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Football: Bobcats ready to kick off fall camp

Those close to the game say college football is a 12-month sport spent preparing for 12 games in the fall. In that cyclical cyclone, July is the eye of the hurricane.

But even now, coach Frank Solich and his team are readying themselves for the oncoming storm.

Fall camp does not open until Aug. 7, but all members of the team are prepping for the rush to opening kick off. During the 28 days between then and the first game against New Mexico State, the Bobcats will have 29 practices to bring the freshmen up to speed, name the starters and take any kinks out of the new up-tempo offense.

So far, the Bobcats have practiced 15 times with the faster system. During the summer, coaches are not allowed to hold practice, so upperclassmen lead younger players through drills to keep everyone in synch. Through 7-on-7 scrimmages, training sessions with the team’s strength coaches and even summer classes, Ohio is making the most of its so-called break.

“Players have motivation for battling for a position on the team,” Solich said.

“Obviously, things are built around trying to get as smooth as you can get in execution on both sides of the ball and on special teams. There’s a little more pressure to perform.”

When fall camp opens, the coaches will have about a month to determine who will be the starting quarterback. Underclassmen Tyler Tettleton and Kyle Snyder split the snaps during spring practice, but redshirt senior Phil Bates has recovered from offseason shoulder surgery and will look to earn his stay under center.

Solich said Bates is doing well in his throwing program, indicating a healthy shoulder. The transfer from Iowa State has not had a consistent chance to throw from the pocket due to injury and competition from former Bobcat quarterbacks Theo Scott and Boo Jackson.

“Fall camp at the beginning will be important for him,” Solich said. “If he wins that, then quarterback’s the position for him.”

But seniority is not the only factor for choosing a starting quarterback. Tettleton and Snyder have hundreds of snaps more than Bates in the new offense, and they had the chance to learn their receivers’ preferences. If Bates does not get the starting role, Solich said he would be useful elsewhere on the gridiron. One possibility is the wildcat formation that Ohio used last year.

“He’s the kind of athlete that could jump in as another position. I think there’s a number of avenues that he could go down and be successful,” Solich said.

Two sources say Ohio has the easiest schedule among all Football Bowl Subdivision schools. The Bobcats’ opponents had the worse combined win-loss record last season, putting them at the bottom of the NCAA schedule rankings. Football analyst Phil Steele uses a different formula but also had Ohio ranked 120th of 120 teams.

Ohio plays all six Mid-American Conference East Division teams every year, but they play last year’s top teams at home and travel to face the weaker teams. In the West, the Bobcats will not play Northern Illinois and Toledo, which had a combined 19-8 record (15-1 MAC). Instead, they will face Ball State and Central Michigan (7-17 combined, 5-11 MAC).

Nonconference opponents Marshall and Rutgers highlight the early part of the season, but they struggled last year as well. The Thundering Herd went 5-7, and the Scarlet Knights were 4-8.

“When you schedule those teams, you don’t know where they’re going to be two or three years down the road,” Solich said. “I don’t know what to expect from those teams. All I know is we can’t control what those teams are about. We’re going to go after every one.”


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