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Ohio Bobcats

The Lowdown
Coach: Brian Knorr
(4th season, 7-28)
2003 record: 2-10
MAC finish: 1-7 (t-6th East)
'03 I-A Offensive Rankings:
Rush: 30th (183.4 ypg)
Pass: 106th (154.3 ypg)
'03 I-A Defensive Rankings:
Rush: 51st (150.0 ypg)
Pass: 58th (219.8 ypg)
2004 Schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 4 VMI
Sept. 11 at Pittsburgh
Sept. 18 at Miami (OH)
Sept. 25 Buffalo
Oct. 2 at Kentucky
Oct. 9 Marshall
Oct. 16 at Toledo
Oct. 23 Bowling Green
Oct. 30 at Kent State
Nov. 6 at UCF
Nov. 13 Akron
Depth Chart: Offense
6 returning starters in bold
Ps. No. Player Yr. No. Player Yr.
WR 82 Scott Mayle So. 86 Keyon Ingram Sr.
WR 4 Anthony Hackett Jr. 30 Justin Fitzgerald Fr.
WR 29 Ray Huston Sr. 7 Stafford Owens Sr.
LT 77 Dennis Thompson Sr. 70 Dave Williams Sr.
LG 74 Shane Yates Jr. 53 J.J. Knabb So.
C 75 Mike Nelson Jr. 69 Ralph Bracamonte Sr.
RG 78 Matt Coppage So. 57 Cole Wesley Jr.
RT 66 Steve Lawrence Sr. 53 J.J. Knabb So.
TE   Dave Cody Jr.   Rudy Sylvan Jr.
QB 12 Ryan Hawk Sr. 9 Austen Everson So.
RB 28 Brad Young Jr. 3 John Taylor So.
Depth Chart: Defense
8 returning starters in bold
Ps. No. Player Yr. No. Player Yr.
DE 98 Kevin Carberry Sr.   Zach Kiesch Jr.
NG 93 David Escobar So. 92 Perrier Paul Jr.
DE 91 Garrett Bush Sr. 73 Paul Johnson Fr.
OLB 6 Matron Church So. 44 Charles Terry Sr.
ILB 2 Dennis Chukwuemeka Sr. 50 Matt Muncy So.
ILB 31 Pete Brately Sr. 50 Matt Muncy So.
OLB 26 Tyler Russ So. 46 Taj Henley Fr.
CB 9 T.J. Wright So. 32 Damion Booth Fr.
CB 15 Dion Byrum Jr. 24 Rahman Shavers Sr.
FS 11 Chip Cox Sr. 16 Rashad Butler Sr.
SS 23 Rob Stover Sr. 5 Andreí Bradford Sr.
Special Teams
Ps. No. Player Yr. Ps. No. Player Yr.
K 18 Greg DiMarino Jr. P 14 Matt Miller Jr.
KR 8 Chris Jackson So. PR 15 Dion Byrum Jr.

After enduring two 10-loss seasons in his first three years as coach at Ohio, Brian Knorr went into full makeover mode in the offseason.

Say goodbye to the triple-option offense that was installed under former coach Jim Grobe in the mid-1990s. Instead, the Bobcats will build from the ground up by taking to the air. New offensive coordinator Phil Earley, who spent the past four years at Nevada, has been hired to run a one-back passing offense.

"I think it's just got everybody excited because it's so different from what we ran before," senior Ray Huston said. "Not to say anything bad about the old offense we ran, but it's just something new that guys can learn and hopefully be successful in."

Huston, along with Stafford Owens and Phillip Fountain, will leave the Ohio backfield in 2004 for new positions. Both Huston and Owens will become slot receivers in the new passing game, while Fountain heads across the line of scrimmage to shore up the linebacker ranks.

Offense
Austen Everson and Ryan Hawk, a transfer from Miami (Ohio), will battle for the right to run the Bobcats' new attack. Hawk led Ohio with 765 passing yards and four touchdowns last season despite playing most of the year with an injured throwing elbow. He has a slight edge because of his familiarity with the new offense, which is similar to what Miami runs. The coaching staff initially planned to redshirt Everson in 2003, but injuries to Hawk and Fred Ray forced the freshman into action.

Wide receiver Scott Mayle emerged as a pleasant surprise as a deep threat last season, catching 25 passes for 515 yards with four scores. Anthony Hackett hauled in 26 passes.

Defense
Ravaged by injury, especially at linebacker, the Ohio defense will look to rebound in '04. Five of the top eight linebackers suffered season-ending injuries in '03, including three preseason starters. Inside linebacker Dennis Chukwuemeka anchored the Bobcats' 3-4 scheme and led the team with 100 tackles. End Kevin Carberry will be looked to for leadership up front.

The secondary will feature a significant position change for the second straight year. After Rob Stover made the jump from outside linebacker to strong safety last season, Chip Cox will go from cornerback to safety this year. That will open up the cornerback spots for T.J. Wright and Dion Byrum. Pressed into duty as a freshman last year, Wright led Ohio with three interceptions.

Specialists
Ohio must improve its kicking game after a dismal 2003 season. Incumbent placekicker Greg DiMarino will battle Craig Donahue and freshman Brooks Rossman for the starting job this season. Matt Miller, who had offseason shoulder surgery, will be the punter.

Final Analysis
The Bobcats' ability to finally get things right under Knorr, who has a 7-28 record in three seasons, will largely depend on the success of the new offensive scheme. Both Everson and Hawk should be more comfortable in the passing-based offense. If the offensive line stays healthy and the running game can provide some balance, the Ohio offense could put up big numbers.

All the offense in the world, however, won't earn many victories if the defense doesn't improve. Crippled by injuries and a lack of depth, the Bobcats routinely broke down in the second half of games last season. That must change.

If a significant improvement in the win column isn't seen this fall, coordinators and graduating seniors might not be the only ones getting replaced come 2005.

Click here for a complete list of 2004 Team Previews from Athlon

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