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Phil Bates poses for a portrait at Peden Stadium Thursday. The redshirt senior is sitting out spring practices, but he is preparing for the fall season by observing his teammates. (Ian Bates | FOR THE POST)

Football: QB hits the books in order to find the field

During spring practices at Peden Stadium, coaches take in the action from the sidelines or the offensive and defensive backfield. Quarterback Phil Bates also spent most of his time observing from about 20 yards behind the offense.

When quarterbacks Tyler Tettleton or Kyle Snyder were taking a break from their reps, he would joke with them and talk about their performance. He even christened them with nicknames — Bird and Chuck. Although Bates is not a coach, his position resembled one this spring.

Bates, a redshirt senior from Omaha, Neb., sat out the spring season after having corrective surgery on his shoulder during the winter. He injured his throwing shoulder against Wofford in last year’s season opener, marking a painful start to his first season on the field with the Bobcats. His 697 total yards in 10 games came second only to fellow quarterback Boo Jackson’s 2,242 total yards.

Bates’ absence during spring practice yielded an opportunity for Tettleton and Snyder to split all the snaps after Derek Roback moved to tight end. It also afforded Bates the chance to learn through observation.

“I wasn’t healthy,” Bates said. “It was good for me just to sit back and watch and get healthy that way.”

Bates came to Ohio after playing sparingly in two seasons at Iowa State. After taking the NCAA-required yearlong hiatus during the 2009 season, he split time with Jackson last year.

But his injury limited his on-field productivity.

Four years after making his mark as a passer at Omaha North High School, he looked to continue his success through the air. Instead, he attempted only 23 passes and completed only nine. He threw three interceptions to one touchdown.

His focus turned to the rushing game, where he racked up 519 yards, only 30 fewer than starting running back Vince Davidson.

Bates undergoes physical therapy up to three times a week to rehabilitate his shoulder. This fall, he said he anticipates diversifying his portfolio to combine potent passing and rushing components. He cited his injury as the reason for his limited productivity with his right arm.

“You’ve got to remember I do play quarterback, so I’ve got to throw the ball,” Bates said. “I had to play not the way I usually play but (instead) just try to be effective.”

Bates’ unavailability during the spring leaves coach Frank Solich with a decision to make come fall.

Tettleton and Snyder have experience running the new fast-paced offense, but Bates’ on-field experience last year might lead to his being named the starter if he adapts well when fall practice begins.

“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.”

Solich listed many activities that he expects Bates to take part in this summer with the goal of honing his craft. He equally stressed the physical and mental components of the game that are critical for a player seeking a starting job under center.

“This summer, he’s going to have to throw the ball a ton,” Solich said. “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.”

Coaches are not allowed to instruct their players between the spring and fall sessions. Solich said the offense and defense will scrimmage each other without coaches’ supervision to give Bates and others the experience necessary heading into the fall.

“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.”

Whether or not Bates will be taking classes this summer, he will have plenty of homework.


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