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Jason Chow | Staff Photographer

Ohio’s Tyler Tettleton scans the field for open receivers during the ’Cats’ Oct. 15 loss to Ball State. With spring practice starting up, Tettleton, returning quarterback, said the team might be looking to raise the bar now that the Bobcats have a bowl win and a divisional title under their belt.

Bobcats look to returning starters to lead 2012 squad

As some Ohio University students prepare to take a step on the wild side this spring, Ohio’s football team is also gearing up for some experimentation.

The Bobcats will begin their spring practice schedule Tuesday to get their first look at the 2012 squad. Ohio will use the season as a chance to establish a preliminary depth chart and to get back to the basics that helped the team succeed in 2011.

“We’re wanting to really develop strong fundamentals again,” coach Frank Solich said. “I think you always need to work on that, and spring is a great time to work on the fundamentals of football.”

The Bobcats finished the 2011 campaign 10-4 and capped the season with a win in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl — the first bowl win in school history. Along the way, Ohio picked up a Mid-American Conference East Division title and beat rival Miami for the sixth straight year.

Much of that success came from the team’s new up-tempo offense that helped Ohio move down the field and conditioned its defense to compete at any pace. The Bobcats first used the new approach in last year’s spring camp, and Solich said the team is willing to try new schemes this year as well.

“We’re open to change and always want to continue to evaluate certain things that went well for us during the season,” he said.

The team set preseason goals to win the MAC East, the conference title game and a bowl game. With two of those three accomplished, returning quarterback Tyler Tettleton said the team might be looking to up the ante.

“I think we could set some higher standards and some higher goals, as in trying to win one more game than the year before or even going undefeated, or having the chance to be ranked,” he said.

But in order to remain a top competitor in the MAC, the team will need to replace seven starters from last year’s squad, including two offensive linemen, two wide receivers, two linebackers and its running back. But the team returns nine defensive starters, Tettleton and veteran tight end Jordan Thompson, who said some qualified players will finally get a chance to start.

“There are guys that are good enough to play, it was just sitting behind Riley (Dunlop) and LaVon (Brazill) and Noah (Keller),” Thompson said. “I think we’ll have guys that will step in and be just fine at those positions.”

The start of the spring practice schedule also marks a transition in leadership, as the outgoing seniors are no longer working out with the squad. For rising seniors such as Thompson, that transition adds weight to their roles on the team.

“This is the fourth or fifth year for the older guys. It’s just a natural thing,” he said. “Over time, you see the leadership at the top, and the guys just fit into that.”

Ohio will hold 12 practice sessions, as well as two scrimmages and the annual spring game, which will take place April 21.

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