Football: 5 things to look at ahead of MAC Media Day

 

Kylan Nelson leads a prayer after a game against Buffalo at Peden Stadium on November 3.

 

The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton will have some new visitors this week.

The Hall of Fame annually hosts the NFL’s induction ceremony, but this summer it will also host Mid-American Conference Media Day on July 26 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Two Bobcats will be present (A.J. Ouellette and Javon Hagan), and coach Frank Solich will field questions about the Bobcats’ status. The fall is near, but with summer still in full swing, the Bobcats aren’t a finished product. But by the time late July rolls around, they’ll be closer to being prepared for the upcoming season.

  1. The Progression of Quinton Maxwell

Quinton Maxwell wasn’t Ohio’s starting quarterback for a full season last year, earning his first start against Kent State last October. This season, though, he will likely be the starter from the start.

Ohio prefers to prepare two quarterbacks, so when former quarterback Greg Windham fell in performance, the coaching staff opted to try Maxwell. Maxwell, a redshirt sophomore, played in nine games last season and showed potential. He threw for 1,247 yards and eight touchdowns with four interceptions.

Maxwell’s football IQ is his greatest asset – he picked up Ohio’s offense relatively quickly. But whether Maxwell can expand upon his potential will determine how Ohio performs this season.

It will be interesting to see what Solich thinks of Maxwell heading into the 2017 season.

2. Snapping The Ball Under Center

Ohio has played exclusively in the pistol formation for the last number of years, but that’s going to change. The last time the Bobcats went under center was in 2010, and this past spring the coaching staff spoke about adding more variety to the team’s offensive formations.

“There’s some advantages to being under center, especially with the running game,” offensive coordinator Tim Albin said in the spring. “So we’re trying to get some reps at it and see what it looks like in the spring.”

Taking more snaps under center could be advantageous for Ohio, a team that loves to run the ball. Ohio ranked No. 3 in the MAC for rushing attempts (549) last season. So, whether the Bobcats can find success under center could be the difference in the offense.

3. Creativity

Yeah, Ohio loves to run the ball. But the Bobcats ran the ball too much sometimes last season, perhaps to a fault.

The Bobcats got to the MAC Championship, and even though they lost to Western Michigan, a more diverse offense could create more success. The Bobcats need to be more successful in the passing game, and being more creative – perhaps doing an occasional flea flicker or end around – could help with that.

The notion of being more creative was built up in the spring, but whether it is still present in July will be something to analyze. The under center portion of the offense could open that up.

4. Health

As the Bobcats came off last season, they used the spring as a healing period. Some players were hurt, most of the injuries seemingly being minor, nagging ones.

Solich said in the spring he didn’t expect the injuries to carry over into the fall, but as the season nears, Ohio will need to make sure it manages players’ injuries well.

The Bobcats couldn’t avoid injuries last season, as Ouellette suffered a foot injury during the first game. Ouellette will return this season. Redshirt senior wide receiver Brendan Cope struggled with injuries, and the team’s running back depth was depleted early with injuries from Maleek Irons and Dorian Brown.

5. A Youthful Defense Progressing

The Bobcats had one of the best run defenses in the nation last year, ranking sixth in the NCAA for rushing yards allowed (105.8 per game).

With Tarell Basham, Kurt Laseak and Casey Sayles all departing Ohio from graduation, though, the defensive line will be in flux. Aloese will be a staple on the line, along with Kevin Robbins and Tony Porter.

Along with the defensive line, the secondary will be a youthful section of the defense, too. Javon Hagan and Kylan Nelson are returning starters, but the only senior likely to start is cornerback Bradd Ellis.

The Bobcats are young on defense, but they can still succeed. The unit was the team’s best quality for a reason last season and that was because of its determination to be successful.

 

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