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Ohio running back Ryan Boykin breaks through Marshall’s defense. Boykin, who will return to the team this fall, was part of an offensive core that led the Bobcats to a 10-4 record and a bowl win last season. (Greg Roberts | Picture Editor)

Football: Spring squad shows early offensive power

Anyone who thought that Ohio’s offense is lacking the firepower of last year’s squad might want to reconsider after Saturday’s scrimmage at Peden Stadium.

The Bobcats’ attack was consistent and prolific, as confidence climbed with each broken tackle and sideline reception. Backup quarterback Derrius Vick had a stellar day on the field with impressive downfield passes and sack-sidestepping scrambles. Ohio scored seven times in seven drives behind contributions from all over the depth chart.

But at the end of the day, the success came only in a scrimmage and was at the expense of Ohio’s defense, which was missing almost half its starters. Coach Frank Solich said both units need to show improvement, consistency and leadership.

“It was good to see individuals make plays on offense, but you’d like to think that, if we’re healthy, … no one would be able to move the ball consistently down the field against us,” he said.

Eleven Bobcats caught passes from Vick and returning starting quarterback Tyler Tettleton to show the depth the squad has at that position. But the team still has to replace the playmaking ability and leadership of NFL draft prospect LaVon Brazill and senior wide receiver Riley Dunlop.

Brazill and Dunlop led the Bobcats with a combined 1,732 receiving yards and 17 touchdown catches. The other 15 players who caught passes last year combined for 1,750 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Solich said some current Ohio receivers will have to grow into the leadership roles left by the outgoing wideouts.

“We’re still trying to get an identity as to what we’re all about in the passing game. From the receiving aspect of it, it certainly remains to be seen. We need to be sure that we identify guys that are big-play guys,” Solich said. “We need to have people step up to make plays and people to step up in leadership.”

Nine Ohio players advanced the ball on the ground during Saturday’s scrimmage. Among those candidates looking to move up the depth chart are true freshman Daz’mond Patterson, who had the most electrifying run of the day, and walk-on Chris Tarrant, who led the unit in yardage. Returning contributors Beau Blankenship and Ryan Boykin likely will get most of the carries come fall.

“To be honest with you, I can’t see anyone in our conference top to bottom that’s got as much running back depth as we do,” said Tim Albin, Ohio’s offensive coordinator and running backs coach. “There might be a guy or two out there that’s special, but I feel like I’m solid.”

The next step for the Bobcats is consistency. Ohio’s offense wants to not only establish its dominance against its defensive counterpart but also prove that it can do so against any unit in the conference.

“We can’t lose focus coming up next week going into the (annual spring game),” Vick said. “That’s big motivation. We actually dominated the defense for once.”

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