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At 71 years old, Frank Solich should have Ohio contending in the MAC again

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"Reaching bowl eligibility during a youth movement was a sign of things to come, and Ohio began another ascent last season." This is Bill C's daily preview series, working its way through every 2016 team. Stay tuned!

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here. Below, a unique review of last year's team, a unit-by-unit breakdown of this year's roster, the full 2016 schedule with win projections for each game, and more.

1. An emphatic end to a slide

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, he has enough playmakers to do some damage. I would be surprised if Ohio took a fourth step backwards.

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, Solich's track record is strong enough for me to take a leap of faith.

-- 2015 Ohio guide

Leap of faith: rewarded.

Granted, a midseason funk made sure that they didn't compete for the MAC East title. And granted, eight wins doesn't represent a full bounce back to the nine per year they averaged between 2009-12.

But Solich's Bobcats found themselves again in 2015. After going 15-15 over a 30-game span, going 8-5 was a clear step forward.

That Ohio was going 6-6 at the end of a three-year slide was, in a roundabout way, confirmation of Solich's status as one of Ohio's two best head coaches ever (alongside Bill Hess). This program averaged three wins per season under Brian Knorr (2001-04). Averaging five and a half wins per year in Athens got Jim Grobe promoted to the Wake Forest job. The Bobcats had gone 38 years between bowls before Solich got them to the GMAC Bowl in 2006, and they had never won one before his 2011 Potato Bowl triumph over Utah State. (They won a second in 2012.)

From their 10-4 peak in 2011, the Bobcats fell to 9-4, then 7-6, then 6-6. But reaching bowl eligibility during a youth movement was a sign of things to come, and Ohio began another ascent last season.

Ohio must replace its leading passer, No. 2 rusher, three starting offensive linemen, and (most alarmingly) most of its secondary. But the Bobcats should still have enough to sustain last year's gains, and they might be the only MAC East team outside of Bowling Green capable of making a division title run.

Now 71, Solich has pulled off one of the more remarkable career second acts. He was groomed to become one thing -- Nebraska head coach -- and did so. The former all-conference Husker fullback (and SI cover boy) coached in Nebraska high schools for 13 years, then served as a Tom Osborne assistant for another 19. He took over for Osborne at NU in 1998 and won 58 games in six years. But the school replaced him with Bill Callahan nonetheless.

After a year off, he took the Ohio job at age 60. And in a conference full of young coaches, he has become the dean. There is one box left to check -- win the MAC -- and there's nothing saying he'll pull it off. But he resurrected both a career and a football program, and he's not done yet.

2015 Schedule & Results

Record: 8-5 | Adj. Record: 8-5 | Final F/+ Rk: 69 | Final S&P+ Rk: 66
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Win
Expectancy
vs. S&P+ Performance
vs. Vegas
3-Sep at Idaho 114 45-28 W 78% 99% +12.7 +10.0
12-Sep Marshall 58 21-10 W 84% 92% +23.7 +14.5
19-Sep SE Louisiana N/A 35-14 W 74% 99% +4.8
26-Sep at Minnesota 55 24-27 L 40% 35% +13.3 +7.5
3-Oct at Akron 84 14-12 W 61% 65% -3.3 -1.0
10-Oct Miami-OH 113 34-3 W 86% 100% +9.7 +15.0
17-Oct Western Michigan 51 14-49 L 6% 0% -53.0 -39.5
24-Oct at Buffalo 98 17-41 L 15% 4% -33.5 -27.0
4-Nov at Bowling Green 25 24-62 L 11% 0% -23.8 -17.5
10-Nov Kent State 109 27-0 W 88% 100% +12.5 +20.0
17-Nov Ball State 110 48-31 W 66% 95% -1.3 +8.0
24-Nov at Northern Illinois 66 26-21 W 54% 59% +12.5 +16.0
19-Dec vs. Appalachian State 42 29-31 L 38% 10% +4.5 +5.5

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 28.4 72 26.8 56
Points Per Game 27.5 74 25.3 46

2. An ill-timed funk

On paper, the 2015 Bobcats were Solich's best Ohio team yet. They ranked 66th in S&P+, better than the 2006 team that went 9-5 (75th), the 2009 team that went 9-5 (75th), or the 2011 team that went 10-4 (82nd).

For about three-quarters of the season, though, Ohio was even better than that.

  • Average Percentile Performance (first 6 games): 71% (~top 40) | Record: 5-1
  • Average Percentile Performance (next 3 games): 11% (~top 115) | Record: 0-3
  • Average Percentile Performance (last 4 games): 62% (~top 50) | Record: 3-1

Ohio plowed through four opponents (including Marshall) and split a pair of road tossups during a 5-1 start, finished the regular season with three wins (including one over six-time defending West champion NIU), and, in the Camellia Bowl, nearly took down a solid Appalachian State despite not playing all that well. That's a strong 8-2 right there.

Sandwiched among these results, however, was a three-game funk in which both sides of the ball fell apart. Western Michigan rendered the Bobcats' offense one-dimensional, then turned a tight game into a 49-14 laugher in the third quarter. Buffalo built a three-touchdown lead in the first half thanks to two pick-sixes, then cruised. Then, in a role reversal, the defense got torched by Bowling Green for big play after big play, and the offense couldn't keep up.

There was no single cause, no single injury that triggered it (though the defense was getting thinned out in a hurry).

Similarly, there was no specific reason for the turnaround. Ohio just played better on both sides of the ball.

Losing to Bowling Green ended any hopes for a division title, but the turnaround was encouraging. At 5-4, losers of three straight, the Bobcats could have crumbled. Instead, they rallied to 8-4.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.24 75 IsoPPP+ 100.2 65
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 40.1% 86 Succ. Rt. + 94.9 92
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 26.9 11 Def. FP+ 27.9 32
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 4.2 92 Redzone S&P+ 97.3 87
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 19.0 ACTUAL 17 -2.0
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 56 77 92 65
RUSHING 50 93 97 86
PASSING 56 63 81 52
Standard Downs 81 85 74
Passing Downs 70 103 56
Q1 Rk 82 1st Down Rk 68
Q2 Rk 66 2nd Down Rk 62
Q3 Rk 108 3rd Down Rk 85
Q4 Rk 20

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Derrius Vick 158 247 1809 10 6 64.0% 21 7.8% 6.2
JD Sprague 6'1, 196 Sr. NR NR 63 114 912 7 3 55.3% 6 5.0% 7.3
Greg Windham 6'1, 215 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8069 19 40 298 1 4 47.5% 1 2.4% 7.2
Joey Duckworth 6'3, 209 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8432
Conner Krizancic 6'2, 195 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8029
Quinton Maxwell 6'3, 223 RSFr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7533

3. Finally, it's JD's job (probably)

Ohio quarterbacks get hit a lot. Solich likes the added threat and upside a mobile QB can deliver, and the downside is that mobile QBs get hit and are more likely to take sacks in the pocket (or while escaping the pocket). The result: injuries.

Both Derrius Vick and JD Sprague got hurt and missed time in 2015, which resulted in a decent amount of instability. With Vick gone, the job likely falls to Sprague, who is both an efficient runner and dangerous downfield passer. But it's almost an assumption that Sprague will get hurt at some point, and what happens if/when he does will be interesting.

The race for the backup QB job already began this spring. With Sprague out due to offseason surgery, Greg Windham took the snaps with the first team. Windham was particularly extreme last year, rushing for at least five yards on 54 percent of his carries (like Sprague) and averaging nearly 16 yards per completion, but completing just 48 percent of his passes and managing four picks in just 40 throws. The No. 2 job is Windham's to lose, but he will have to continue fending off two three-star sophomores Joey Duckworth and Minnesota transfer Conner Krizancic and redshirt freshman Quinton Maxwell.

With Sprague in charge, Ohio's offense is a little inefficient but explosive. But how frequently he's in charge, and how well Windham and/or others play, will determine the Bobcats' upside.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
A.J. Ouellette RB 5'10, 202 Jr. NR NR 151 687 6 4.5 2.7 39.1% 0 0
Daz'mond Patterson RB 106 497 9 4.7 4.6 34.0% 2 1
Derrius Vick QB 72 315 1 4.4 4.7 34.7% 3 1
JD Sprague QB 6'1, 196 Sr. NR NR 46 261 0 5.7 3.2 54.3% 2 0
Dorian Brown RB 5'11, 207 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7893 40 204 0 5.1 5.9 35.0% 0 0
Maleek Irons RB 6'0, 224 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 32 194 4 6.1 5.9 40.6% 0 0
Papi White RB 5'9, 171 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7333 31 171 2 5.5 6.6 45.2% 1 1
Greg Windham QB 6'1, 215 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8069 26 118 0 4.5 2.1 53.8% 0 0
Bo Hardy RB 5 69 0 13.8 10.1 80.0% 0 0
C.J. Hilliard
(Iowa)
RB 5'10, 202 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8488







Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
Yds/
Target
%SD Success
Rate
IsoPPP
Sebastian Smith WR-X 6'3, 206 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8512 100 64 770 64.0% 26.1% 7.7 49.0% 50.0% 1.40
Jordan Reid WR-F 6'3, 209 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7100 67 45 625 67.2% 17.5% 9.3 62.7% 52.2% 1.69
Brendan Cope WR-Z 6'2, 195 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7000 55 30 510 54.5% 14.4% 9.3 65.5% 41.8% 2.05
Keith Heitzman TE 39 22 288 56.4% 10.2% 7.4 56.4% 33.3% 2.10
Troy Mangen
(2014)
TE 6'5, 258 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7300 32 19 147 57.1% 11.7% 7.8 45.2% N/A N/A
Papi White RB 5'9, 171 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7333 27 21 323 77.8% 7.0% 12.0 70.4% 51.9% 2.00
Daz'mond Patterson RB 23 18 68 78.3% 6.0% 3.0 47.8% 26.1% 0.99
A.J. Ouellette RB 5'10, 202 Jr. NR NR 16 12 74 75.0% 4.2% 4.6 43.8% 25.0% 1.77
Robbie Walker WR-Z
14 8 69 57.1% 3.7% 4.9 50.0% 35.7% 1.28
Herman Brunis WR
11 7 69 63.6% 2.9% 6.3 72.7% 63.6% 0.84
Kawmae Sawyer WR 10 5 83 50.0% 2.6% 8.3 50.0% 40.0% 1.98
Jerrid Marhefka WR-F 5'11, 191 Jr. NR NR 5 2 78 40.0% 1.3% 15.6 60.0% 40.0% 3.70
Mason Morgan TE 6'6, 252 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7926 2 0 0 0.0% 0.5% 0.0 100.0% 0.0% 0.00
Connor Brown TE 6'6, 256 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7983
Elijah Ball WR 6'1, 197 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8330
Keevon Harris WR 6'3, 200 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8395
Cameron Odom WR 6'1, 171 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8180
Austin Conrad TE 6'2, 228 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7824

4. Finally, some big plays

Explosiveness was a major issue for Ohio in 2014; the Bobcats managed just 50 gains of 20-plus yards, 93rd in the country, and it meant they had to go eight to 10 error-free plays at a time to score points. They couldn't do that and ranked just 106th in Off. S&P+ because of it.

Despite turnover at the QB position, however, the big plays streamed in pretty well last fall. Though their 20-yarders improved to just 58 in total, a) 58 > 50, and b) the pass became a much more dangerous weapon. Ohio completed eight more passes of 30-plus yards, mostly because of Sprague and Windham. Think about what that can do for an offense -- a 30-yard pass either creates a score or a scoring opportunity, and Ohio's passing game created eight more of those in 2015 than 2014 (granted, with one extra game).

The reasons for most of last year's big plays are back. Go-to running back A.J. Ouellette is the opposite of explosive, but junior Dorian Brown and sophomores Maleek Irons and Papi White all flashed some potential in the open field, and at least one of them will end up with more carries. Plus, former Iowa back C.J. Hilliard is eligible. This is a deep, athletic backfield.

Meanwhile, the breakout stars from last year's receiving corps are back. Sebastian Smith, Jordan Reid, and Brendan Cope are all at least 6'2, 195, and they combined to average 13.7 yards per catch last year. The level of experience falls off the table after those three, but the potential is obvious among the starting 11.

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 103.5 3 3.6 40.0% 76.9% 16.4% 84.8 8.1% 4.7%
Rank 54 47 30 52 8 20 87 115 17
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. 2015 Starts Career Starts Honors/Notes
Mike Lucas LG 13 36
Lucas Powell C 12 36
Mike McQueen LT 13 32
Troy Watson RT 6'6, 293 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7768 13 29
Durrell Wood RG 6'2, 313 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7200 9 12
Jake Pruehs C 6'2, 300 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7583 0 11
Josh Cooper RG 6'2, 313 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) NR 3 3
Nick Gibbons LG 6'5, 309 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7833 1 3
Jared McCray LG 6'5, 330 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8395 1 2
Joe Lowery RT 6'6, 313 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8217 0 1
Austen Pleasants LT 6'7, 321 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7819 0 0
Zack Murdock OL 6'5, 296 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8100 0 0
Joe Anderson OL 6'6, 330 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7200 0 0
Marques Grimes OL 6'5, 325 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7633

Taeshon Trotter OL 6'5, 300 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8039

Felipe Fernandez OL 6'4, 309 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7903

5. Three starters gone, three starters back

Ohio's offense was excellent both in short-yardage situations and in keeping defenders out of the backfield. Part of that probably had to do with Ouellette's strengths -- he's probably not going to rip off many 60-yarders, but he falls forward nicely -- but combined with solid sack rates on passing downs (despite mobile QBs), it appears the line did its job in the most line-dependent situations.

That's good and bad for 2016. The bad news is that three of last year's starters are gone, taking with them 104 career starts. The good news is that, in a way, three starters are back, too. Two-year starting right tackle Troy Watson returns, as do junior guard Durrell Wood and 2014 starter Jake Pruehs. Combined with four other former spot starters, Ohio returns seven players with starting experience, all of whom are juniors and seniors. Juniors Jared McCray and Joe Lowery are former three-star recruits waiting for a shot; so is redshirt freshman Marques Grimes.

It appears coaching and pure talent are as important as experience when it comes to the offensive line, but no matter what's most important, Ohio seems to have all three.

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Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.31 91 IsoPPP+ 101.9 59
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 37.1% 23 Succ. Rt. + 109.4 37
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 30.6 49 Off. FP+ 29.3 83
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 4.7 89 Redzone S&P+ 95.0 85
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 23.3 ACTUAL 22.0 -1.3
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 49 47 37 59
RUSHING 65 66 25 97
PASSING 44 34 40 28
Standard Downs 43 22 58
Passing Downs 59 70 57
Q1 Rk 23 1st Down Rk 64
Q2 Rk 56 2nd Down Rk 86
Q3 Rk 80 3rd Down Rk 88
Q4 Rk 123

6. A little bit more aggression

Jimmy Burrow came to Athens with Solich in 2005 and never left. And in his 11th season as defensive coordinator, Burrow put together some of his best results. Ohio rebounded from 88th to 59th in Def. S&P+, its third-highest defensive ranking of the Solich era.

Recent Burrow defenses seemed predicated on the acknowledgement that Ohio only had so much talent. The Bobcats played a rather heavy bend-don't-break style, aiming to pounce on mistakes instead of forcing tons of three-and-outs. But in 2015, they got more aggressive. Either Burrow felt the need to switch things up, or he felt more confident in his personnel. Regardless, Ohio was both more efficient and more vulnerable to big plays, especially on the ground.

The Bobcats also faded -- they ranked 23rd in Q1 S&P+, 56th in Q2, 80th in Q3, and 123rd in Q4. That suggests depth issues, and this is backed up below. Eight linemen recorded at least five tackles last year, but only two played in all 13 games. Seven linebackers made at least 8.5 tackles, and two played in 13 games. Eleven defensive backs made at least five tackles, and three played in 13 games.

That's a lot of shuffling, and one can see how, even with solid gameplans, there might not have been enough chemistry (or simply healthy bodies) to sustain quality play for 60 minutes.

The front seven returns a lot of key players and adds Michigan transfer (and former four-star recruit) Tom Strobel to the mix. But the secondary has to replace seven of its top nine tacklers. Depth in the back might be even worse this year.

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 100.1 2.69 3.59 36.7% 66.7% 22.0% 114.7 4.3% 7.1%
Rank 61 36 103 48 69 40 40 93 71
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Kurt Laseak DE 6'4, 244 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7896 11 44.0 6.3% 7.0 3.5 0 0 1 0
Tarell Basham DE 6'4, 262 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000 12 31.5 4.5% 10.0 5.5 0 1 2 0
Brandon Purdum DE 11 18.5 2.7% 1.5 1.5 0 1 0 0
Casey Sayles DT 6'3, 288 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7793 13 17.5 2.5% 6.0 2.5 0 3 0 0
Trent Smart DE 6'3, 260 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7400 8 12.0 1.7% 1.5 1.0 0 0 0 0
Watson Tautuiaki NT 12 10.0 1.4% 3.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Tony Porter DT 6'1, 293 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7800 11 10.0 1.4% 0.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Cleon Aloese NT 6'0, 301 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7433 13 8.5 1.2% 0.5 0.0 0 0 1 0
Kevin Robbins DE 6'4, 246 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) NR 7 6.0 0.9% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Kent Berger DE 6'4, 269 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7633 7 3.5 0.5% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Tom Strobel (Michigan) DE 6'6, 268 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9249 2 3.0 0.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Kyle Kuhar DT 6'5, 292 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7726
Keith Key DE 6'3, 227 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7400








Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Quentin Poling MLB 6'0, 239 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7600 11 58.0 8.3% 10.5 4.0 4 2 2 0
Blair Brown WLB 6'0, 240 Sr. NR NR 11 51.0 7.3% 4.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Chad Moore WLB 6'0, 209 Jr. NR NR 11 43.5 6.3% 4.0 1.5 0 3 1 0
Jovon Johnson SLB 10 33.0 4.7% 5.5 1.5 3 2 1 1
Bryan DiCillo MLB
13 24.5 3.5% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Travis Daugherty SLB
13 18.0 2.6% 2.0 1.0 0 1 1 0
Marcus Collins LB 11 8.5 1.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Cody Grilliot LB 6'0, 234 Jr. NR NR 13 8.0 1.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Evan Croutch WLB 6'0, 222 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7600 13 6.0 0.9% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jared Dorsa LB 6'1, 215 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7891
Eric Popp LB 6'0, 206 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7790








7. LB depth an issue, too

The top three linebackers are back, including junior Quentin Poling, who had one hell of a 2015. Despite missing two games, he finished as the team leader in both tackles and tackles for loss -- a rare combination -- and defensed six passes to boot. Poling, Blair Brown, and Chad Moore assure quality experience atop the LB depth chart.

The next four names on the list are gone, however. That leaves junior Cody Grilliot, sophomore Evan Crouch, and ... others. Not sure who. Maybe freshmen.

Injuries could quickly wreck the linebacking corps, but at least the linebackers will have a deep front four working for them. Five of last year's top six ends and three of the top four tackles are back. Senior ends Kurt Laseak and Tarell Basham combined for 17 TFLs and nine sacks, and Casey Sayles proved both big enough to stand up to blocking and active enough to record six TFLs and break up three passes. The addition of Strobel is more bonus than necessity. This should be one of the MAC's better defensive lines, and the entire front seven could be awesome if the linebackers stay in one piece.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Devin Jones SS 13 51.0 7.3% 3 0 0 9 1 0
Toran Davis FS 6'0, 212 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 13 45.5 6.5% 0 0 0 2 1 0
Brett Layton CB 13 35.0 5.0% 0.5 0 0 10 0 0
Ian Wells CB 12 30.5 4.4% 1 0 2 9 0 0
Nathan Carpenter FS 8 25.0 3.6% 0.5 0 2 1 0 1
Devin Bass CB 7 22.0 3.2% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Langston Provitt CB 5'11, 181 So. NR NR 12 10.0 1.4% 0 0 1 1 1 0
Aaron Macer S 9 8.5 1.2% 1 0 0 2 0 0
Mike Terpin CB 9 6.5 0.9% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Bradd Ellis CB 5'10, 175 Jr. NR NR 8 5.5 0.8% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Grant Cunningham S 6'0, 201 Jr. NR NR 5 5.5 0.8% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Kylan Nelson S 5'10, 202 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 4 3.0 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Kevin Houchins
(Louisville)
S 5'11, 201 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8417
Jeff Mundy CB 5'10, 196 Sr. NR NR
Bo Hardy DB 5'10, 195 Sr. NR NR
Jalen Fox CB 5'11, 176 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7533
Maxwell Howell CB 6'1, 187 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8020
Javon Hagan S 6'0, 211 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8004
Mayne Williams S 5'11, 188 RSFr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8028
London Miller CB 5'11, 174 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7700
Tyler Tupa S 6'0, 194 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8080

8. A facelift in the back

It appears that experience at quarterback, receiver, and defensive back mean the most to a team's year-to-year fortunes, and while Ohio has plenty of it in the former categories, the latter is an issue. Last year's secondary was pretty exciting, with three players getting hands on at least nine passes and five taking part in at least one tackle for loss. But the only returnees from this bunch are senior safety Toran Davis and sophomore corner Langston Provitt.

Louisville transfer Kevin Houchins could make an immediate impact at either corner or safety, and it appears that both Jalen Fox and JUCO transfer London Miller were instrumental in spring ball. But this is a brand new unit.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Mitch Bonnstetter 70 38.7 4 29 24 75.7%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Josiah Yazdani 73 57.3 9 1 12.3%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Josiah Yazdani 44-44 11-13 366.7% 5-9 55.6%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Daz'mond Patterson KR 15 24.2 0
Devin Bass KR 7 18.3 0
Papi White PR 5'9, 171 So. 13 7.5 0
Daz'mond Patterson PR 5 6.4 0
Category Rk
Special Teams S&P+ 68
Field Goal Efficiency 54
Punt Return Success Rate 58
Kick Return Success Rate 72
Punt Success Rate 66
Kickoff Success Rate 87

9. Starting over in special teams

Special teams will also be a new unit in 2015. The Bobcats were basically decent in every special teams category last year, but only punt returner Papi White returns. Special teams is such a random, small-sample thing, and for all we know Ohio's new legs will be better than last year's. But going from known to unknown is always rather disquieting.

2016 Schedule & Projection Factors

2016 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk Proj. Margin Win Probability
3-Sep Texas State 120 12.4 76%
10-Sep at Kansas 112 3.8 59%
17-Sep at Tennessee 9 -25.6 7%
24-Sep Gardner-Webb NR 37.8 99%
1-Oct at Miami (Ohio) 107 2.1 55%
8-Oct Bowling Green 60 -5.0 39%
15-Oct Eastern Michigan 121 13.0 77%
22-Oct at Kent State 104 -0.1 50%
27-Oct at Toledo 58 -12.3 24%
3-Nov Buffalo 109 9.6 71%
15-Nov at Central Michigan 85 -6.0 37%
22-Nov Akron 97 4.8 61%
Projected wins: 6.5
Five-Year F/+ Rk -13.8% (89)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 119 / 111
2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* 5 / 4.3
2015 TO Luck/Game +0.3
Returning Production (Off. / Def.) 52% (64%, 40%)
2015 Second-order wins (difference) 7.6 (0.4)

10. Road warriors

Ohio is projected a conservative 95th in S&P+ this year. The reasons: The ratings don't tend to believe in one-year surges, Ohio's recruiting hasn't exactly been lights-out, and experience in the secondary is very important.

Projected even this low, the Bobcats are still given a solid chance of reaching a bowl. They can increase their odds even further if they can play well at home. They get Gardner-Webb (win probability: 99 percent), EMU (77), Texas State (76), and Buffalo (71) at home; Akron (61) and BGSU (39) also visit in relative tossups. Win out, and you're bowling no matter what.

But if this team is as good on the road as it was at times last fall, that's where the big wins could add up. Ohio is given between a 37 and 61 percent chance in six contests, and four are on the road.

I like this team, but the projections are a reminder that a second straight season of eight-plus wins is far from a given. Ohio played like a top-50 team for much of the season, but the Bobcats have work to do to prove that 2015 was the start of another Solich run and not a one-off. Solich has already proven so much in building and stabilizing this program, but 2016 will tell us about how much he's got left.