Ohio only completed two spring practices before all activities came to a halt amid the coronavirus pandemic. No one knows when football — or any sports, really — will resume again.
For now, we still have football to look forward to in the fall, so we’ve compiled a list of some key players who could break out and snag a bigger role with the Bobcats next season.
DT Denzel Daxon
Ohio’s defensive line should receive a huge boost with Daxon, a junior from Nassau, Bahamas, who had to sit out last season due to NCAA transfer guidelines. He was the highest-rated player in the Bobcats’ 2019 recruiting class and the second highest-rated player recruited by Frank Solich.
As a senior at Carol High School in 2018, Daxon made 35 tackles, 14 of which were for a loss, and recorded three sacks. At 6-foot-2 and 335 pounds, Daxon is the heaviest player on Ohio’s roster and could play a key role in fixing some of the woes the Bobcats had at the line of scrimmage last season, when they finished eighth in the Mid-American Conference with 20 sacks.
WR Shane Hooks
Hooks is no longer an under-the-radar name for Ohio. He ended last season tied as a team leader with five touchdown receptions and flashed an excellent ability to use his 6-foot-4 size to snag catches over defenders.
Hooks is on this list, however, because he’s capable of doing even more with the Bobcats. Sure, Hooks was a team leader in touchdowns, but he never seemed to be a No. 1 target for Nathan Rourke and finished third on the Bobcats with 26 receptions.
Kurtis Rourke, the brother of Nathan and likely the next starting quarterback, could attempt to jumpstart his first season under center by taking full advantage of Hooks’ height and massive catch radius.
Ohio hasn’t had a true No. 1 receiver since Papi White led the receiving corps in 2018. Hooks, a redshirt sophomore, is a strong candidate to grab that role next season.
QB C.J. Harris
Barring an injury, Rourke will most likely be the starting quarterback when Ohio takes its first snap of 2020.
But the Bobcats appear to have some promise in Harris, the freshman quarterback from West Bloomfield, Michigan. He seemed comfortable in his first spring practice reps and threw the ball with plenty of zip and accuracy.
Harris is young and has plenty of room for improvement, but he’ll likely be the first backup option behind Rourke. Don’t be surprised if Harris makes a strong push in fall camp to be a Week 1 starter, too.
RB Ja’Vahri Portis
The Bobcats are set with Julian Ross, De’Montre Tuggle and O’Shaan Allison in their backfield, but offensive coordinator Tim Albin loves rotating as many quality running backs as possible.
Portis, a redshirt senior, wasn’t always part of that rotation last season. When he was, though, he was effective and averaged six yards per carry on 28 rushes with four touchdowns.
Most of Portis’ work came in nonconference play, and he filled part of the workload when Ross and Allison dealt with injuries for portions of the season. Ohio is loaded at running back already, but if anyone in its top trio goes down, Portis is a capable replacement that knows how to produce.
S Alvin Floyd
Ohio has had Javon Hagan patrolling the safety position since 2016. Now, its top defensive leader is gone, and someone needs to fill in across from senior Jarren Hampton at safety.
Floyd, a redshirt junior, is arguably the top option. He’s played in 24 games, made 25 tackles and had one of the five interceptions from Ohio last season.
The Bobcats will need much more from their defense next season, and Floyd should have the first opportunity to take the open safety job.