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Quarterback trades throwing for catching in new role
After most players darted for the locker room following Tuesday’s practice, Phil Bates stayed behind to catch a few more passes in front of receivers coach Dwayne Dixon.
Though Bates, a quarterback by trade, possesses all the tools needed to succeed at receiver — size, speed, strength and good hands — he lacks the experience.
“It’s going to take some adjustment. He’s getting accustomed to how I am as a coach and getting accustomed to how we expect him to run routes,” Dixon said. “He’s going to have to make some adjustments on the run. Some plays, he’ll have to come in from a quarterback standpoint and sometimes from a receiver standpoint. That’s something he’s trying to get more comfortable with.”
Bates’ Ohio career, since transferring from Iowa State two years ago, has been a roller-coaster ride. After being named the opening-game starter in 2010, Bates soon was injured and was limited to 23 passing attempts all season.
Boo Jackson took over as the starter for the Bobcats, and Bates proved effective on the ground by rushing for 519 yards and making three touchdowns.
When Jackson graduated after last season, it appeared Bates might return to his starting role. Surgery and a tedious recovery, however, allowed Tyler Tettleton to snag the starting-quarterback position in 2011.
Bates is now trying to help the team in a different way, and he said the move to receiver is not as difficult as it might seem.
“I’m still trying to make plays, I’m just everywhere on the field now,” Bates said. “It would be one thing if I was a new guy, but I know the ins and outs of the offense, so it’s just coming out here and executing every day.”
Bates ran the ball four times for 35 yards in Saturday’s win against New Mexico State. He also threw the ball twice, completing one pass for 58 yards, and had one catch for negative yards.
Ohio coach Frank Solich said Bates could see more game action as the season progresses.
“He had no spring ball, he missed half of fall camp and only had three days of practice leading up to the game, so we only expected him to get 15 to 20 reps,” Solich said. “He actually got a few more than what we thought might happen.”
Bates said he has embraced his role and is willing to help the team any way he can.
“He’s a team player and one of those guys willing to give whatever it takes to make it work,” Dixon said. “As we go, he will get more opportunities. We’ll find ways to make that happen.”
Though Solich said Bates will be used primarily as a receiver and out of the Wildcat formation, defenses should not be surprised if he drops back to pass.
Every opposing defense is aware of Bates’ running ability, but not all respect his ability as a passer — evidenced in his long throw Saturday. He said he likes to use that to his advantage.
“They underestimate. They don’t know what I’m going to do,” Bates said. “Wherever I’m lined up, they have to respect it and understand that I can make a big play.”
With dazzling speed for a 6-foot-2-inch, 226-pound player, many believe Bates might have what it takes to compete in the NFL.
“With his speed, his ability to catch the ball and his ability to block, he could maybe go on to the next level,” Solich said. “He has a lot of things those scouts could be looking for. How much he refines those skills will determine a lot for Phil’s future.”