Ohio has slugged through eight practices in the August heat. The days are long, a breeze is rare and participation in team drills has to be divided among most of the team. Practices can begin to blur together when the grind of fall camp is in full swing.
But there has been progress.
The Bobcats held their first preseason scrimmage Saturday morning. They now have an important glimpse into their progress since camp began. After eight days of practice, coach Tim Albin is pleased with Ohio’s performance Saturday.
“I've been here a long time,” Albin said after Ohio’s scrimmage. “I think pretty good on both sides of the ball. I know the guys, they’ve got some dead legs right now with camp going on, but they had a really, really great energy for it being day eight in camp.”
The Bobcats still have two weeks left of fall camp to work with. The first milestone of the preseason is behind them, and now they have an idea of how to focus on what’s ahead. Here’s what The Post learned after Tim Albin evaluated Ohio’s first scrimmage in Peden Stadium:
Running backs have to navigate through deep talent pool
Ohio has been spreading itself thin dividing snaps among its running backs. But with the depth Ohio has, it's easy to see why.
De’Montre Tuggle is Ohio’s best bet for the starting back, but he’s not the only trump card. Ohio has a minimum of five dependable running backs at first glance.
Ohio’s running backs room is loaded with talent, and true freshman Sieh Bangura has added further depth. Bangura took a few snaps during Ohio’s first scrimmage and showed he’s ready for more responsibility down the line.
“I think (Bangura is) talented enough to do it,” Albin said. “It's a deep room. There might be a guy or two in our league that may be better, but you're going to have to put me down and tie my hands behind my back and tell me that someone's got a deeper room of running backs than what we got.”
Changes in leadership
Albin promoted former quarterbacks coach Scott Isphording and offensive line coach Allen Rudolph to offensive coordinator and co-offensive coordinator respectively Friday. Albin, Ohio’s former offensive coordinator, is confident that the promotions are a net gain.
Isphording is among Ohio’s senior coaching staff and has coached in the Mid-American Conference longer than Albin himself. Isphording isn’t a stranger to the duties he’s been handed. He served as the offensive coordinator for Eastern Michigan from 2007-08.
Rudolph is in his third season at Ohio but has been coaching since 1995. Albin said that he has a keen eye and can adapt on the fly.
“(Rudolph is) the best game day adjustment guy I've ever been around, and I've been doing this 31 years,” Albin said. “He's a great technician. He's intense at times for those guys, but he's demanding without being demeaning, and he can see a lot of things on the sideline which is hard to do. I think it's a great combination between Scott and Allen.”
Defensive line is building a work ethic
Ohio is in the phases of rounding out who will start on the defensive line. While redshirt senior Kai Caesar is the most prominent of the linemen to lead the group, he needs dependable players on either side of him to bolster the line.
The holes in the line are quick fixes. Denzel Daxon and Michael Taylor are strong candidates for a starting position. The pair have been pushing to stand out during camp and have showcased talent that Ohio needs.
Bryce Dugan is another potential candidate for a starting job. The redshirt junior has grown from his first career start last season. However, that’s not why he’s been drawing attention. Dugan brings an aspect to the defense line that Albin adores — his work ethic.
“I love his attitude, he brings it every day,” Albin said. “I mean that type of player is how this program is built. We’ve got a locker room full of them, and I'm excited about the season and what he's going to do for our defense.”
Dugan is working to springboard from last season. His attitude may help him get there.
Armani Rogers has benefitted from the offseason
Rogers has studied the playbook with what time he has, and the results from his first week of camp warrant discussion.
Rogers’ eyes have been glued to the playbook since last season ended. The pandemic hasn’t thrown a wrench in Ohio’s schedule thus far, so Rogers has been able to translate his studying into results on the field. Ohio’s plays have become second nature to him.
“In the fall, he knew probably half the playbook,” Albin said. “I just think his knowledge of our system is there. So his mind is not thinking, so it doesn't slow down. He’s able to operate more efficiently and faster, and we're pleased about that.”