TEAM: Ohio Bobcats
2015 RECORD: 8-5 (5-3 MAC, tied for second in MAC East)
HEAD COACH: Frank Solich (11th year)
MAC MEDIA PRESEASON POLL RANK: 2nd in MAC East
Ohio started and finished 2015 with three-game winning streaks. It was that middle stretch – when the Bobcats went 2-4 – that proved problematic. The stretch included several lopsided loses, but OU regrouped to finish strong.
As the stats . . .
BIG PICTURE STAT OVERVIEW
Scoring offense: 5th (27.5 ppg)
Scoring defense: 4th (25.3 ppg)
Total offense: 4th (414.2 ypg)
Total defense: 5th (377.7 ypg
Turnover margin: 14th (+5/0.38 per game)
Like Bowling Green, Ohio will be replacing a quarterback. Derrius Vick completed 64 percent of his passes in his senior season, good for 1,809 yards and 10 TDs against six interceptions.
A late season injury to Vick, however, moved J.D. Sprague under center. Sprague completed 47.5 percent of his 403 attempts, with seven TDs and three picks on the year. Now Sprague appears to be out of the picture. He had off-season surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome earlier this year and, according to the Athens Messenger, recently informed coaches of his decision to leave the team due to some complications from a generally successful procedure.
Other options at QB include senior Greg Windham, redshirt freshman Quinton Maxwell and sophomore Joey Duckworth. Windham appeared in nine contests last season, completing 19 of 40 attempts for 298 yards with one TD and four interceptions.
Among the receiving targets, Ohio returns its top three receivers. Sebastian Smith (Third Team All-MAC) caught 64 passes for 775 yards and seven scores. Jordan Reis added 45 receptions, 616 yards and five TDs. Junior Brendan Cope chipped 30 catches, 510 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Troy Mangen should be back at tight end after missing 2015 due to injury.
Ohio’s 181.3 yards per game rushing ranked fourth among MAC teams. A.J. Ouellette led the Bobcats ground game with 151 carries for 687 yards and six touchdowns and returns for his junior campaign. Dazmond Patterson, the ‘Cats TD leader (9), is gone, but Ohio should nonetheless fair well rushing as Solich has built lines that support a solid ground game. Three returning starters will lead the way up front.
“I really like that athletes that are in our program right now,” Solich said.
Ohio’s defense was somewhat inconsistent in 2015. There’s reason to believe it can improve – at least in certain areas. Linebackers Blair Brown and Quentin Poling are back. The latter earned Third Team All-MAC honors last year. Senior Terrell Basham, Caysey Sayles and Kurt Laseak give Ohio experience up front.
It’s a different story among the back line as senior Toran Davis is the only starter returning. Junior college transfer London Miller could figure into the rebuilt secondary.
“I think our defense has a chance to be special,” Solich said, adding that the linebacking level could be “as good as any in the MAC.”
Josiah Yazdani wrapped up his career as the Bobcats’ placekicker and OU is also breaking in a new punter. A pair of redshirt freshmen -- Louie Zervos (kicker) and Michael Farkas (punter) figure to take over. Papi White is a dangerous weapon in the return game.
The quarterback situation could prove to be problematic, but Solich has a system in place, and there is enough surrounding talent for the Bobcats to be contenders in the East. Bowling Green is going through some changes, so there could be a real opportunity to grab a title. It’s a generally friendly schedule, but Ohio visits Toledo and Central Michigan down the stretch. The ‘Cats do get Bowling Green at home early in the MAC slate.