There’s a sense of new beginnings enthralled throughout the Bobcats program. A mix of youth and experience takes the field for the first time Friday when Ohio opens fall camp.
With that exciting mix of youth and experience, however, lie many questions about how those two traits will mix.
The Post asks five questions heading into camp:
Can Nathan Rourke live up to the preseason hype?
There’s no hiding from the spotlight any longer for quarterback Nathan Rourke. The senior has garnered plenty of attention from the national media this summer, and in the last few weeks, he’s landed himself on four national awards watchlists – including the Davey O’Brien Award, given to best quarterback in the NCAA.
Rourke attention is well-deserved after he’s totaled 4,637 passing yards and 40 touchdowns in his two years at Ohio, but he is without some key weapons that have elevated him to his current standing. Running back A.J. Ouellette and wide receivers Papi White and Andrew Meyer have all graduated.
If Rourke is going to live up to the expectations that have been placed on him, his new supporting cast will have to meet theirs.
Speaking of the supporting cast, who is it?
The departures of the aforementioned skill players will temporarily leave Ohio in a bind until its youth becomes more experienced.
The youth is highlighted by redshirt sophomore Julian Ross at running back and redshirt sophomore Isiah Cox with redshirt freshman Jerome Bucker at wide receiver.
The trio of players all will look to have breakout seasons while growing through in-game experience.
There’s only youth here, so where’s the experience for Ohio?
Aside from Rourke, the Bobcats’ experienced players are scattered throughout the position units, but perhaps their strongest unit is in the secondary.
First-year defensive coordinator Ron Collins, who had stints at Colorado State and Boise State before coming to Athens in 2011 as the linebackers coach, has a lot to be happy about with his secondary.
All-Mid-American Conference safety Javon Hagan is back along with cornerbacks Marlin Brooks and Jamal Hudson. Although strong safety Kylan Nelson is gone, redshirt junior Jarren Hampton is slated to fill the position.
Where should Ohio have instant success?
In terms of the three phases of the game, the clear answer is special teams.
The Bobcats bring back the redshirt senior duo of punter Michael Farkas and kicker Louie Zervos, who was perfect on extra points last season and went 13-for-17 in field goal attempts with a long of 48 yards.
Farkas earned First Team All-MAC awards for his efforts last season. He averaged 43.4 yards per punt and had a long of 59 yards.
Ohio also returns redshirt senior Devin King for long snapping duties.
Is this finally going to be the year?
Coach Frank Solich has been longing for a MAC Championship for 15 years. The Bobcats have gotten close, and they should have another shot this season.
The MAC was Ohio’s to lose last season, too, and ultimately, it didn’t make it to Detroit. The expectations are no different this season, and the Bobcats are again favorites to finally give their coach his long awaited title.
There is an uncanny sense of excitement and vigor to this year’s team that has people outside of the conference looking at the Bobcats differently.
Unfortunately, more questions – a lot more questions – are going to both be asked and answered before this one does.