Replacing a quarterback is tough for any football team, but replacing eight starters on offense is an even bigger test.
That challenge is exactly what the Ohio Bobcats face in 2014 as they not only lost record-setting quarterback Tyler Tettleton, but seven other starters from last year’s offensive unit as well.
“We’re going to be a little bit of a work in progress on the offensive side of it, but the really good thing about it is we’re talented,” head coach Frank Solich said. “We’re going to be playing with young players across the board. I can say that as a group, there will be more freshmen that will be playing for us than we’ve ever had since our time.”
This youth includes an offensive line that has experience but no seniors, as well as no returners in the backfield and only one at the wide receiver position.
To go along with these offensive concerns, the Bobcats have yet to name their starting quarterback for a season that begins in less than two weeks. Although the quarterback position is still up for grabs between Derrius Vick and JD Sprague, Vick appears to be the most likely successor.
SYSTEM KNOWLEDGE EDGE
After backing up Tettleton for two seasons, Vick has a knowledge of the Bobcats’ offensive system that no other quarterback on the depth chart can match at this time.
“It’s definitely different being a face. You have to watch what you do at all times especially with how you carry yourself,” Vick said. “Being an example and a captain is a big thing and I don’t take it lightly.”
Despite a lack of experience on offense, Solich believes his team has the leaders it needs to be successful – starting with Vick at the helm.
Vick is fortunate to be supported by five offensive linemen who have a considerable amount of playing experience despite the lack of senior status.
POWELL, LEWIS BRING PHYSICALITY
The line was not a strong suit for the Cats’ last year. However, the benefit of playing alongside one another in 2013 and returning this season cannot be overlooked. No two players solidify this line more than center Lucas Powell and left guard Mike Lucas, who bring a level of talent and physicality that is second to none in the MAC.
“One strength I would say we have [on the line] would probably just be the way we’re all bonding together,” Powell said. “Offensive line is a position that’s almost like a fist. If everyone is spread out and not meshing it’s not going to be very strong but we’re all tight together and it’s going to be great.”
COCHRAN WILL BE KEY TARGET
Filling another crucial leadership role on offense is wide receiver Chase Cochran, who is the only proven target that Ohio has returning out wide. Last season, Cochran caught 37 passes for a career-high 689 yards, but he will be needed more than ever in 2014 as the Bobcats lost three of their top four receivers due to graduation.
“It’s all about helping these young guys. For a lot of them, this is their first time on campus and first time being out on a college practice,” Cochran said. “Being one of the only couple of seniors on offense I’m just trying to help the morale. It’s important to stay focused because there’s an end game and that’s getting to Detroit and winning a MAC Championship.”
DEFENSE RETURNS PLENTY
If the Bobcats have any hope of reaching and winning the MAC Championship, they will need leaders to step up on offense. Ohio’s defense has eight starters returning and is good enough to lead the ‘Cats to their sixth straight bowl appearance.
The goal, however, is to come out on top in the East Division and win the MAC. The play and leadership on offense will ultimately decide whether or not these Bobcats can end the season in position to battle for their first MAC championship since 1968.