2010 Ohio Preview
Ohio LB Noah Keller
Ohio LB Noah Keller
Posted Aug 6, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Ohio Bobcats

Ohio Bobcats

Preview 2010

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Frank Solich
6th year: 32-31
12th year overall: 90-50
Ten Best Ohio Players
1. LB Noah Keller, Sr.
2. WR LaVon Brazill, Sr.
3. QB Boo Jackson, Sr.
4. QB Phil Bates, Jr.
5. SS Gerald Moore, Soph.
6. WR Terrence McCrae, Jr.
7. DE Dak Notestine, Sr.
8. NT Marcellis Williamson, Sr.
9. OT Joe Flading, Jr.
10. RB Kenny Ashley, Jr.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 4 Wofford
Sept. 11 Toledo
Sept. 18 at Ohio St
Sept. 25 at Marshall
Oct. 2 at Eastern Mich
Oct. 9 Bowling Green
Oct. 16 Akron
Oct. 23 at Miami Univ.
Oct. 30 Louisiana
Nov. 4 Buffalo
Nov. 16 at Temple
Nov. 26 at Kent State

Considering head coach Frank Solich got shown the door from Nebraska because of the perception that he couldn't change with the times, he has shown surprising versatility at Ohio.

It was assumed when Solich was first hired that the ground game was going to dominate, and it has at times over the last five years, but he has also been able to win with a passing game that has suddenly become explosive. However, the Bobcats have been good at times with two MAC title games in the last four years, but they lost by double digits both times against Central Michigan, lost in the two bowl appearances under Solich, and haven't come up with a win better than the key 35-17 victory over Temple last season.

This has been a good MAC program, but not necessarily a great one, and it hasn't been able to find its identity like Northern Illinois has with its running game, Central Michigan has with its spread, or Bowling Green with its passing attack. The one thing that has been missing is top-shelf talent at some key spots to take the team to another level, and this year's squad might have it.

Boo Jackson is a strong quarterback with decent experience and excellent playmaking ability, but coming off a shoulder problem, he's going to have to fight with Phil Bates, a dangerous transfer from Iowa State who'll be one of the most dangerous weapons in the MAC when he's under center. The running backs have experience, but there isn't a talent like Kenny Ashley, a former USC Trojan who has the ability and the potential to put up a huge season if the offensive line is merely adequate. To get over the hump, Ohio needs players like Bates and Ashley to add to an already solid mix to be a true MAC title contender.

The defense gets back a tackling machine in LB Noah Keller, a great leader and veteran who'll pick up the slack for the rest of the linebacking corps, and the secondary should be even better even with just one starter returning. The defensive line gets three starters back and should hold its own, and it could be stronger at getting into the backfield if Dak Notenstine improves a bit.

All the pieces were there last season to get to the MAC title game, and through the adversity of losing Jackson, Solich and Ohio were able to win the East, and this should be another interesting year with a solid shot at the division.

What to watch for on offense: The newcomers and the quarterback situation. Ohio's offense was roughly 50 yards worse per game last year, but the potential is there to be far better with a dangerous receiving corps, a good enough line to get by in the MAC, and some decent veterans at running back, but three players should make the attack far better. The return of QB Boo Jackson from a shoulder injury gives the team a leader and a veteran who knows what he's doing, but Iowa State transfer Phillip Bates is big, fast, and very, very dangerous adding another element to the rushing mix. Bringing more talent to the running game is USC transfer Kenny Ashley, who has the cut-on-a-dime quickness and the ability to be a dangerous difference maker.

What to watch for on defense: The linebacker rotation around Noah Keller. The Bobcats have a possible MAC Defensive Player of the Year in Keller manning the middle, the secondary has a nice group of veterans considering just one starter returns, and the line should be fine with three starters back, but the key to the defense will be the play of the new starters on the outside. There should be a good rotation of four players, Shannon Ballard, Alphonso Lewis, Eric Benjamin, and Chad Clemens, who are all built like safeties and all need to hold up. If two of them can fly around the ball and be disruptive, Keller will take care of the rest.

The team will be far better if … it wins all the close games. There's a small margin for error for Ohio, but with strong special teams, a solid defense, and what should be a more efficient offense, there's no reason not to come up with most of the close battles. The Bobcats went 5-0 in the regular season in games decided by seven points or fewer, but lost the Little Caesars Bowl to Marshall by four. On the flip side, the Bobcats lost five games over the previous two seasons by a touchdown or less, and they didn't go bowling either season. In 2006, Ohio went 3-0 in the close battles and played for the MAC title. With an improved East, there won't be any margin for error in the nail-biters.

The schedule: The East should be tougher this season, so it's not going to be a breeze to get through with key games against Temple and Kent State (yeah, Kent State) on the road to close out the regular season. On the plus side, the Bobcats get Eastern Michigan and Toledo while missing Northern Illinois and Central Michigan, while the Bowling Green game is in Athens. Outside of a road date at Ohio State, the non-conference schedule is light and breezy starting out the year against Wofford and its option attack, reliving the Little Caesars Bowl at Marshall, and getting Louisiana late in the year.

Best offensive player: Senior QB Boo Jackson … or junior QB Phillip Bates. Jackson had apparently turned the corner throwing eight touchdown passes and one interception in the final two games of 2008 and was great in the first two games of last year completing 17-of-30 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown with no picks, but he suffered a shoulder injury and now has to prove he's back to 100% or else Bates will step in and shine. Bates won't throw consistently well, but he could be a 500+ yard runner if he has the starting job.

Best defensive player: Senior LB Noah Keller. He came up with a great junior season making 104 tackles with an interception and five tackles for loss as he came on to the scene as one of the best new defensive players in the MAC, and then he went ballistic as the centerpiece of the Ohio defense making 155 stops with two sacks and nine tackles for loss. He's the one the entire defense works around, and even though his tackle total might not be as great with active players around him, he'll do more.

Key player to a successful season: Junior OT A.J. Strum. The offense needs to be more efficient, more effective, and more productive, and that starts with the line that was way too mediocre last season. The Bobcat front five allowed 30 sacks while paving the way to a mere 112 rushing yards per game, and it has to be better for the nation's 106th ranked offense to improve. That starts with Strum, who started over the second half of last season at left guard and will get the first look at left tackle. He has to be a rock in pass protection.

The season will be a success if … Ohio wins the East. There might not be enough in the bag to win the conference title if Northern Illinois has everything working right, but there's definitely no reason to shoot any lower than another division title. With a great stretch of five home games in six and with just four games against teams that played in a bowl, the Bobcats have to go bowling again and have to win a third East championship in five years.

Key game: Nov. 16 at Temple. It turned into the East game of the 2008 season, and Ohio pulled off the win to pave the way to a shot at the MAC title. This year, the Bobcats get 12 days off before the showdown with the Owls, but this time it'll be on the road and everything might be on the line. This might not clinch the East with at trip to Kent State to follow, but it would come close.

2009 Fun Stats:
- Takeaways: 37 – Turnovers: 24
- Fourth Quarter Scoring: Ohio 97 – Opponents 68
- Punt Returns: Ohio 43 for 437 yards – Opponents 18 for 236 yards

- 2010 Ohio Preview | 2010 Ohio Offense
- 2010 Ohio Defense | 2010 Ohio Depth Chart
- Ohio Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006