Ohio’s spring practice session will come to its end Saturday with the most formal outing the Bobcats will have until next fall’s season opener at Penn State.
Ohio will play in the annual Green and White spring game at Peden Stadium. Because of some health concerns and depth issues at certain positions, the team will split into offensive and defensive units rather than dividing into two teams with both components.
In their latest scrimmage, redshirt freshman quarterback Derrius Vick led the offense in a steamrolling of the Bobcat defenders. But that was without some key starters on a day when everything was going right for the offense. With a few different bounces and some playmakers back in the lineup, Saturday’s matchup could tell a different tale.
“We’ve got to perform at a pretty high level right now,” said coach Frank Solich, who is wrapping up his eighth spring training session with Ohio. “It’ll be a tough go-round if one (squad) just dominates the other. If our first team’s out there, we’ll be pretty good on both sides of the ball.”
Ohio will look to establish a more solidified depth chart at receiver and linebacker, where the Bobcats are dealing with the biggest losses from last season. Between the two positions, Ohio lost five of its top six performers, including four team captains.
But Ohio also returns redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Tettleton, who broke decades-old passing records in his first season starting under center. Behind him there isn’t much depth, but for now he’s the anchor of an offense that returns starting tight end Jordan Thompson and running backs Ryan Boykin and Beau Blankenship.
“We’re missing some players, but it’s the same team,” Blankenship said. “It’s just going out there and executing. We have the potential to be really good.”
The Bobcats’ defense might have more to prove than its offense. The defense lost another battle against the offense during Wednesday’s practice, resulting in 25 pushups in front of their offensive counterparts. That humility, coupled with last Saturday’s outing, has some defenders frustrated but eager to prove they can stop the potent attack.
“I think with a lot of young guys coming in here, there’s some young guys that need to keep learning the package,” redshirt senior nose guard Neal Huynh said. “We’re playing well on points, but we need to play harder consistently.”
Before the intrasquad action kicks off, Solich said he will put his new punters, long snappers and punt returners on the field by themselves so that the fans can hone in on Ohio’s new specialists. Solich said he hopes to be able to cook up some pressure for the young players who will take their first reps under the scrutiny of the Bobcat faithful.
“We want to put as much pressure on the punter and snapper as we can,” he said. “Everybody who comes to the game is just going to be focused on them completely, so they can’t hide.”