Updated Sun, Nov 17, 2013 4:07 pm
When the Bobcats started offseason camp, the offense looked to be in exceptional shape. Tyler Tettleton was returning for his final season at quarterback. Beau Blankenship was coming off a season in which his 1,604 rushing yards ranked ninth in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Troy Hill, Ohio’s most productive tight end, was returning and the offensive line, though filling in some big shoes, looked to be solid with four seniors. Arguably the position of most uncertainty was the receiving corps.
After the 2012 campaign, Ohio lost Tyler Futrell and Bakari Bussey to graduation. Gone were two seniors who combined for 60 receptions, 799 yards and two touchdowns. The ‘Cats had to replace two of their four most productive receivers.
Luckily for the Green and White, the other two to return were Donte Foster and Chase Cochran, two receivers that have been instrumental in leading a group of wideouts that have exceeded expectations in 2013.
“I feel like our guys have really stepped up to the challenge,” Foster said. “The numbers that the receiving corps has put up so far are outstanding. Not a lot of people were expecting that.”
In 2012 Foster lead the team in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. The senior is at it again this year, leading Ohio in all three categories so far with 53 grabs, 734 yards and six touchdowns. Behind Foster is Cochran with 30 catches, 614 yards and three trips to the end zone. Both wide receivers have already exceeded their yardage totals from last year. Just six games into the season, Cochran surpassed his 2012 number against Central Michigan. Two games later, Foster went off for 122 yards and three scores to surpass is yardage total from the previous season.
Coming into the game with 17 touchdowns, Foster was third all time for most career touchdown reception as a Bobcat. His three scores gave him 20 and put him in front of former Ohio receivers LaVon Brazill and Terrence McCrae for sole possession of the career TD record.
“It’s just a great honor,” Foster said about becoming the record holder. “LaVon was a great receiver, and Terrence McCrae was also a great receiver to come through here, so I’m very blessed to break that record. But I just can’t stop here, I’ve got to expand on that record.”
Ohio wide receiver coach Dwayne Dixon agreeably said, “He’s not finished. He’s not satisfied.”
A lot goes into the successes the receivers have had so far this season. For Cochran, it starts with Dixon and the rest of the coaching staff.
We’ve got a good staff that puts us in good positions to make plays,” he said. Cochran prefers to defer the praise to his teammates as well. In his opinion, the offensive line has done a more than sufficient job in giving Tettleton plenty of time to throw the ball to his receivers.
“Tyler, in my opinion, is the best QB in the MAC,” Cochran said. “Obviously, if we didn’t have him we couldn’t make those plays. [Tettleton and the line] put us in position to make plays. We just have to go out and do it.”
Foster and Dixon said they believe Ohio’s running game has played an important role in the proficient passing game as well. After rushing for more than 2,000 yards a season ago, Blankenship and Boykin have drawn a lot of attention from opposing defenses.
“A lot of teams want to put a lot of guys in the box,” Foster said. “That’s leaving one-on-one matches for Chase and I and the rest of the receivers and I think that plays a big part in this.”
Cochran and Foster on the field at the same time make for some matchup problems in their own right due to the duo’s differing playing styles. Cochran says Foster is a gritty receiver who excels at making tough catches and getting tough yards across the middle of the field. Cochran is much more known for being a home run hitter, running streaks and posts.
Cochran owes much of his success to one thing – speed.
“God blessed him with exponential speed,” Dixon said. “It is unexpected speed. Defenders don’t really realize how fast he is. They don’t see him as that. It is deceptive so he has built his confidence. Now when the ball is in the air he believes he is going to make a play on it.”
“He is the fastest dude on the team,” Ohio quarterback Derrius Vick said.
That speed has translated to an average of 20.4 yards per reception that ranks Cochran in the top 10 in college football.
No. 8’s ability to stretch the defense coupled with Foster’s experience and affinity to do a little bit of everything well, according to Vick, makes for a great one-two punch.
“It keeps teams on their toes,” Cochran said. “They don’t know what to expect, especially when we line up on the same side of the ball. It gives our offense a different type of a look to it and the defense can’t just honor one person, especially when we are on the same side of the ball.”
Miami experienced exactly that dilemma when they faced the Bobcats. The RedHawks’ defense keyed in on Cochran for most of the game, and Foster made them pay with a record-breaking performance.
“I think it’s a nice compliment because you can’t key in on who is the deep guy and who is the intermediate guy,” Dixon said. “Both guys are doing all of those things well. It gives us more balance. We don’t have to lean on one guy being ‘the guy’ all the time. When you do that people can key in on that so we try to have a balanced attack where we can use all of our weapons.”
Even another weapon for Tettleton is senior wide receiver Matt Waters. He has caught 31 passes this season for 405 yards and three scores. He, like Foster and Cochran, has well exceeded his receiving totals from last season.
“I feel like other defenses really weren’t expecting this and that’s why we are able to put those numbers up,” Foster said.
The Bobcat receivers have worked hard for their achievements, and that work started long before the 2013 campaign kicked off. They were hard at work with Ohio’s quarterbacks.
“Running routes and just trying to get that chemistry with them, making our routes crisp, that’s all a big part of it,” Foster said.
“Getting that down and that just translates right to the season,” Vick said. “You practice the way you play. Those are two great leaders we’ve got. They bring it every day to practice so it translates well for them in the game.”
Speaking on Foster and Cochran taking on leadership roles, Dixon said, “They have stepped up by example but also being more [vocal]. In the summertime they were running all the scout team stuff, making sure guys know where they have to be and what they need to be doing. They’re passing along the torch.”
More important than stats the duo is just concerned about leading their team to the most important number – wins.
“We’re just out there to make plays to help the team win,” Foster said.
After two tough losses on the road, both wideouts will look to help their team get back on the winning path. Ohio comes home to finish out the season with games against Kent State on Nov. 19 and Massachusetts on Nov. 29. Both games will be broadcasted on the ESPN family of networks.