Coach: Frank Solich (first season) 2004 record: 4-7 MAC finish: 2-6 (t-5th East) 2004 I-A offensive rankings: Rushing: 98th (108.2 ypg) Passing: 74th (200.2 ypg) 2004 I-A defensive rankings: Rushing: 32nd (124.3 ypg) Passing: 28th (195.4 ypg)
at Virginia Tech
at Bowling Green
at Central Michigan
Depth Chart: Offense
6 returning starters in red
Depth Chart: Defense
7 returning starters in red
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After winning just 11 games in the past four seasons, Ohio brought in former Nebraska head man Frank Solich to replace Brian Knorr. A Cleveland native, Solich was a part of Bob Devaney's first recruiting class at Nebraska and became a standout for the Huskers in the mid-1960s. Following 19 seasons as an assistant under Tom Osborne, Solich compiled a 58-19 mark in six years as the Huskers' head coach. Those numbers weren't good enough for Solich to keep his job at Nebraska, but Ohio fans would be thrilled with anything approaching that level of success.
Solich plans to use a traditional two-back set, Ohio's third offensive alignment in three seasons. Defensively, the Bobcats will make the move to a 4-3 front from a 3-4.
"We will work at getting as much speed on the field (defensively) as possible," Solich said.
This will be a transition year for Ohio as the new staff sorts through the available talent to try to plug players into their system.
With a new coaching staff comes yet another new offensive system for Ohio. The Bobcats will be operating from their third offensive formation in as many years. It was the triple option in '03, a one-back set in 2004 and now a traditional two-back alignment.
The trigger man will likely be junior Austin Everson, who threw for 588 yards and four touchdowns last season. His top two challengers, redshirt freshmen Mark Petrziello and Jerrod Sparling, have yet to throw a college pass.
Sophomore Kalvin McRae, the team's leading rusher (142 attempts for 559 yards), returns. McRae carried 11 times for 50 yards in the spring game and is the frontrunner to be the No. 1 tailback. Junior college product Voncarie Owens enrolled for the winter quarter and worked through spring practice.
Five wide receivers and three tight ends return among 16 offensive letter winners. Junior receiver Scott Mayle, an NCAA long jump finalist, had four touchdowns and led the team last season with 583 receiving yards.
Solich was pleased with the boys up front during the spring. "I like the movement of this group," he said. "The development of the offensive line is ongoing and critical to our success in generating a balanced offense." Both guards are back from a year ago, junior Matt Coppage and sophomore Matt Miller.
An Ohio defense that ranked second in the MAC in yards allowed welcomes back seven starters. Seniors Seth Ream and Shane Yates, a former offensive guard, are the leaders of the defensive front. "Finding folks who can stop the run and match up against a strong running game is crucial," Solich said.
Ohio has a bevy of linebackers, and at least a few of these players will be reassigned as the team makes the transition from a 3-4 to a 4-3 front. Inside linebacker Matt Muncy, a junior, is the standout. He led the team in total tackles (78) and tackles for a loss (10.5) in '05.
The secondary may be the strength of the team, despite the loss of safeties Chip Cox and Rob Stover. Corners Dion Byrum and T.J. Wright are returning starters from a unit that yielded MAC lows of 195.4 passing yards per game, 13 scoring passes and 6.3 yards per pass attempt.
Ohio featured some of the best special teams units in the MAC last season, ranking first in net punt and kickoff coverage. Placekicker Brooks Rossman and punter Matthew Miller are back. As a freshman, Rossman had few opportunities and connected on 7-of-14 field goal attempts.
Solich has a tough job ahead of him, and there will likely be some growing pains as both the offense and defense undergo significant overhauls.
The schedule is brutal, with non-conference games against Northwestern, Pitt and Virginia Tech to go along with MAC powers Miami, Bowling Green and Toledo. Squeezing three wins out of this team would be quite an accomplishment.