By John Agovino, Associate College Football Editor
2009 SEASON IN REVIEW: The East Division in the Mid-American Conference went to the Bobcats this past season, after the team posted an impressive 7-1 ledger in conference action. Ohio did not have a strong history in the MAC
before Frank Solich took over in Athens, but since he has arrived he has led
the team to two division championships and two bowl games.
The 2009 season began with a tough, 23-16 setback to Connecticut, but the
Bobcats were able to rebound with an overtime win over North Texas, and follow
that with a 28-10 decision over Cal Poly. The Bobcats then went on the road
to battle Tennessee, and although Ohio put up a strong fight, the Vols proved
to be too much, defeating coach Solich and his squad, 34-23. Ohio responded
after the defeat with three straight wins, but then fell to Kent State by a
20-11 margin, but that would be the only league loss for the Bobcats.
Following the loss to the Golden Flashes the Bobcats continued to push
forward, clawing out four consecutive wins, including a 35-17 victory over
Temple to claim the East Division title. With the title secure, the Bobcats
took on the very talent Central Michigan Chippewas, and even though Ohio put
forth its usual gritty effort, the Chippewas eventually defeated the tough
boys from Athens, 20-10. Despite losing the league title game, the Bobcats
finished with nine wins and earned a spot in the Little Caesars Bowl where
they faced Marshall. Once again the Bobcats played with a tenacious demeanor,
but still fell to the Thundering Herd, 21-17. Although losing the last two
games on the year was tough, the Bobcats showed they are a dangerous team.
OFFENSE: In week two of last season the Bobcats lost starting quarterback Boo
Jackson for the season, but Theo Scott stepped in and led Ohio to the MAC
title game. Scott is now gone, but Jackson is back for 2010 and if his
shoulder is strong enough he will likely be the quarterback this season.
Jackson is a dangerous signal caller not only because of his big arm, but also
because he can break free from the pocket and hurt a defense with his legs.
Jackson will have plenty of options to distribute the football to with the
return of LaVon Brazill and Terrence McCrae. Brazill and McCrae combined for
15 touchdowns last season and are possibly the best wideout tandem in the
conference, mainly because both players have the athleticism to make a big
play. Ohio's ground game was not very effective this past season, as the team
finished 11th in the MAC with 112.0 ypg, but coach Solich has a solid
combination in Vince Davidson and Donte Harden that he hopes will make Ohio's
rushing attack a little more formidable. The ground game will have every
chance to succeed with three starters from the offensive line back, including
tackles A.J. Strum and Joe Flading.
DEFENSE: Ohio's success last season and ultimately this season will revolve
around the play of a tenacious defensive unit. Ohio, which surrendered just
21.3 ppg a year ago, returns six starters, including the entire front line.
Dak Nostestine, who racked up 6.5 sacks last year will anchor the front line,
while Stafford Gatling will man the other end spot. In the middle third team
All-MAC selection Ernie Hodge will try to help the Bobcats improve against the
run after the team allowed 153.7 ypg on the ground.
The heart and soul of this defense is at middle linebacker, as Noah Keller is
back for his senior year. The tenacious linebacker averaged 11.1 tackles per
game a year ago and in the MAC title game against Central Michigan he totaled
an amazing 16 tackles. Surprisingly in the bowl game against Texas-El Paso
Keller was even better racking up 17 stops.
"He's a big-time player," said coach Solich of Keller. "He has a chance to
contend for some national honors."
The only returning starter in the backfield is Gerald Moore, but the safety is
primed to build off his freshman campaign when he hauled in six interceptions.
Kenny Jackson and Julian Posey will likely man the corner spots. While they
did not see a ton of time last season, both players were able to return an
interception for a touchdown.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Bobcats have one of the more dangerous return combinations
in the conference in Harden and Brazill. Harden is a game-changing return man
on kickoffs, but Brazill is even tougher returning punts and proved he could
take over any game last season by returning three for scores over the course
of the season. Ohio also possesses an outstanding kicker in Matt Weller, who
connected on 21-of-29 field goal tries, earning First-Team All-MAC honors as a
OUTLOOK: If the Bobcats are going to enjoy another successful season, the team
will need the defense to continue its dominating play. Clearly the offense
will have to produce, and Jackson will have to lead the way, but if Ohio is
going back to the MAC title game it will be because of a relentless defense.
"It's time to take the next step," said Solich. "We have more depth than we've
ever had. If all goes well, we should have a great chance of having a good
What will help the Bobcats is a relatively soft schedule that begins with
back-to-back home games against Wofford and Toledo. After a three-game road
swing that takes Ohio to Ohio State, Marshall and Eastern Michigan, the
Bobcats return home for four of their final seven games. However, the most
important contest will most likely be on November 16th at Temple. The winner
of that matchup could be the frontrunner to win the East Division.