Ohio Last Year: 7-6
4-4 MAC East (3rd)
Head Coach: Frank Solich
2014 MAC Media Preseason Pick—3rd in MAC East
CHALLENGE: Tenth-year Ohio head coach Frank Solich looks to lead his team to its sixth-consecutive bowl appearance. But with a brand new backfield, Ohio must rely on an experienced offensive line and a stout defense that is returning eight starters from the 2013 season. Who will step up and how far can the these 'Cats go?
The Bobcats face several challenges as they return only four offensive starters from a 2013 team that averaged 379.4 yards per game. The biggest test will be replacing Tyler Tettleton, who threw for 9,001 yards and 67 touchdowns over his three seasons as Ohio’s starting quarterback.
The task of replacing Tettleton could go to redshirt junior Derrius Vick, who has been tabbed Ohio’s No. 1 quarterback and one of the team’s four captains. Vick beat out redshirt sophomore J.D. Sprague for the starting spot, but Solich remains adamant that the competition is still very much alive for the position.
To go along with quarterback uncertainty, the Bobcats must also replace running backs Beau Blankenship and Ryan Boykin. Over their two years as starters in the backfield, the duo combined for 3,358 yards and 31 touchdowns.
Daz’mond Patterson should get a big chunk of the team’s carries at running back and will be complimented by senior captain Tim Edmond.
The question remains, however, as to how Patterson will adjust to receiving a majority of the team’s rushing attempts. He has had less than 80 carries over the past two seasons.
The good news for the Bobcats’ questionable backfield is that follows a strong and experienced offensive line.
Each starter on this year’s offensive line saw playing time last season, with a combined total of 35 starts and 44 game appearances. Left guard Mike Lucas, who started all 12 games as a sophomore last year for Ohio, will lead this unit along with junior center Lucas Powell.
Ohio is also strong at the wide receiver position, which might buoy Vick's confidence as he moves into a leadership role. Senior Chase Cochran will be the go-to target as he finished the 2013 season with a career-high 689 receiving yards and four touchdowns. The 'Cats can also rely on senior Landon Smith, who received solid playing time in each of his three previous seasons.
Unlike the offense, Ohio’s defense has plenty of experience as it returns eight starters. Highlighting the defensive unit for the Bobcats is sophomore defensive end Tarell Basham, who was named to the Freshman All-American Team by the Football Writers Association of America. Basham recorded a team-high nine sacks, 8.5 tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles last season. Nose guard Antwan Crutcher returns for his senior year while the No. 1 spot for defensive tackle remains up in the air between senior Cameron McLeod and junior Brandon Purdum.
There are no uncertainties for Ohio’s linebacker corps, which is led once again by hard-hitting junior Ben Russell. As the Cats’ middle linebacker in 2013, Russell led the team with 87 total tackles and also recorded three sacks.
The main concern for Ohio’s defense comes in the secondary with the loss of standout cornerback Travis Carrie, who was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in May. The Bobcats, ranked third in the MAC with 14 interceptions, return safeties Josh Kristoff and Thad Ingol. Redshirt junior Ian Wells looks to fill the void left by Carrie while the versatile Devin Bass returns at the cornerback position.
After suffering a season-ending injury in 2012, Josiah Yazdani fought his way back in 2013 and earned the role of Ohio’s starting kicker four games into the season. Yazdani was one of only four kickers in the nation to finish the regular season with a perfect field goal record (12-for-12), and his 93.3 conversion rate is No. 1 all-time at Ohio for a single season. Both of these accomplishments earned him All-MAC Second Team honors. The 2014 season promises to be another successful year for Yazdani, who is on the Lou Groza watch list for the nation’s top collegiate place-kicker.
Punting is a different story, however, as the Bobcats must replace their 2013 punter, Grant Venham, who switched to wide receiver for the 2014 season. Replacing Venham will be first-year junior college transfer Mitch Bonnstetter.
Rounding out the special teams is redshirt junior Devin Bass. He returns as Ohio’s top return man after earning All-MAC First Team honors last season.
-Ohio opens its 2014 campaign on the road against MAC East foe Kent State on ESPN3.
-The MAC Media preseason poll picked the Bobcats to finish 3rd in the MAC East.
-The Bobcats start the season with three away games, including a showdown with the Kentucky Wildcats on Sept. 6 at 3:30 p.m. Ohio has not played a team from the SEC since it squared off against Tennessee back in 2009.
-After starting the 2013 season with a 6-2 record, the Bobcats dropped four of their last five games, including 37-20 loss to the East Carolina Pirates at the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl. Ohio will have a hard time matching its start from last season as four of its first six games are on the road.
-Ohio will have six televised games this year after having all 13 televised in 2013 including 12 on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU or WatchESPN. The lone game not covered by an ESPN channel was against Central Michigan, which was televised on Time Warner Cable’s SportsChannel.
-The Bobcats’ fall camp began on Aug. 4