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COLLEGE FOOTBALL PRESEASON TOP 25
MAC East PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Frank Solich, 59-44 (8 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Tim Albin & Gerry Gdowski | DEF. COORDINATOR: Jimmy Burrow
Ohio has all of the skill players necessary to build the MAC’s best offense. Senior quarterback Tyler Tettleton, entering his third year as the starter, already owns the school records for yards passing (6,278) and touchdowns (46) even though he played with lingering injuries the last two-thirds of 2012. “He probably wasn’t himself,” says coach Frank Solich. “I think he’s poised to have a tremendous season. He enables us to do an awful lot.”
Senior running back Beau Blankenship, one of seven players nationally to carry the ball at least 300 times last year, shattered the single-season school record for rushing yards (1,604). “He’s a warrior,” Solich says. “You can give him as many reps as you want and he relishes that, and he will still be strong at the end.”
To keep defenses from ganging up on Blankenship, senior split end Donte Foster (59 catches, eight TDs) leads a veteran pass-catching corps. Keep an eye on junior Landon Smith. He had just eight catches last season, but averaged 24.8 yards with two scores.
If there’s a concern, it’s on the offensive line, where the Bobcats graduated second-team All-MAC center Skyler Allen and right guard Eric Herman. Ohio couldn’t use spring ball to merge its three new linemen with returning tackles John Prior and Ryan McGrath, because four key players missed the spring due to injuries.
Solich entered last fall expecting to field Ohio’s finest defense since his arrival in 2005. Then All-MAC cornerback Travis Carrie suffered a season-ending injury in fall camp. Jamil Shaw, the other starting corner, went out for the year during the Week 1 win at Penn State. Those injuries set the tone for the season, which found Ohio surrendering more than 300 rushing yards to Buffalo and Ball State and giving up an average of 24.8 points and 388.4 yards per game. While the Bobcats had to tough out the injuries, it sets up a scenario in which they have an abundance of experience in certain spots.
In the secondary, Carrie and Shaw are back to reclaim their corner spots, while Larenzo Fisher and Ian Wells, who both made 11 starts in 2012, provide tremendous depth. Xavier Hughes, who missed the final nine games last year, resurfaces at free safety alongside starting strong safety Josh Kristoff. Junior nickel Nathan Carpenter is another solid vet.
Keith Moore, last year’s top tackler (98 stops, two INTs, two sacks), shifts from the middle to weak-side linebacker, while sophomore Ben Russell, who missed the spring due to shoulder surgery, takes over in the middle.
Senior end Nic Barber, with six starts last season, is the most experienced player on the line. Solich sees tackle Brandon Purdum and nose guard Antwan Crutcher as “legitimate players in the MAC.”
Unproven sophomore Josiah Yazdani takes over at kicker for the graduated Matt Weller, a three-time All-MAC selection who finished his career as Ohio’s all-time leading scorer (409 points). Daz’mond Patterson averaged 24.3 yards per kickoff return last year, while Carrie averaged 11.2 yards per punt return in 2010 and 2011 combined. The Bobcats’ punt coverage needs work, as Grant Venham and his crew finished 96th last year in net punting.
Ohio was 7–0 and flying toward the MAC East title when an abnormal number of injuries helped to send the Bobcats to a 1–4 regular-season finish. Their dominant Independence Bowl performance has renewed hopes for another assault on the elusive MAC crown that hasn’t happened since 1968. Presuming the lines mature as Solich projects, every game on the schedule is winnable — including the opener at Sugar Bowl champ Louisville.
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