Updated Sun, Aug 11, 2013 10:23 am
If there’s one thing to note about the Ohio football team, it’s that no amount of attrition will derail them from the bigger goals at hand. The team proved it last season when it battled through injuries to win a second-consecutive bowl game, and head coach Frank Solich reiterated that tone Saturday at the team’s annual Football Media Day.
Ten starters from 2012 are gone, leaving numerous holes throughout the offensive, defensive and special teams units. But Solich says the team has goals it wants to acomplish in 2013, and nothing will derail their focus from them.
“We lost certainly some very key players, some outstanding players. But, we’ve got a lot of outstanding players coming back,” Solich said. But he’s not letting the holes impact his view on what this team can achieve. “I think we have an opportunity to be an explosive football team on the offensive side of it. We do have playmakers.”
The biggest question mark on the offense is the line, where Ohio is attempting to replace all three interior lineman from a season ago. But Solich says that area isn’t actually a concern for the team, thanks to having a roster full of experienced linemen that have been waiting in the wings. There’s also cause for worry at the tight end position where the team is dealing with the loss of three top performers from a season ago. Redshirt senior Troy Hill is the only returning tight end with significant experience. The team did get Anthony Talbert, a graduate student transfer from North Carolina State.
Defensively, the ‘Cats were ravaged by injuries a season ago, which has actually led to a wealth of experience in the secondary. Solich noted the benefit of getting both Travis Carrie and Jamil Shaw back from injuries that kept them out of action in 2012, along with having all three of their replacements from last season as well. But the defensive line, where Ohio is trying to replace four of the main contributors from last year, is still a big area of concern for the team.
“They’re going to end up being a good group,” he said about the lineman competing for spots in the eight-man rotation the team plans on going with in 2013. “The only problem is they’ve got to end up being a good group right away…If we get manhandled up front, then obviously you’re not going to be in the ball game. Some of those guys are going to have to grow up quickly on the defensive front.”
By far the most interesting area of focus for the Bobcats this fall comes on special teams, where Solich and his staff are attempting to replace Ohio’s and the Mid-American Conference’s all-time leading scorer in former four-year starter Matt Weller. The coach said there’s a wide-open battle currently ongoing between redshirt sophomores Josiah Yazdani and Matt Green, and redshirt freshman Matt Amicone. But he didn’t offer any more insight into where the competition currently stands.
Of course the day wasn’t complete without mention of Ohio’s season opener against No. 9 Louisville, on the road on Sept. 1. With less than a month to prepare for the nationally televised game, naturally a lot of the focus has been aimed at taking on the Cardinals in Week 1. Solich says it’s been a challenge to balance the focus on one game, with remaining focused on the season at large.
“I’m a guy that believes every game is important. How do you approach one game like that and say, ‘It’s huge, it’s so important that we’ve got to get it done'? Then if we don’t get it done what does that mean to your guys for the rest of the season?” said Solich.
But the veteran coach, who spent nearly a quarter of a century coaching in big games during his time at the University of Nebraska, said he’s confident his team can remain focused and get the job done, even with the looming positional battles, and pressure from a huge opening week matchup. The team has a motto for its upcoming season: Be relentless and finish with no regrets.
“I like our football team. We will battle anybody that’s on the field, and we expect to win when we take the field. And that’s against anybody. It’s obviously the first game of the year, they’re a Top-10 ranked team, so it’s obviously a big game, there’s no way to get around that. Our guys have responded well to big games before,” he added.