SI.com 2003 College Football Preview




SI.com's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  Ohio Bobcats

 
The Lowdown
Coach: Brian Knorr (3rd year, 5-18)
2002 record: 4-8
MAC finish: 4th (East)
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 239.8 ypg
(1st in MAC, 8th in nation)
Pass: 87.4 ypg (14th, 117th)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 153.7 ypg (8th, 55th)
Pass: 224.1 ypg (7th, 66th)
Projected Starters
Offense (4 returning starters in bold)
WR  86  Keyon Ingram  Sr. 
WR  Anthony Hackett  So. 
LT  80  Derek Gandy  Sr. 
LG  62  Aaron Bryant  Fr. 
69  Ralph Bracamonte  Jr. 
RG   64   Brian Brown   Sr.  
RT  61  Cole Wesley  So. 
TE  84  Ryan Antle  Jr. 
SB   7   Stafford Owens   Sr.  
QB   10   Fred Ray   Sr.  
FB  47  Brad Young  So. 
HB   29   Ray Huston   Jr.  
Defense (6)
DE   96   Keith Adamson   Sr.  
NG   72   Eli Kiener   Sr.  
DE  98  Kevin Carberry  Jr. 
OLB  90  Hugh Grant  Sr. 
ILB   46   D. Chukwuemeka   Jr.  
ILB   22   Spencer Tatum   So.  
OLB  44  Charles Terry  Sr. 
CB  15  Dion Byrum  So. 
CB  Andre Bradford  Jr. 
FS   11   Chip Cox   Jr.  
SS   23   Rob Stover   Jr.  
Special Teams
18  Greg DiMarino  So. 
14  Matthew Miller  So. 
KR  15  Dion Byrum  So. 
PR  Stafford Owens  Sr. 
2003 Schedule
Aug. 28  SE Missouri State 
Sept. 6  at Iowa State 
Sept. 13  Minnesota 
Sept. 27  Western Michigan 
Oct. 4  at Northern Illinois 
Oct. 11  UCF 
Oct. 18  at Kentucky 
Oct. 25  at Buffalo 
Nov. 8  Kent State 
Nov. 15  at Akron 
Nov. 22  Miami (OH) 
Nov. 28  at Marshall 
Ohio University has been the MAC oddball for nearly a decade, always promising to open up its one-trick pony offense, but ultimately using the option exclusively. The end result is a team traditionally tough as nails on both sides of the football that struggles to win more than it loses. Once again, head coach Brian Knorr is promising big changes on offense. He will look to rev up the passing game with improved senior Fred Ray or transfer Ryan Hawk.

OFFENSIVE KEYS:

Ohio University showed it could open up its option offense just enough to hurt the defense with the pass. That helped turn a 1-5 start into a 4-8 finish.

Ray keyed the turnaround from his quarterback position. His running ability is a given. But it was his performance in the final six games -- 45-of-76 passing (59 percent) for 613 yards, five touchdowns and no INTs -- which made folks stand up and notice. Granted, in the pass-and-catch MAC those numbers are miniscule, but in the option, that stands for true diversity. Ray, however, will be challenged by Hawk, a transfer from Miami.

Leading rusher and team leader Chad Brinker is gone. The top returning rusher is slotback Stafford Owens, who gained 371 yards on 62 carries. Owens does just as much damage as a receiver. He caught 17 passes -- a lot for an option team -- for 259 yards. Veteran Ray Huston (27 carries, 109 yards) will be first in line to take over the rushing load from Brinker.

DEFENSIVE KEYS:

This is where the Bobcats have some serious work to do. Weakened by injuries, the Ohio defense allowed an average of 153.7 yards on the ground and 224.1 yards in the air. Injuries continue to be a concern on the defensive line, where two projected starters, nose guard Andre Parker and end Garrett Bush, were still recovering from injuries after the end of spring drills. If one or both are at less than 100 percent, it will be difficult for the OU defense to get much pressure on the quarterback.

The Bobcats welcome back every player on their two-deep at linebacker. And most of the linebackers worked out at several different positions during the spring to add to the unit's flexibility. Look for junior Dennis Chukwuemeka to stay at inside linebacker, where he had 116 stops and led the team with 14 tackles for a loss.

The wealth of talent at linebacker spilled over into the secondary. Former starting outside linebacker Rob Stover has moved to safety. The junior will help solidify a position in transition.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

The Bobcats will have two unproven kickers going into the season. Matthew Miller and Greg DiMarino will battle for both spots.

Owens is one of the top punt return men in the MAC. He averaged 10 yards per return and had a 72-yard touchdown. And Dion Byrum (20.8 yards per return) was a threat on kickoff returns, so much so that teams kicked away from him after the first three games of the season.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

There is an air of optimism about the offense, now that it has proven capable of throwing the football enough to keep defenses honest. But it is tough to see OU contending for a league crown with both the offensive and defensive lines unstable due to injuries, and with its unproven kicking game.

A non-league schedule that includes Iowa State, Minnesota and Kentucky does not appear to be conducive to keeping linemen healthy, either. Add in the fact that no back in this offense has proven to be a consistent 20-carry performer. There are just too many questions with this team. However, if recent history is an indicator, the Bobcats have proven they can rebound from early adversity to be a thorn in the side of potential MAC contenders down the stretch.

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