's one of the team's best pass
rushers with too much quickness for most guards to handle.
- NT Shane Yates, Sr. - 27 tackles, 1 sack, 5 TFL
Yates got a sixth year of eligibility and should be a rock on the
inside. The former offensive lineman is a good interior pass rusher and
a strong anchor on the nose.
- DE Jameson Hartke, Soph. - 34 tackles, 4 sacks
Hartke had a tremendous true freshman season and is the future of the
team's pass rush after leading the team with four. He's a great sized
end at 6-4 and 259 pounds with a quick first step.
- DE Eric Kenkel, Soph. - 5 tackles
Kenkel took his lumps as a true freshman reserve last season, and it
should all pay off this year working behind Brett Sykes at one of the
end spots. He's smaller than Sykes, but quicker.
- DT David Escobar, Sr. - 15 tackles, 1 TFL
The team's top back up tackle last season, the 301-pound Escobar is the
team's biggest lineman and a space-eater behind Landon Cohen on the
- DE Alan Goff, Jr.
The JUCO transfer made 27 sacks in 19 games at College of the Desert.
He's 263 pounds and too talented to keep off the field for long.
The linebackers should be one of the team's biggest strengths
with the return of tackling machines Matt Muncy in the middle and Tyler
Russ on the outside. Michael Graham also returns to start on the
strongside. There's even a little bit of quality depth to count on with
several decent prospects ready to push for time. Now there needs to be
more overall production. Oh sure, the numbers will be there, but this
group is too experienced to let the run defense be as lousy as it was
The key to the unit: Keeping the starters healthy and
getting more big plays.
Linebacker Rating: 6
- Tyler Russ, Sr. - 88 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 interception,
A broken collarbone knocked him out of a promising 2004 season, but he
stayed healthy last year and finished second on the team in tackles on
the weakside. He's a good-sized MAC linebacker at 221 pounds with a
great nose for the ball. Now he has to make more plays against he pass.
- Matt Muncy, Sr. - 115 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 9 TFL, 1
interception, 6 broken up passes
Muncy was the team's best all-around defender leading the team in
tackles and continuing to be solid in pass coverage. The 231-pound
senior was the MAC's best linebacker last season and should be a lock to
finish his career with over 350 tackles (he has 246 coming into the
- Michael Graham, Sr. - 54 tackles, 1 sack, 6 TFL
Graham has been a steady starter over the last two years getting lost a
bit in the accolades with Matt Muncy starring on the inside. He's only
212 pounds, but he's a tough, big hitter on the strongside. Now he has
to be better in pass coverage.
- Michael Brown, Soph. - 18 tackles, 1 interception
The former safety moved over to linebacker and should grow into the
reserve role behind Michael Graham. At 6-3 and 216 pounds, he's a tall,
rangy defender with excellent speed.
- Taj Henley, Jr. - 25 tackles, 1 TFL
A good, solid reserve in the middle, the 226-pound Henley won't see too
much time playing behind Matt Muncy. Even so, he's an effective tackler
when he gets the chance.
- Jordan Meyers, Soph. - 21 tackles
Myers is the rising star of the linebacking corps, but he made the most
noise last year on special teams. He'll be groomed to take over the
weakside job next year.
The secondary loses all-star corner Dion
Byrum, but the pass defense wasn't exactly a rock when he was manning
one of the starting jobs. Ohio allowed 283 yards per game and 18
touchdowns having problems stopping any passer with even the slightest
bit of talent. Things should improve with a great group of safeties led
by Todd Koenig and Tony Ward, who combined to make 146 stops last year.
The backup safeties, Michael Hinton and Michael Mitchell, might be
better than the starters. T.J. Wright is a good corner who needs to
shine as the new number one man, and Mark Parson is a rising playmaker
taking over for Byrum.
The key to the unit: Pick off more passes and be
much, much stronger at stopping the midrange to deep throws.
Secondary Rating: 4.5
- CB T.J. Wright, Sr. - 49 tackles, 1 sack, 3
One of the team's steadiest defenders over the last three seasons,
Wright takes over the role as the team's top coverman now that Dion
Byrum is gone. He's an excellent tackler who got bigger and stronger.
Now he should be able to handle the physical receivers as well as the
- FS Tony Ward, Jr. - 69 tackles, 1 interception, 3 broken up
passes, 2.5 TFL
Ward isn't all that big, but he's tough and very athletic with good
range. He finished fourth on the team in tackles despite only starting
eight games. Now he has to use his experience to make more big plays.
- SS Todd Koenig, Jr. - 77 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 broken up
pass, 3 TFL
Koenig finished third on the team in tackles and was a rock against the
run. He's a good-sized hitter at 6-2 and 212 pounds with the speed to
play free safety if needed. He was a star high school running back who
just now should be growing into an All-MAC caliber player.
- CB Mark Parson, Soph. - 17 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 broken up passes
Parson has to take over for Dion Byrum after having a strong first
season as a true freshman. Used mostly as a nickel back, the speedster
should be a good ball hawker and should once again be great at getting
into the backfield.
- CB Marcquis Parham, Sr. - 10 tackles, 1 TFL
A career reserve, but a decent one, the 5-11 senior will see plenty of
time as a nickel back and a backup behind Mark Parson. He has 33 games
- FS Michael Hinton, Jr.
It'll be interesting to see where he finds playing time. The 6-3,
197-pound Virginia Tech transfer has the skills, size, speed and talent to be
the team's best defensive back right away. He'll start out behind Tony
Ward at free safety.
- SS Michael Mitchell. Soph. - 21 tackles, 2 broken up passes
Mostly a special teamer, the 6-1 true sophomore showed plenty of promise
as a reserve in the secondary. He won't push Todd Koenig out of a
starting job, but he'll be good enough to step in if needed..
Can you kick? If so, you have a shot at playing for Ohio. The field goal
situation wasn't good last year and Matthew Miller, who was a decent
directional punter, didn't get much blast on the ball. The return game
needs to be far stronger with speedy Scott Mayle and corner Mark Parson
likely to handle most of the duties. The coverage units were awful.
The key to the unit: Find someone who can
consistently kick the ball.
Special Teams Rating: 4.5
- PK Matt Lasher, Sr.
It'll be Lasher's job to start after handling the kickoffs last year,
but he'll get plenty of competition from five other prospects looking to
replace the average combination of Matthew Miller and Brooks Rossman. He
has a booming leg and should, at the very least, be used on long
- P Zac Wertz, Jr.
It'll be an open casting call to try to
replace Matthew Miller, who averaged 38.6 yards per kick and put a
whopping 23 kicks inside the 20.