Watching Quentin Poling play for the first time may lead someone to think he’s Ohio’s best player, and they wouldn’t be totally wrong.
Sure, Ohio has players such as defensive lineman Tarell Basham, who became the program’s all-time sack leader in September.
The Bobcats defense also boasts players such as defensive backs Javon Hagan, Kylan Nelson and Toran Davis, and all of them have one or more interceptions this season.
But no player on the Bobcats defense has instincts quite like Quentin.
The middle linebacker leads the team in tackles, with 41 for the season so far. Quentin is also sixth in the Mid-American Conference in tackles.
“From the time he first got on the football field, he has had an uncanny ability to know where the football is,” Quentin’s father, Kenny Poling, said.
Quentin, who is from Gomer, began to play football during elementary school. Originally he played soccer, but he soon transitioned to football, a move many of his friends were making. But he didn’t initially get his father’s approval on the switch.
That’s not a knock on Kenny. Quentin said
he was a good soccer player at the time. His
father wanted him to stick with it because the high school football program at Elida, which is where Quentin went to high school, wasn’t good at the time.
Quentin, however, gave the program some solid years. He finished his high school career with 509 tackles, 20 sacks, 12 forced fumbles and nine interceptions. He also earned first team All-Ohio during his junior and senior years, and he was named Defensive Player of the Year in Northwest Ohio after his senior season.
“(Football) has worked out fairly well for him, I’ll say,” Kenny said.
As Quentin began to play football, those uncanny moves on the football field began to
Children typically struggle to tackle as
they begin to play football. They have to be taught how to wrap up, the most fundamental part of playing defense.
Quentin was not one of those kids who struggled to tackle opposing players, though.
“I never ever saw Quentin tackle the wrong guy,” Kenny said.
Quentin has instincts on the football field like none other, getting into the correct position to tackle opposing players. Even through mastering the little nuances, he still has the same the boyhood passion for the game.
“If you don’t come out here and try to have fun every day, you know because we keep to a pretty similar schedule, everything can get pretty monotonous,” Quentin said. “So if you don’t come out here to try to have fun with a little love and remember why you’re out here, you can really start to not enjoy it.”
When he started playing football, Quentin was used as a lineman because he was bigger than his teammates. During middle school, Quentin began to play linebacker and running back, positions
that ignited his love for the game.
Quentin’s enthusiasm is perhaps his most noticeable quality for the Ohio football team.
“It’s awesome because the other guys feed off of it,” linebackers coach Ron Collins said. “Quentin is always loose, you know he’s always got a smile on his face and he’s never uptight.”
Before Ohio’s first game of the season against Texas State, Quentin peeked into the team’s office giddy, saying that it was game week.
“The more guys you have like him, the more opportunity you have to have great leadership,” coach Frank Solich said in August.
Quentin’s instincts and enthusiasm helping him be a good football player; his intelligence on the field is worth noting, too.
Few people can understand the nuances of football such as quarterback cadences, line protections and passing patterns.
Quentin, however, understands it with ease.
“He diagnoses things extremely well on the football field,” Solich said in August. “He’s one of those guys that finds himself in the right place, very much the majority of the time.”
Quentin, a redshirt junior, has NFL potential. With his intelligence, instincts, athleticism and love for the game, he can surely find a spot on an NFL roster.
The one problem he could encounter, though, is his height.
Standing at 6-foot, Quentin may lack the height NFL teams are looking for in a middle linebacker because he is considered short — at the 2016 NFL Combine approximately 73 inches or 6-foot-1 was the average height of linebackers.
Though Quentin’s height may be something NFL teams aren’t looking for, his potential to be a solid NFL player is still there, though he’ll likely play next season for the Bobcats, too. He has one more year of eligibility.
Collins noted Quentin resembles a former NFL player he coached at the University of Colorado. Being versatile as well as aware of reading offenses could lead to Quentin playing professional football.
If someone was watching Quentin play football for the first time, that person would likely think he was born to play the game.
Quentin’s instincts combined with his athleticism are too special to overlook, as he can rush the quarterback like a defensive end, but he can also tackle running backs and wide receivers in open field.
But most of all, it will be his work ethic that will more than likely make him a viable NFL prospect.
“He’s determined to be the best at everything he does,” Kenny said.