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Ohio quarterback Phil Bates scrambles during a scrimmage April 17, 2010 at Peden Stadium. Bates and the rest of the Bobcats will play their spring game at 2 p.m. tomorrow at Peden Stadium. (Alex Goodlett | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

Football: Green, white tussle tomorrow

The spring game: the one time of the year a team can beat itself and still expect to win. The one game that takes on the Little League mentality that everyone gets to play. The one game that often means nothing by the time September arrives, but tomorrow, it will be the only thing on the mind of the men wearing green or white on the turf at Peden Stadium.

The annual spring game — which might prove to be more of a scrimmage than an actual game — typically wraps up the four-week practice session that runs from late March through the middle of April. This year, the contest comes after the third week of practice because Easter is next weekend. The Bobcats have three more days of practice next week.

“I like what we got done so far this spring,” coach Frank Solich said. “I thought we’ve utilized our practices well. Guys have competed out here very well.”

The Bobcats opened the spring with plenty of starting spots to fill, including eight on defense and another four on offense. Linebacker Noah Keller and wide receiver LaVon Brazill return to bolster each unit, but younger, less experienced players have competed to fill the other openings.

“I think we’re seeing signs of talent pop up,” Solich said. “We’ve got some inexperience at positions, so there’s always a concern about that, but I like our talent level, and I like the attitude of the team.”

The format for tomorrow’s game has the offense taking on the defense. The defensive line has sustained numerous injuries this spring, forcing the offense to take snaps against the defense instead of having two squads with offensive and defensive components.

“We only have three tight ends,” Solich said. “If we were to split up and have two different teams, we wouldn’t even be able to get into some of our two tight end formations. Plus, we just haven’t gotten enough guys back on the defensive line to break up into teams.”

The desire for fierce competition contrasts the desire to maintain team health, leading offensive lineman A.J. Strum to utter a seemingly contradictory statement rarely true outside of NASCAR.

“I want to see people flying around, smacking heads, but most of all, I want everybody to stay safe,” Strum said. “There’s people been getting dinged up here and there, and I feel like if we can come out of the spring game unscathed, that’ll just make us one step closer to getting better when it comes time for two-a-days.”

But on-field injuries are not the only thing slowing the Bobcats, Strum said. The combined strains of class and practice have affected intensity on sticky weekday afternoons.

“Class is catching up, practice is catching up to you, and of course people are going to be dragging,” Strum said. “But I think people are fighting out here, and as of right now, we’re trying to kind of cool it down a little bit to save ourself for the spring game.”

Tomorrow’s game will be the most formal matchup before the season opener against New Mexico State Sept. 3, and the green and white squads hope to win without creating too much black and blue.


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