In the opening weeks of their shortened season, the Bobcats have left each game with a new challenge heading into the next. A combination of injuries and the seemingly inevitable spread of the coronavirus amongst the team have made Ohio take a ‘next man-up’ approach in all units and positions, especially its offensive line.
Heading into the season, offensive coordinator Tim Albin had high expectations for his guys up front, with the trio of Brett Kitrell, Kurt Danneker and Hagen Meservy being the key pieces to a dominant line.
“I think those three guys in the middle of our offense are going to be the best three guys in our league,” Albin said.
Albin’s prediction has held true so far this season, as the offensive line has contributed to the success of Ohio’s passing and rushing attacks. But as expected in a season comes the wear and tear of key players and the challenge of adjusting to those losses.
“You just can’t think that you’re going to get through the season and have all starters there, all backups there and it’s all going to work fine,” head coach Frank Solich said.
A mediocre performance against Central Michigan in week one for the Bobcats left room for changes to be made. Kurt Danneker’s presence was missed against the Chippewas, most noticeably in the fourth quarter when Central Michigan was able to pressure Kurtis Rourke with ease.
When the Bobcats returned to Peden Stadium a week later against Akron, Danneker made his way back into the starting lineup while Hagen Meservy started at right tackle for the first time. Head coach Frank Solich commended offensive-line coach Allen Rudolph for being able to make those kinds of decisions.
“He’s trained them right from the start to be multifunctional,” Solich said. “He won’t place a guy in a position where the guy really is going to struggle or not have a shot.”
Training its offensive line in multiple positions has shown Ohio’s depth, and will be vital in the coming weeks.
Like many college football teams across the country, Ohio has had to cancel a game due to positive testing for coronavirus. The Bobcats may have an extra week to figure things out, but the fear spread of the virus could cause them to lose more players and key pieces to their team.
The offensive line, while an under-appreciated factor of Ohio’s offense, takes a majority of the beating and — along with the defensive line — has the most frequent contact with other players. This makes them the prime candidates for injuries and in the current state of the pandemic, they may even more susceptible to the virus.
In a time that is uncertain for coaches and players, the most Ohio can do is develop its depth chart to be prepared for any situation as the season progresses.