Football: Spring play finish begins offtime for coach

Ohio wide receiver Donte Foster is tackled by wide receiver Chase Cochran during the annual spring game at Peden Stadium Saturday. The intra-team scrimmage wraps up a four-week practice season for the team. (Maddie Meyer | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

For the past four weeks, four days a week, coach Frank Solich took to the turf at Peden Stadium to oversee his squad’s progress through spring football practice. Rain or shine, 3 p.m. or 9 p.m., he wore a beige sun hat and a green Ohio polo shirt.

During the time he would normally be on the field, Solich sat in his office yesterday afternoon in a white polo without the hat. With the close of spring practice, his attention has shifted to off-field duties.

Solich, who will serve his seventh season on the sidelines this fall, now spends much of his time with the Bobcat Caravan, traveling to various cities to promote Ohio athletics. He also said he is beginning to dissect film from the Bobcats’ 15 practice sessions to examine his team’s progress heading into the summer.

“It will be a matter of breaking down now what we did in spring ball, seeing what went well, what didn’t go well, making adjustments and finalizing a depth chart going into (fall) ball,” Solich said. “It’s really a self-evaluation of our offense and defense and special teams.”

The focal point of Ohio’s spring practice this year was adopting an up-tempo offense in an attempt to make better use of its time possessing the pigskin. The new-look offense required adaptations from all units on both sides of the line of scrimmage.

Running the updated attack were two young quarterbacks. Redshirt sophomore Tyler Tettleton and redshirt freshman Kyle Snyder split time after Derek Roback became a tight end. Redshirt senior Phil Bates did not take any snaps because of off-season shoulder surgery to correct an injury sustained last fall.

“Players usually come along better when they have a chance to run plays more,” Solich said. “We got a lot more run this spring. That was a pleasing aspect of spring ball, and that should pay dividends, really, for all positions.”

The spring campaign saw Donte Harden make a case to be the starting running back, but Ryan Boykin, Dallas Brown and Beau Blankenship were among a number of rushers challenging his for a job. LaVon Brazill returned to anchor the receivers, and true freshman Landon Smith made an impact during his first set of practices as a college player.

But every offensive success is less sweet when competing against one’s own defense. Linebacker Noah Keller returned for his redshirt senior season to bolster the unit, but with eight starting jobs to replace, the defense had plenty of work to do.

“What we want to be about offensively, we progressed pretty well at,” Solich said. “We’re replacing a lot of guys, and whether or not we’ve gotten enough reps to really feel good about where we’re at defensively, I don’t know. It’s going to take into fall camp to get that answered.”

With starting roles up for grabs and a number of injuries sidelining key contributors, newcomers and reserves highlighted the spring game. Smith led all receivers, and tight end Zac Clark grabbed two touchdown catches. Defensive end Kyle Kozak made a strong case for a high placement on the depth chart by compiling three sacks.

“I think we made pretty good progress across the board, and that’s what you’re after in spring ball,” Solich said.

“You can’t give your guys game experience. That’ll have to come in the fall, but we got a lot more reps offensively, defensively than we’ve ever gotten in spring ball before, so we hope that will play out to help us as a team.”
 

ms229908@ohiou.edu

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