didn't win the MAC East in 2015 but the Bobcats did make their sixth bowl appearance in the last seven seasons. Another postseason trip should be in the cards for 2016, as Frank Solich's team could very well represent the East in the MAC Championship Game.
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Previewing Ohio’s Offense for 2016
Ohio was better offensively, improving its point production by a touchdown per game in 2015. With the bulk of the skill-position talent returning, and an offensive line that appears capable of replacing three starters, the Bobcats could make another jump up this season. But the quarterback question lingers; Ohio has two seniors who could potentially start. Greg Windham played in a handful of games last fall. He has arm talent but is prone to forcing throws. J.D. Sprague has started 12 games over the last two seasons and has the skill set Ohio desires to run its option-influenced, one-back, no-huddle offense. But Sprague had offseason surgery on his shoulder and missed spring practice. It’s not a given he’ll be at the top of the depth chart in August.
The QB issue is the biggest surrounding the offense, which returns junior running back A.J. Ouellette and all three starting wide receivers. Ouellette has been dependable if unspectacular and has led Ohio in rushing each of the past two seasons. Sophomore Papi White had more big plays than any other back on the team last year.
At receiver, Ohio has good talent in place with seniors Sebastian Smith, Jordan Reid and junior Brendan Cope. They combined for 1,905 yards and 14 touchdowns last season, and Smith is an All-MAC talent. Junior tight end Troy Mangen, a two-year starter, is expected back after missing 2015 with a knee injury.
On the offensive line, senior Troy Watson and Durrell Wood return at right tackle and guard, respectively, but the Bobcats need to find three new starters. Junior Jake Pruehs, a starter in 2014 at guard, will move to center.
Previewing Ohio’s Defense for 2016
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Ohio’s defense hoped for more in 2015, but a midseason swoon keyed by a rash of injuries at linebacker left the Bobcats looking a lot like their 2014 counterparts. Still, Ohio should have perhaps the MAC’s best front seven. The Bobcats return three starters on the defensive line and eight of the 10 players it used in rotation along the line. Seniors Tarell Basham and Kurt Laseak at end and senior Casey Sayles at tackle give the unit a great foundation on which to build.
Ohio returns junior middle linebacker Quentin Poling, a contender for MAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2016. Senior weak-side force Blair Brown returns as well, and new strong-side starter Chad Moore has played starter’s reps as a multi-positional backup over the past two seasons.
The questions regard the secondary where Ohio has to replace its top four cornerbacks. Langston Provitt, an expected starter at corner, left the team in the spring.
Previewing Ohio’s Specialists for 2016
Ohio will have talented but unproven newcomers in the kicking department. Redshirt freshman Louie Zervos will replace the dependable Josiah Yazdani as the placekicker and proved to be accurate inside of 40 yards during spring camp. Redshirt freshman punter Michael Farkas initially signed with Cincinnati out of high school. New options will get plenty of chances in the return game, but White — the team’s best open-field threat — is clearly the favorite to get the bulk of the opportunities.
The Bobcats will be once again among the top tier of MAC contenders. In a watered-down East Division and with three-time division champ Bowling Green in rebuild mode, Ohio may very well be the preseason favorite. Whether the Bobcats can turn an expected seven- or eight-win season into something more substantial depends on solving the quarterback issue and hoping young talent takes hold in the secondary. But a top-of-the-MAC front seven and quality offensive skill-position talent means Ohio can expect yet another bowl bid this season.