Ohio will have to replace this guy, basically their version of Paul Posluszny. So no, it won't be an easy fix. (Photo by Mark A. Cunningham/Getty Images)
If you're within 500 miles of State College today, it's probably really nice outside. You probably want to spend time out of the house. Even better? When you come back in, you'll have spring football to read about. And today we kick off our coverage with Penn State's first opponent: The Ohio University Bobcats.
Where they call home: Athens, OH
Endless running begins/ends: March 27/April 21
If they suck, this guy gets fired: Frank Solich
Ohio isn't a bad MACrifice team as Penn State fans have grown used to playing this early in the season. In fact, the Bobcats won 10 games last year, and average seven wins per year since Solich took over in 2005. Four of Ohio's six bowl bids have come under Solich's tenure (the other two were in the '60s), including the program's first-ever bowl win this past season. There are some holes to fill, but the bulk of this team returns.
More specifics below the fold...
What they return...
It all starts with record-setting quarterback Tyler Tettleton, who threw for 3,302 passing yards, 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while completing 64.3 percent of his passes. For good measure, he was also the second-leading rusher with 658 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Travis Carrie returns in the defensive backfield, leading the team last year with four picks. He's also a pretty nifty punt return man, with a 12.5 average per return. Defensive tackle Tremayne Scott will also likely play a key role for the defense, having earned All-MAC honors last season. With a few playmakers up front and in coverage, the Ohio defense should have a good season.
What they lost...
But it will be tough to replace a guy like middle linebacker Noah Keller. He was the unquestioned leader of the defense in his third year in the starting role. Keller had over 100 tackles in 2011. Those numbers, as well as the intangibles, aren't going to be replaced easily.
Likely troublesome for Tettleton and the offense, Ohio loses both offensive tackles A.J. Strum and Joe Flading, each multi-year starters. Also, both top receivers LaVon Brazill and Riley Dunlop are gone from the team this spring. Finding suitable replacements should be a top priority for Solich's offense.
Even though we all know Ohio the State has absolutely no sense of style, we do know what style Ohio the Team plays on the field. Solich has always been a good coach who got canned for "only" winning 10 games a year at Nebraska. He knows how to prepare and build his teams, proven by the fact that Ohio is now one of the best non-AQ programs in the FBS (Div. 1-A). The offense hummed along last year, passing for about 250 and running for around 200 per game. That might surprise some who haven't followed Solich since his days in Lincoln, where the triple option was his main weapon. The defense did what it had to do, giving up 22 points per game.
From the Amateur Blog Mob's loosely-affiliated brethren...
Matt Sussman of Hustle Belt helped me out with getting to know OU. Here is his synopsis of the Ohio Bobcats right now.
Basically any time I think of Ohio I think of a team that doesn't produce a bunch of individual stars, but they always play solid as a unit. They're starting to be a "can't win the big one" team, although the Idaho Potato Bowl might've helped quell that. The nation thinks of them as "oh that place where Frank Solich landed" and they haven't beaten an AQ conference team since 2006, and that was against Zook's Illinois so it hardly counts. So Penn State may want to watch out, overall this team is disciplined and dangerous.
See you tomorrow for Spring Snapshot 2012: Virginia Cavaliers.