The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 95 Ohio.
Previewing Ohio’s Offense for 2014
After scores of records, the only two bowl wins in the program’s history, and even a brief stay inside the nation’s top 25 in 2012, Ohio turns the page on the Tyler Tettleton era in 2014. The Bobcats’ most accomplished quarterback will be replaced this season by one of two candidates who have waited for their chance the past two years. Junior Derrius Vick has more reps, including a spot start in 2012 on his résumé, and a slight lead going into fall camp. He’ll be pushed by sophomore JD Sprague, a former walk-on who fits the same dual-threat mold.
Ohio has to replace key offensive pieces all over the depth chart. Departed running back Beau Blankenship piled up just under 3,000 yards rushing over the past three years, and the Bobcats now will turn to two largely unproven backs. Junior Daz Patterson averaged 5.6 per carry in spot work in 2013, but he lacks the size to be an every-down, between-the-tackles threat. Senior Tim Edmond, who has also played tight end and linebacker at Ohio, will be the big-back option and handle short-yardage situations. Expect redshirt freshman Dorian Brown, or perhaps incoming freshman Maleek Irons, to get a look as well.
The receiving group is also being rebuilt nearly from scratch. Only senior flanker Chase Cochran (689 receiving yards in 2013) returns from Ohio’s top six pass-catchers of a year ago. Iowa transfer Cam Wilson and slot specialist Landon Smith (hurt for most of 2013) also will be critical. Sophomore Troy Mangen and junior college transfer Brennan Boland are tasked to handle the varied role of Ohio’s tight ends.
The offensive line never got settled a year ago — eight different lineups were used in the first eight games — and the unit will be young again with three juniors and two sophomores in the projected starting five. For the first time in a decade, Ohio will not have a senior in the projected two-deep up front. However, guard Mike Lucas, center Lucas Powell and tackle Mike McQueen all return with two years of experience.
Previewing Ohio’s Defense for 2014
Rebuilding in 2013, Ohio simply wasn’t good enough on this side of the ball to contend for a MAC championship. The Bobcats gave up 4.6 yards per carry, more than 400 yards per game and yielded 34 plays of 30 yards or more.
The good news is that the defense has the potential to be much better. Seven starters return, and Ohio will have solid depth on the line where sophomore ends Tarell Basham and Kurt Laseak and senior tackles Antwan Crutcher and Cameron McLeod lead the way.
The Bobcats have two returning junior linebackers, Ben Russell (middle) and Jovon Johnson (outside), who were important contributors a year ago, when both learned on the fly.
In the secondary, Ohio loses two starters but shouldn’t skip a beat. Senior safeties Josh Kristoff, Thad Ingol and Nate Carpenter each have considerable experience, and junior cornerbacks Devin Bass and Ian Wells have both started games the previous two seasons.
Previewing Ohio’s Specialists for 2014
Junior placekicker Josiah Yazdani was a pleasant find early last season as he solidified that role four weeks into the season and missed just one attempt on the year. Ohio signed junior college transfer Mitch Bonnstetter to help alleviate the problems of the past two seasons with blocked punts or mishandled snaps.
Ohio has developed into a consistent winner under coach Frank Solich, and with a veteran defense and solid special teams, the Bobcats should again be a contender for a winning season and possible bowl bid. But with a complete rebuild in store for the offense, Ohio will have a tough time contending for a league title in 2014.