Tim Albin has been honored with a difficult task.
He not only has to live up to the standards set by former Ohio coach Frank Solich over the past 16 years, but there’s also a question of if he can exceed them.
Albin became the Bobcats’ newest coach last Wednesday at the same time Solich announced his retirement. The announcement shocked all but the few who knew of Solich’s plans to step down due to health concerns. Regardless, Albin is confident that business will function as it always had in the program.
Despite the many accomplishments, division titles and bowl wins Solich earned with Ohio, he never brought a Mid-American Conference title to Athens. The program’s title drought since 1968 is ongoing.
That burden now falls on Albin. He not only has to recreate the consistency that became the norm with Solich but also get over the hurdle of winning a conference title.
Albin is racked with qualifications that may help him clear that hurdle. Here are the four biggest things he brings to Ohio while at the helm:
1. Familiarity with the team and conference
Despite not winning a MAC championship, Solich led Ohio through 12 consecutive non-losing seasons. The Bobcats seemed to be just one or two pieces away from having what they needed to win the MAC East — and by extension, a MAC Championship — title in many of their seasons. Ohio has been consistently effective, but with a new coach comes a risk of changing tides.
Fortunately, Albin is probably the one man other than Solich most familiar with Ohio. He has already built strong relationships with the current roster, was involved in bringing in the Bobcats’ recruits and will be working with a familiar coaching staff that will allow him to feel more comfortable than a coach coming in from elsewhere. There shouldn’t be much worry about a deep performance drop-off this season. Albin knows what makes the team tick and what its biggest weaknesses are.
Ohio athletic director Julie Cromer spoke highly of Albin’s experience with the program at his introductory press conference last Thursday.
“One of the things that Tim (Albin) really brings us is continuity,” Cromer said. “When people come in, it hits them all fast. Everything is new. Tim has two laps around the track already. Maybe three.”
Cromer and Albin don’t sense any panic with the Bobcats despite the sudden change. The morning before his introductory press conference, Albin and his players hopped on a bus and journeyed on a 3.1-mile hike together at Hocking Hills State Park.
“Five minutes in, it was just business as usual,” Albin said. “A lot of laughing and giggling, a lot of fist pumping.”
The Bobcats also plan on continuing with morning workouts and fall practice just as they were under Solich. Some names and positions have changed, but the game plan has remained steady.
In addition, the Bobcats have another coach that is well versed in MAC play. Albin has been alongside Solich when facing conference rivals, so he is familiar with opposing coaches and returning players he’ll be facing. Kent State quarterback Dustin Crum and Central Michigan defensive end Troy Hairston are some of the best players in the MAC that Ohio will face in 2021, but Albin is familiar with them and others.
2. National championship experience
The elephant in the room following his hiring was the question of whether or not Albin can win a MAC title. Nothing is certain, but he’s proven in the past that he holds the leadership and coaching capabilities to lead his teams to championship levels.
Albin coached Northwestern Oklahoma State to a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Championship in 1999. It was the same season he won NAIA Coach of the Year and led the Rangers to 13-0 record. That year, Albin and Northwestern Oklahoma ranked first in the NAIA in rushing offense and second in total defense and rushing defense. If Albin can lead a Northwestern Oklahoma to a perfect season in the NAIA, then his potential to lead Ohio to a MAC Championship can’t be denied.
“The big thing I take something from 20 years ago,” Albin said. “(Coaching) is like riding a bike. Will I have headphones on the whole time? I don’t think I’ll need them. I just think I’ll get the flow. We’ve got an outstanding staff that’s been here, been together.”
3. Offensive expertise
Under Albin, exceptional has become the minimum for Ohio’s offenses. The Bobcats have had a top 25 scoring offense in the country every season since 2017, where they averaged 39.1 points per game and were ranked ninth in the nation. Albin and Ohio’s offense one-upped themselves a year later in 2018 when they finished 12th overall with 40.1 points per game.
Albin’s offensive success goes beyond his time at Ohio. Along with his time at Northwestern Oklahoma State, Albin also led a powerful offense as North Dakota State’s offensive coordinator and running backs coach in 2004. In that season, the Bison averaged 30.7 points and 378.5 yards per game.
Efficient coordinating allowed past talents such as Nathan Rourke and A.J. Ouellette to reach their full potential. Albin has already proven with those two — among others — that he’s capable of bringing out the best in his offensive weapons. Ohio could use someone like that at the helm to get as much scoring as possible from its current stars such as De’Montre Tuggle, Ryan Luehrman and both Kurtis Rourke and Armani Rogers at quarterback.
4. Player-coach relationships
Albin has spent much of his time as offensive coordinator inside the press box and away from his players. However, Albin can now look his players in the eye and work with them directly, which he believes is an important part of getting an edge during games. He’s excited to be back on the sideline, working with the defense and being in the middle of the team. He hasn’t had that experience as head coach since 1999.
“I think that’s a big issue in college athletics,” Solich said during his final press conference. “How well you relate to your players. If you have that going for you, you have a chance to get something done on the football field.”
The player-coach relationship is the number one thing Albin has learned from Solich in their time together. Albin and Solich believe building a close bond with players was the biggest key to Ohio’s successes over the past 16 seasons.
“Once you have trust developed,” Albin said. “That’s when you get something special going.”