Coach Frank Solich addressed the media ahead of the Bobcats season opener against Howard on Saturday. Solich is 8-5 in openers at Ohio, and he’s won three of his last four openers.
“I think we've got a smart football team,” Solich said. “We've been talking to these guys since the season ended about setting goals, understanding those goals and what it's going to take to accomplish those goals.”
Here are the takeaways from the press conference:
- This opener is different for Solich; the Bobcats have a bye week following the Howard game. But, Ohio will use it to its advantage. With injuries stockpiling, Solich expects Ohio to be healthy for its second game.
- Solich sees the defensive front as an area that has something to prove, given their lack of experience. “We have to replace two inside backers who were two great players for us,” he said. “Two defensive linemen, big physical guys, with one of them having tremendous quickness. With us replacing those guys, it's not going to be easy, so we're going to have to prove ourselves in terms of stopping the run."
- Starting quarterback Nathan Rourke came into fall camp rusty after a shoulder surgery on his non-throwing arm sidelined him for spring practice, but he has been better as the fall has progressed.
- The special teams unit is strong, and Solich expects big things from all aspects of it. “We have a lot of really good players that can cover on special teams, and so some of those may come up to be freshmen where you try to pick four games to utilize them in,” he said. “The kicking game ought to be a very strong point for us. I'm counting on that.” Kicker Louie Zervos and punter Michael Farkas are both back, and they make up the best special teams duo in the conference.
- Turnovers are a big point of emphasis for the Bobcats this season. Solich believes it’s the key to winning in the MAC. “If you look at the success of the MAC conference, half of them got to the MAC Championship Game with a plus-ten turnover ratio,” he said. “That's really good. So one of our goals will be to win the turnover ratio in the MAC. We're going to have to work on it to get that done, but, if we can, then we'll be a really good football team."
- After a Post reporter asked Solich about the similarities between Howard quarterback Caylin Newton and Rourke, Solich agreed that they had comparable seasons in 2017. Newton is the brother of Cam Newton, the starting quarterback of the Carolina Panthers.
- He’s high on former players coming back to campus and interacting with the program, and it’s something he prides the program on. The Bobcats have multiple alumni who are playing in the NFL, and Solich welcomes them back. “I introduce them to the whole staff to make them feel as comfortable as possible,” Solich said. “We have the golf tournament, so some of those guys will show up at the golf tournament, and you get the chance to talk to some of them there. It's a very open program to former players. I think that's how it should be. It's how we operate.”
- The time to evaluate players and see who has earned playing time against Howard is over. Solich is focused on the game at hand and will continue to see his scout team in practice. “Evaluation is pretty much over,” he said. “We know where we're at. Now, what we're going to do is give scout team guys that are running the opponent plays at the end of every practice, we're going to have them have a ten minute creative run with plays. So, we're going to continue to develop those guys."
- True freshman will play — if they’ve earned it. But Solich won’t reveal which will play early in the season, and even against Howard. "You know, I'll share those a little later in the week,” Solich said. “It's pretty well set, but we still have some practices that we want to continue to evaluate, although the majority of the evaluation is done. We are still looking at a couple of guys."
- Solich confirmed that redshirt junior wide receiver Elijah Ball will miss the season.