Today, we’re a little over 80 days away from the kickoff of the 2012 college football season. As such, we’ll preview the No. 82 team in our Rant Sports 100 in 100 college football previews, the Ohio Bobcats.
After a 10-4 season in 2011 which was caped by a 24-23 win over the Utah State Aggies in the Idaho Potato Bowl, expectations are high in Athens. Another 10 win season is definitely in Frank Solich‘s sights, but will be dependent upon some new faces stepping up and filling production voids lost by departing players.
Quarterback Tyler Tettleton– son of former MLB utility guy Mickey Tettleton– returns as the signal caller for the Bobcats in 2012. Tettleton did it all in 2011, throwing for 3,302 yards and 28 touchdowns and running for 658 yards and 10 touchdowns, becoming a true dual-threat during his first year in the Bobcats’ new no-huddle offensive scheme.
This season, Tettleton will not have the luxury of an experienced wide receiving corps which he enjoyed in 2011. Junior wideout Donte Foster and senior Tyler Futrell will be expected to step up and make plays to ensure there isn’t much of a drop-off in offensive production from Ohio, who were on of the most exciting teams in MACtion play last season.
Although Tettleton ran with consistency in 2011 and was the team’s leading rusher overall, Solich will be looking to keep him off his feet as often as possible going forward. Given this, the junior tailback duo of Beau Blankenship and Ryan Boykin will be expected to step things up and increase production in the ground game to balance what should again be an explosive offensive unit. Redshirt freshman Kyle Hammonds could also make some noise in the early going and push the juniors.
While the Bobcats’ offensive line won’t be as strong as the all-world unit they had in place in 2011, it should be plenty stout and among the best in the MAC.
With six returning starters, there’s solid depth on campus for defensive coordinator Jimmy Burrow, but there are still some holes to be filled. The loss of linebacker Noah Miller, who led the team with 116 tackles in 2011 will be the biggest. Junior Keith Moore gets the opportunity to fill some rather large shoes and his performance will tell a great deal about the success of the Bobcats’ second-level defense.
Apart from concern at linebacker, the Bobcats have some solid experience returning. The secondary should prove to be one of the better units in the MAC this fall, led by senior cornerback Travis Carrie setting the tone. Senior Gerald Murphy will also be asked to make some big plays during the course of the season as the defensive front will be in attack mode in the Bobcats’ base 4-3 set.
The 2011 version of the Bobcats’ defensive line recorded 22 sacks in 14 games and will be looking to ramp up that number in 2012 as they increase their overall aggressiveness up front. Senior nose tackle Neal Huynh can be dominant at times and will be the leader of a unit that will be looking to establish itself as one of the best in the MAC.
A Week 1 road test against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium is offset by a home game against the New Mexico State Aggies which should be an easy enough win.
The Bobcats travel to West Virginia to take on the Marshall Thundering Herd in Week 3 before returning home to take on Norfolk State, before wrapping up the non-conference slate against the UMass Minutemen on September 29th in Amherst.
A 4-1 start for the Bobcats in non-conference play should be just the start the doctor ordered and lead them to yet another 10 win– if not better– season in 2012 and a return bowl trip.
Kris Hughes is the College Football Network Manager for Rant Sports and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.
Kris is also the host of Rant Sports Radio on the Blog Talk Radio Network Wednesday evenings at 8 Central Time.