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The big 2015 Ohio football guide: Finding yourself after growing pains

The 128-team countdown continues with a MAC power that should be on the way back up.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. A Joey Potter season

Nothing makes me roll my eyes faster than when someone on a television show leaves town to "find themselves." Typically, the person doing this is a college-age female who ends up in San Francisco (or thereabouts) taking art classes, drinking coffee, and getting scorned by a certain type of artsy male that I'm pretty sure doesn't exist.

My first experience came among a group of dorm rats who got together to watch Dawson's Creek and yell at the television. The show was awkward and cheesy, and the person who began the series as the grounded personality to balance the selfish characters ended up being maybe the silliest of all: Joey Potter. Joey left awkward circumstances to "find herself" three times per season, it seemed. Those words still remind me of this stupid show about 15 years after I stopped watching it. I can't remember the name of the town, and I can't name a character outside the main four, but those two words still make me angry.

(And yes, Pete Holby's watch-every-episode-of-this-awful-show-for-charity series gave me too many flashbacks.)

The Ohio Bobcats had a Joey Potter year in 2014. After leaning on an identity mastered by quarterback Tyler Tettleton and running back Beau Blankenship, Frank Solich's squad set out to figure out what it might become, and with mixed results. By the end, two quarterbacks had thrown at least 160 passes, two running backs had carried at least 86 times, eight players had been targeted at least 23 times, nine offensive linemen had started at least one career game, eight defensive linemen had logged at least 11 tackles, and seven defensive backs had logged at least 26. Last season was one of new roles.

It was also a year of regression, Ohio's third straight. Since peaking in 2011 with a 10-4 record and No. 61 F/+ ranking, the Bobcats toppled in each of the next two seasons, to 9-4 and 77th, then 7-6 and 100th. But while those slips were disappointing, this one is easily explained.

And in theory, with the amount of experience Ohio boasts this fall, it can be overcome, too. Solich has plenty of personnel decisions, especially at quarterback, where JD Sprague and Derrius Vick more or less battled to a draw. But the Bobcats have depth of experience and a host of young athletes hoping to overtake more seasoned options.

So maybe, unlike characters in TV shows, Ohio actually did find itself.

2014 Schedule & Results

Record: 6-6 | Adj. Record: 4-8 | Final F/+ Rk: 106
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Adj. Scoring
Margin
Win
Expectancy
30-Aug at Kent State 107 17-14 W 33% -10.2 49%
6-Sep at Kentucky 68 3-20 L 6% -36.2 0%
13-Sep at Marshall 17 14-44 L 24% -16.1 0%
20-Sep Idaho 112 36-24 W 61% 6.8 95%
27-Sep Eastern Illinois N/A 34-19 W 61% 6.8 98%
4-Oct at Central Michigan 85 10-28 L 8% -32.7 0%
11-Oct Bowling Green 98 13-31 L 4% -41.7 0%
18-Oct Akron 105 23-20 W 57% 3.9 72%
25-Oct at Western Michigan 56 21-42 L 10% -29.7 0%
5-Nov Buffalo 114 37-14 W 92% 32.1 100%
18-Nov Northern Illinois 69 14-21 L 16% -23.5 1%
25-Nov at Miami (Ohio) 103 24-21 W 35% -8.7 57%

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 21.5 106 31.0 88
Points Per Game 20.5 114 24.8 41

2. Athens, sweet Athens

In last week's UMass preview, I talked about home-road splits. For Eastern Michigan, the difference in average percentile performance between home and road games was 15 percent (23 percent at home, eight on the road). For Buffalo, it was 16 percent (32 and 16, respectively). For Monday previewee Kent State, it was 18 percent (42 and 24). For UMass, it was seven percent (25 and 18).

Ohio was either a much better home team or the Bobcats were a much worse road team.

  • Average Percentile Performance (home): 49% (record: 4-2)
  • Average Percentile Performance (away): 19% (record: 2-4)

At home, Ohio nearly tripled Buffalo's yardage and outgained conference champion NIU in a tight loss. On the road, the Bobcats saw their yardage nearly tripled by Central Michigan and allowed a combined 1,107 yards to Kentucky and Marshall. Granted, there were outliers -- the BGSU game in Athens was a festival of missed opportunities (two lost fumbles, a missed field goal, four turnovers on downs in BGSU territory), and the end-of-year trip to Miami (Ohio) resulted in a solid win over a decent Redhawks squad. But Ohio's four best performances all came at home while three of the four worst came on the road.

To an extent, this is to be expected of a young team. Experienced squads are less susceptible to outside circumstances. But Ohio will in no way be a young team, so we'll find out whether this was a good home team or a bad road one. Expect the range of home-road splits to shrink, for better or worse.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.76 107 IsoPPP+ 77.4 117
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 38.7% 97 Succ. Rt. + 91.5 103
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 28.3 36 Def. FP+ 103.0 33
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.4 116 Redzone S&P+ 83.8 116
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 24.7 ACTUAL 23 -1.7
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 94 115 100 117
RUSHING 61 97 84 105
PASSING 83 119 114 118
Standard Downs 117 111 114
Passing Downs 104 74 107
Q1 Rk 104 1st Down Rk 83
Q2 Rk 120 2nd Down Rk 91
Q3 Rk 117 3rd Down Rk 113
Q4 Rk 68

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
JD Sprague 6'1, 200 Jr. NR NR 98 202 1236 3 5 48.5% 11 5.2% 5.4
Derrius Vick 6'1, 196 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000 94 160 1156 8 4 58.8% 11 6.4% 6.3
Greg Windham 6'1, 214 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8069 10 13 82 0 0 76.9% 1 7.1% 5.8
Joey Duckworth 6'3, 215 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8432







3. So many quarterbacks, no quarterbacks

Derrius Vick looked great against Kent State and terrible against Kentucky, missed some time with injury, and looked bad against Buffalo and good against Miami. JD Sprague looked great against Idaho and terrible against CMU, then threw inefficiently but ran well against Akron. The two combined to complete 53 percent of their passes and average more than 6.5 yards per carry while fumbling too many times. And in the end, neither really separated himself.

Both Vick and Sprague are efficient runners and iffy passers, though Vick appears to have been less mistake-prone: he had fewer fumbles (even while taking a slightly higher percentage of sacks) and a similar interception rate but completed 10 percent more of his passes. Sprague was a little better at producing big plays, but it did come with a cost. When Vick was healthy, he seemed to be the preferred guy, but he didn't have the longest leash in the world.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the quarterback race is that it might not feature two players. Joey Duckworth  redshirted but easily has the best recruiting profile of the three. And hell, last year's third-stringer Greg Windham didn't look bad in garbage time against Bowling Green. (Meanwhile, Minnesota transfer Conner Krizancic will join a year from now.)

There is potential, but quarterback was an overall weakness, and we don't know that will change.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
A.J. Ouellette RB 5'10, 195 So. NR NR 160 785 7 4.9 7.1 26.3% 1 0
Daz'mond Patterson RB 5'7, 177 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7792 86 348 1 4.0 4.1 31.4% 6 4
Derrius Vick QB 6'1, 196 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000 71 463 1 6.5 3.9 60.6% 2 1
JD Sprague QB 6'1, 200 Jr. NR NR 54 360 3 6.7 4.4 59.3% 4 1
Dorian Brown RB 5'11, 196 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7893 22 53 2 2.4 1.6 27.3% 4 3
Tim Edmond RB
20 67 2 3.4 2.4 45.0% 2 2
Robbie Walker WR 5'9, 180 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8126 10 44 0 4.4 1.5 50.0% 1 1
Papi White WR 5'9, 166 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7333 6 23 0 3.8 1.1 50.0% 0 0
Greg Windham QB 6'1, 214 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8069 5 21 0 4.2 2.4 40.0% 1 1
Maleek Irons RB 6'0, 211 RSFr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000







4. Hold onto the damn ball

The fact that Ohio leaned on a true freshman walk-on running back for stability tells you about both the freshman himself and the instability around him. While Daz'mond Patterson and Dorian Brown combined for 10 fumbles in just 108 carries (Brown had a remarkable four in 22) and the quarterbacks pitched in another six, A.J. Ouellette came out of nowhere to lead the run game.

The quarterbacks provided efficiency, and while Ouellette's 26 percent Opportunity Rate (carries that gain at least five yards) was abysmal, he took advantage of the opportunities he did get. He rushed 72 times for 378 yards and three scores over the final three games, and more importantly, he held onto the ball. He was also a steady check-down option for a pair of quarterbacks who needed one, catching nearly every pass thrown his way (and not getting particularly far).

Ouellette isn't an All-America-caliber runner, and his efficiency numbers will need to improve if he is to threaten all-conference, but he was a pleasant surprise. And if Patterson and Brown can hold onto the ball, the three could combine with two mobile quarterbacks to field an even more efficient attack. The line returns nine players with starting experience (100 career starts) and plenty of size, and while the quarterbacks were the only reason for last year's solid efficiency numbers, the pure number of options here is exciting.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Sebastian Smith WR-X 6'3, 183 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8512 54 31 385 57.4% 15.1% 66.7% 7.1 2 6.7 36.2
Chase Cochran WR-Z
50 21 443 42.0% 14.0% 76.0% 8.9 164 9.9 41.6
Landon Smith WR-F
47 25 229 53.2% 13.1% 61.7% 4.9 -85 5.0 21.5
Jordan Reid WR-Z 6'3, 198 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7100 42 24 326 57.1% 11.7% 45.2% 7.8 29 7.6 30.6
Troy Mangen TE 6'5, 252 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7300 32 19 147 59.4% 8.9% 62.5% 4.6 -86 4.6 13.8
Brendan Cope WR-X 6'2, 189 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7000 29 17 303 58.6% 8.1% 62.1% 10.4 94 10.0 28.5
A.J. Ouellette RB 5'10, 195 So. NR NR 25 21 133 84.0% 7.0% 60.0% 5.3 -110 5.5 12.5
Daz'mond Patterson RB 5'7, 177 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7792 23 12 116 52.2% 6.4% 30.4% 5.0 -35 6.4 10.9
Aaron Bradley WR-F
16 10 123 62.5% 4.5% 68.8% 7.7 1 7.7 11.6
Robbie Walker WR 5'9, 180 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8126 13 6 76 46.2% 3.6% 69.2% 5.8 -2 5.3 7.1
Herman Brunis WR 6'0, 170 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7433 11 5 57 45.5% 3.1% 54.5% 5.2 -8 5.4 5.4
Ian Dixon WR 5'7, 167 Sr. NR NR 5 5 100 100.0% 1.4% 80.0% 20.0 44 18.3 9.4
Kawmae Sawyer WR 6'0, 192 Sr. NR NR 4 2 18 50.0% 1.1% 50.0% 4.5 -7 4.2 1.7
Dorian Brown RB 5'11, 196 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7893 3 2 9 66.7% 0.8% 100.0% 3.0 -15 N/A 0.8
Mason Morgan TE 6'6, 259 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7926
Brennan Boland TE 6'5, 255 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7611
Connor Brown TE 6'6, 245 RSFr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7983
Elijah Ball WR 6'1, 185 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8330

5. One more big-play guy

Longtime contributor Chase Cochran had a confusing senior season; after catching 59 passes and averaging more than 18 yards per catch in his career, Cochran one-upped himself by averaging 21.1 in 2014. He also caught more than two passes in a game only twice and topped 80 receiving yards in a game once (four for 110 against WMU). His opportunity to become a go-to threat went by the wayside as he caught only 42 percent of the passes thrown his way.

Cochran's performance didn't help (and wasn't helped by) the quarterbacks' inconsistency, but it did open the door for other potential targets. Sebastian Smith had a decent year, while Jordan Reid (six catches, 84 yards against BGSU) and Brendan Cope (10 for 186 in the first four games) had their moments.

If everybody undergoes typical year-to-year improvement, that could make for an interesting receiving corps, especially ifquarterback also sees a marginal upgrade. But in Cochran, Ohio does lose an interesting deep threat, someone who distracted safeties even if he didn't make a ton of plays. Smith, Reed, and Cope all have solid size and decent speed, as does incoming star recruit Elijah Ball; can the Bobcats stretch the field?

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 103.1 2.99 3.62 39.1% 64.1% 17.4% 105.8 2.3% 8.9%
Rank 61 58 37 68 91 38 57 14 86
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Career Starts Honors/Notes
Lucas Powell C 6'3, 296 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7000 24
Mike Lucas LG 6'4, 313 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7000 23
Mike McQueen LT 6'6, 287 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 19
Troy Watson RT 6'6, 293 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7768 16
Jake Pruehs RG 6'2, 285 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7583 11
Durrell Wood RG 6'2, 306 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7200 3
Nick Gibbons RG 6'5, 303 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7833 2
Jared McCray RT 6'5, 320 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8395 1
Joe Lowery LT 6'6, 290 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8217 1
Zach Adams LG 6'4, 272 So. NR NR 0
Bubba Williams C
0
Zack Murdock OL 6'6, 267 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8100 0
Josh Cooper OL 6'2, 309 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) N/A
Joe Anderson OL 6'6, 320 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7200
Marques Grimes OL 6'5, 319 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7633

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.81 41 IsoPPP+ 102.1 59
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 42.3% 80 Succ. Rt. + 95.6 86
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 29.1 92 Off. FP+ 97.0 99
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.6 83 Redzone S&P+ 96.7 76
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 19.9 ACTUAL 19.0 -0.9
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 61 71 90 59
RUSHING 25 55 94 18
PASSING 107 95 81 97
Standard Downs 60 94 41
Passing Downs 96 79 96
Q1 Rk 93 1st Down Rk 55
Q2 Rk 50 2nd Down Rk 31
Q3 Rk 67 3rd Down Rk 47
Q4 Rk 45

6. The second level didn't exist

"Bend-don't-break" is often an insult, but it can be the mantra of an effective defense if you indeed limit big-play opportunities and force your opponent to work down the field four to six yards at a time. At some point, a college offense is going to make a mistake, and if you take advantage, you keep points off of the scoreboard even while allowing yards.

Ohio was severely in the bend-don't-break column on defense, and it often worked. The Bobcats were reasonably effective in the red zone and closed out drives on passing downs. They also eradicated big plays on the ground, allowing only 50 rushes of 10-plus yards (18th in the country), 11 of 20-plus (16th), and two of 40-plus. Combined with some aggressiveness at cornerback (Devin Bass and Ian Wells combined for 20 passes defensed), you've got the framework for a solid defense.

The Bobcats still needed work in the efficiency department. And for the aggressive plays that Bass and Wells made, they also suffered breakdowns. Avoiding big plays on the ground is great, but the Bobcats need shoring up in most other areas. We'll see how easy that is to do with a unit that is experienced everywhere but defensive tackle.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 94.8 2.85 3.45 38.1% 70.0% 18.2% 93.7 4.4% 7.4%
Rank 88 56 76 54 82 85 79 71 64
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Cameron McLeod DT
12 25.5 4.0% 2.0 2.0 0 1 0 0
Antwan Crutcher NG
12 23.0 3.6% 1.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Tarell Basham DE 6'4, 250 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000 12 21.5 3.3% 5.5 4.0 0 2 1 0
Kurt Laseak DE 6'4, 236 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7896 12 15.5 2.4% 4.0 3.0 0 0 0 0
Kendric Smith DE
12 15.5 2.4% 3.0 1.5 0 1 0 1
Watson Tautuiaki NG 6'2, 304 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) N/A 12 14.5 2.3% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Casey Sayles DE 6'3, 268 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7793 12 13.0 2.0% 2.0 0.5 0 0 0 0
Brandon Purdum DT 6'3, 270 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7000 10 11.5 1.8% 0.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Tony Davis NG
10 4.0 0.6% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Trent Smart DE 6'3, 249 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7400 7 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Tony Porter DT 6'1, 289 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7800
Kent Berger DE 6'4, 249 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7633
Kyle Kuhar DT 6'5, 275 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7726
Keith Key DE 6'3, 221 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7400







Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Quentin Poling MLB 6'0, 219 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7600 12 72.0 11.2% 7.5 5.0 3 3 0 0
Jovon Johnson SLB 6'0, 215 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 12 54.5 8.5% 10.5 3.5 2 6 1 1
Blair Brown WLB 6'0, 230 Jr. NR NR 11 42.0 6.5% 4.0 1.0 0 2 1 0
Chad Moore WLB 6'0, 193 So. NR NR 12 21.5 3.3% 2.0 0.5 0 2 0 0
Travis Daugherty SLB 6'1, 202 So. NR NR 9 14.0 2.2% 1.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Cody Grilliot MLB 6'0, 214 So. NR NR 12 14.0 2.2% 2.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Leon Alexander SLB 6'2, 192 So. NR 0.7733 8 4.0 0.6% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Josh Makuch MLB
4 3.5 0.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
William Johnson LB
3 3.0 0.5% 2.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
London Cloud LB 5'11, 233 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8058








Clayton Glasco LB 6'0, 225 Fr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8124








7. The tackles need to hold up

Ohio's front wasn't spectacular, but it was deep and healthy. Eight linemen averaged at least one tackle per game, and seven played in all 12 contests. This unit didn't make a lot of plays -- Tarell Basham and Kurt Laseak were solid pass rushers, but these top eight linemen made only 7.5 non-sack tackles for loss -- but they kept blockers off of a strong linebacking corps.

Last year's depth could pay off. Basham and Laseak are back, but both starting tackles are gone. Seniors Watson Tautuiaki and Brandon Purdum did see plenty of rotation time, but if either struggles or gets hurt, defensive coordinator Jimmy Burrow might have to dip into a well of freshmen and redshirt freshmen. And if the tackles struggle, everybody behind them could, too.

But if linebackers Quentin Poling and Jovon Johnson have room to operate, they proved they could do nasty things. The two not only combined for nearly 20 percent of Ohio's tackles but also made plenty of disruptive plays: 18 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, 14 passes defensed. I mentioned on Monday that Kent State might have the MAC's best linebackers, but Ohio's could have plenty to say about that. But they have to get help up front.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Devin Bass CB 5'9, 190 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 11 38.0 5.9% 0 0 1 7 1 0
Ian Wells CB 5'11, 202 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000 11 37.0 5.7% 4 1 0 12 1 1
Thad Ingol SS
11 35.5 5.5% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Nathan Carpenter (2013) S 5'9, 200 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7903 13 34.5 4.6% 1 0 0 3 1 0
Toran Davis S 6'0, 206 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 12 30.5 4.7% 1.5 0 1 1 1 0
Josh Kristoff FS
10 28.5 4.4% 0 0 2 3 0 0
Devin Jones FS 6'1, 202 Sr. NR N/A 8 26.0 4.0% 0.5 0 0 4 0 0
Kylan Nelson CB 5'10, 180 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 10 13.0 2.0% 0 0 0 0 0 1
Brett Layton CB 5'11, 180 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000 6 12.0 1.9% 1.5 1 2 3 0 0
Aaron Macer S 6'0, 192 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000 9 9.5 1.5% 1 0 0 1 0 0
Mike Terpin CB 5'10, 165 Sr. NR N/A 11 3.0 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Curtis Brunson CB 5'10, 160 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7817 5 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Blake Scipio SS 5'11, 187 Jr. NR N/A 5 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Deontai Williams S 6'1, 185 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8666








Jeff Christian CB 5'10, 165 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8494








Maxwell Howell CB 6'1, 188 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8020








Javon Hagan S 6'0, 207 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8004








Mayne Williams S 5'11, 175 Fr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8028








8. Tons of candidates, few guarantees

The safety positions were in almost as much flux as the quarterback position. Josh Kristoff, 2013's leading safety tackler, missed two games and saw his tackles total nearly cut in half. Nathan Carpenter, the third-leading returning tackler, missed the season with injury and was granted a sixth year of eligibility. Toran Davis moved from bit player to regular. Devin Bass and Ian Wells missed enough time to give Kylan Nelson and Brett Layton a decent number of reps.

The result: lots of contributors ... and bad pass defense numbers (95th in Passing S&P+). Given the option between running and passing on Ohio, opponents frequently chose the pass.

Kristoff and starter Thad Ingol are gone, but the seven other DBs to log at least 9.5 tackles return. Plus, Frank Solich signed what is honestly a spectacular class of defensive backs -- five signees were given three-star designations by the 247Sports Composite, and two in particular (Deontai Williams and Jeff Christian) were among the best MAC signees of February.

Ohio has experience, young athleticism, and a crazy number of options. But somebody will still have to step up to both make plays and prevent them.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Mitch Bonnstetter 5'11, 187 Sr. 63 41.8 3 14 18 50.8%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Josiah Yazdani 5'10, 216 Sr. 53 60.5 18 2 34.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Josiah Yazdani 5'10, 216 Sr. 27-27 13-16 81.3% 4-10 40.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Daz'mond Patterson KR 5'7, 177 Sr. 24 21.9 0
Devin Bass KR 5'9, 190 Sr. 5 21.0 0
Daz'mond Patterson PR 5'7, 177 Sr. 15 9.1 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 95
Field Goal Efficiency 103
Punt Return Efficiency 112
Kick Return Efficiency 64
Punt Efficiency 32
Kickoff Efficiency 73
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 24

9. Punting is not a problem

According to Brian Fremeau's numbers, Ohio's special teams ranked 41st or better in overall efficiency from 2009-13. It ... did not in 2014.

There were no extreme weaknesses (though Daz Patterson was all-or-nothing on punt returns), but there was also only one particular strength: Mitch Bonnstetter's punting. Despite iffy offensive efficiency, Ohio was able to create decent field position for its defense because of Bonstetter and a pretty good coverage unit. That all the primary players from this unit return isn't automatically a good thing, but getting Bonnstetter back is.

2015 Schedule & Projection Factors

2015 Schedule
Date Opponent 2014 F/+ Rk
3-Sep at Idaho 112
12-Sep Marshall 17
19-Sep SE Louisiana NR
26-Sep at Minnesota 37
3-Oct at Akron 105
10-Oct Miami (Ohio) 103
17-Oct Western Michigan 56
24-Oct at Buffalo 114
4-Nov at Bowling Green 98
10-Nov Kent State 107
17-Nov Ball State 91
24-Nov at Northern Illinois 69
Five-Year F/+ Rk -17.3% (94)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 112 / 107
2014 TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -4 / -4.8
2014 TO Luck/Game +0.3
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 17 (9, 8)
2014 Second-order wins (difference) 4.7 (1.3)

10. Won't be four straight

Regressing for three consecutive years is never a good thing, but after a couple of disappointing seasons, there was a purpose to 2014's step backwards. If you're going to regress, you want it to happen while young players are getting their feet underneath them.

Frank Solich has options, and while there is still plenty of uncertainty at quarterback, receiver, defensive tackle, and safety, he has enough playmakers at his disposal to do some damage. I would be surprised if Ohio took a fourth step backwards. And if the Bobcats can rebound just to the No. 90-100 range, they could find plenty of wins, as eight of 12 opponents ranked 91st or worse in F/+ last year.

Ohio has been bowl eligible for six consecutive years and eight of nine, and while the Bobcats will need to perform a bit better on the road -- the October 3 trip to Akron looms especially large -- Solich's track record is strong enough for me to take a leap of faith.