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2005 MAC Football Pigskin Preview


Ohio Bobcats


Ryan Hawk graduated after tossing for nearly 1,600 yards and 10 TDs in 2004. Austen Everson is a terrific athlete who can run the option if new coach Frank Solich wants to implement his former Nebraska offense within the Bobcat program. Everson has shown glimpses of being able to pass the ball, but in limited duty last season, he completed less than 45% of his passes for just 588 yards, 4 TDs and 5 INTs. He has great QB size at 6-2 and 220-pounds. He is the only prospect with much experience entering the 2005 season. Mark Petruziello is a redshirt freshman from Mentor Lake Catholic High near Cleveland. He was a record setting dual-threat prep player rushing for 2,536 yards in high school and throwing for 5,199. At 6-2 and 210-pounds, he is likely the prospect of the future if he gets a grasp of the new offense. From a passing standpoint, he would be an upgrade from Everson. Jerrold Sparling and two true freshmen, Brandon Jones and Josh Febus add depth. Entering the season, the QB area is a bit of an unknown commodity due to the coaching change.


Running Backs

Kalvin McRae (5-11, 200) returns as the starting RB after rushing for 559-yards and 4 TDs last season. He was the team's leading rusher as a true freshman. Ohio had several injuries to their running-back corps last season. Brad Young (6-1, 225) moved to the FB slot in Solich's new two-back set. Young is the lone senior in the backfield and has been very serviceable during his career. Voncairie Owens, a JUCO preseason all-American from Mississippi, Lucas Sullivan and Joshua Abrams are slated as reserve backs. Look for some of the true freshmen crop of RBs to contribute this fall. Spencer Farley was a two-time all-state performer from Morgantown (WV) while Jayson White (6-2, 225) and Morsillo (6-1, 243) add much more size to this unit. Overall Ohio rushed for just 108-yards per game in 2004, a huge drop from the Jim Grobe era of the late 1990s when Ohio annually was in the top-5 nationally in rushing offense. Look for Solich to get this group into shape quick and be a focal point of the offense this fall.


Receivers/Tight Ends

Ohio returns their entire receiving corps from a year ago. Scott Mayle (6-1, 275) is the fastest player in the MAC by far - his 4.2/40 speed unmatched. Mayle averaged nearly 20-yards per completion and recorded 4 TDs last season. Anthony Hackett is a deep threat who caught nine passes for 146 yards last year. Justin Fitzgerald and Theo Jefferson provide a lot of size at 6-3 190 and 6-2 201 respectively. There is a lot of athleticism within backups Justin Riley, Frank Sanders and Ahmona Maxwell. Dave Cody is an underrated TE at 6-5 and 245-pounds. He only recorded 11 catches for 98 yards last season, but has proved he can be a factor. Ohio needs to get him into the offense more this fall. Rudy Sylvan, Corey Logan and Mike O'Bruba provide depth. Overall, this is a good group of receivers.

Offensive Linemen

Ohio replaces three starters and four letter-winners along the offensive trenches. That may not be a bad thing since the Bobcats gave up a whopping 52 QB sacks last fall. Nearly 15% of every passing attempt became a QB sack. Ouch! That is the main reason why OU averaged less than three-yards per rushing attempt in 2004. Matt Coppage and Matt Miller return as starters. Others slated as either starters or top reserves are Paul Johnson, Mike Nelson, David Shelby, Cole Wesley, JJ Knabb and Bryson Bush. Overall the two deep line-up averages just 6-3, 283-pounds per man - one of the smallest offensive lines in the D-IA. How quickly they develop will determine the overall success of the new offense.


Defensive Linemen

Ohio is in the process of moving from a 3-4 alignment to a traditional 4-3 defense. With more LBs on the roster than D-linemen, there may be some 3-4 within the schemes this fall. The Bobcats graduated a good one in Kevin Carberry, a DE who produced 50 total tackles including 8 tackles for a loss in 2004. The tackles are Shane Yates, a big 6-2 291-pounder who excels in run stopping and Landon Cohen, an undersized nose guard. Backups are Jeff Browning (6-5, 290) who is a very promising redshirt freshman, Eric Johnson - a transfer from Navy, David Escobar (6-2, 285) and Zach Kiesch (6-6, 270). The ends are slated to be Brett Sykes and Seth Ream. Each has starting experience and good size. Backups include Wesley Williams, Wes Dunlap, Justin Kasmarcak and Josh Leuck. Ohio gave up an average of 124-yards rushing per game in '04, that figure may be even better this fall with continued development of these players.



The Bobcats returns all of their LBs from a very good and under-rated unit last fall. Matt Muncy had a team leading 78 tackles including 10 for a loss in '04. Muncy will be on the short list for all-conference honors this fall. Spencer Tatum, Tyler Russ and Matron Church also return. Taj Henley, Andrew Tyson, Phillip Fountain provide very good depth. Overall there is excellent speed and size within the inside and outside LBs. Given the amount of talent and depth at LB, it's difficult to see the new coaching staff fully go away from their previous 3-4 defense. There are too many good LBs within this group not to be on the field. This area is a certainly a team strength.


Defensive Backs

In a pass-happy league, Ohio ranked 28th nationally in pass defense giving up 195-yards through the air in 2004. They must replace two very good DBs in FS Chip Cox and SS Rob Stover. Combined, they had 158 total tackles including 5 QB sacks last fall. The corners return and they are good ones. TJ Wright and Dion Byrun will each receive serious all-conference consideration as they totaled 85 tackles last year and 8 INTs. Michael Graham moves over from OLB to SS which brings some experience into that area. The FS safety position will be either Dustin Tatum, Todd Keonig, Tony Ward or Earving Jackson. There is some solid DB depth with Maxwell Tedoroff, Marquis Parham, Jon Hartsook, Chris Hall, and true freshmen Lee Renfro and Idris Lawrence. Ohio should have one of the best DB units in the MAC this fall.


Special Teams

Matthew Miller averaged 42-yards per kick last season and will be one of the MAC's best again. Miller was the reason Ohio was number one in the MAC in net punting and due to great hang time in his kicks, he forced 14 fair catches and added 20 kicks inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Brooks Rossman is the PK and has good range but needs to work on his accuracy. He was 7-14 on FG attempts and 20-24 on PATs. Ohio also ranked first in the MAC in kickoff coverage. Overall, Ohio has some of the better special teams play in the league.


Final Thoughts

There is no harder team to gauge this season than the Ohio Bobcats. From a talent standpoint, Ohio certainly had more talent under former coach Brian Knorr than they ever displayed under his tenure. Ohio annually lost close games they had opportunities to win under Knorr, so new coach Frank Solich's first task is to turn around the ‘losing' mentality of the program. Also, there looks to be a third offensive philosophy change in as many years, so how quickly the players grasp the new playbook will dictate their ability to score and sustain drives. Defensively, Ohio should be pretty good with 8 of 11 returning starters and very depth across each major unit. The biggest hurdle then turns into their demanding schedule, which features team from the Big Ten, ACC and Big East. There are no cupcakes on this slate. Also, Ohio didn't receive any favors from the MAC when BG moved over from the West to the East division and Toledo as added as a ‘cross-over' game. This fall will be a transition season for Ohio, but that is a good thing. Under Solich, this program is finally going to move upward again as they did under Jim Grobe. Look for these Bobcats to win anywhere from three to six games this fall and be a much better team in November than they are in early September.


Mark it down!

Under knew head coach Frank Solich, the Bobcats will upset one of their three non-conference foes. The most likely victim will be their September home date against Pitt, where the Panthers will be breaking in a new coach as well in former Miami Dolphin and Chicago Bear HC Dave Wannstedt. Pitt's game at Ohio is sandwiched between games against Notre Dame and Nebraska. Pitt very well will be looking past Ohio and this will be Coach Solich's home debut at Peden Stadium. Upset special anyone?


@ Northwestern - LOSS

vs. Pittsburgh - WIN

@ Virginia Tech - LOSS

vs. Kent - WIN

@ Bowling Green - LOSS

@ Central Michigan - LOSS

vs. Ball State - WIN

@ Buffalo - LOSS

vs. Toledo - LOSS

@ Akron - LOSS

vs. Miami - WIN


4-7 Overall, 3-5 MAC


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