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Football: ’Cats anticipate 3rd straight bowl appearance
After being torched by Troy’s offense for 606 yards in a game in which the Bobcats seemed more like spectators at a track meet than participants at a football game in December’s R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, the Bobcats spent all spring preparing a more up-tempo offense.
While a fast-paced style of play may ensure Ohio will never again suffer that type of defeat, one detail that remains uncertain is which of Ohio’s quarterbacks will be running the offense.
With three-year veteran Boo Jackson out of the mix, senior Phil Bates, Junior Tyler Tettleton and Sophomore Kyle Snyder all have a chance to land the starting job.
Although Bates is the most experienced of the trio, his ability as a pocket passer has been questioned and is something coach Frank Solich said Bates would need to focus on this summer.
“This summer, he’s going to have to throw the ball a ton,” Solich said during the spring.
“He’s going to have to get back to developing a good throwing motion, and I know our guys will be working throughout the summer, quarterbacks throwing to receivers.”
In 10 games for the Bobcats last season, Bates completed nine of 23 passes and threw one touchdown to three interceptions. Most of Bates’ damage came on the ground, where he rushed 78 times for 484 yards and three touchdowns.
However, those numbers will have to become more balanced if Bates wants to be named Ohio’s starting quarterback in 2011 as he was in 2010.
“You’ve got to remember I do play quarterback, so I’ve got to throw the ball,” Bates said last spring. “I had to play not the way I usually play but (instead) just try to be effective.”
Both Tettleton and Snyder provide strong arms, yet lack the experience Bates has.
“We’re going to have to get Phil into the mix right away and make a quick evaluation as to where he’s exactly at in running our offense now,” Solich said. “How well he can play the quarterback position is yet to be seen, and we’ve got to make a fast determination on that come this fall.”
While he brings the most experience, Solich said Bates must still gain a better understanding of the offense.
“He’s got to really hit the mental part of the game and know our offense inside and out,” Solich said. “He’s going to have to study the practice film from spring ball and go over it and over it and over it.”
On defense, the loss of veterans such as safety Donovan Fletcher and cornerback Julian Posey will leave Ohio with an inexperienced secondary.
The defensive line also will feature some new faces, as it lost all four starters from a year ago to graduation.
While Ohio will be young upfront and in the secondary, the return of senior linebacker Noah Keller will help solidify the middle of the Bobcats’ defense.
After being named a pre-season first team All-MAC selection in 2010, a partially torn ligament in Keller’s toe sidelined him for the better part of the season.
The Bobcats will also benefit from the return of senior wide receiver LaVon Brazill, who also spent the majority of last season on the shelf with a knee injury.
As one of the quickest players on the team, Brazill will fit well into the up-tempo style of play Solich has instilled.
A year after serving primarily as a backup to Vince Davidson, running back Donte Harden said he is ready to become Ohio’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Kalvin McRae in 2007.
“I’m looking forward to a MAC Championship, a bowl game and (the first) thousand-yard rusher since Kalvin,” Harden said last spring.
With the return of kicker Matt Weller and punter Paul Hershey, along with Brazill on kick returns, Ohio’s special teams should return to 2010 form.
One aspect the Bobcats have in their favor is their strength of schedule. Of the 12 teams on Ohio’s 2011 schedule, only two finished 2010 with a record of .500 or above.
With a subpar schedule, Ohio will be looking to earn a third straight bowl appearance for the first time in its history.