2014 was a rough year for Ohio football.
Life After Tyler Tettleton (and Co.) didn't start off too swell for the Bobcats. The Ohio offense struggled to build any momentum without its star quarterback (and the star running back and wide receiver that graduated with him). Defense had its ups and downs as well, and in the end the 'Cats turned in a pedestrian 6-6 performance, missing the postseason for the first time since 2008.
But the offseason brought hope for Bobcat nation, for with the end of the games comes recruiting season; what a recruiting season it was for head coach Frank Solich and company. The Bobcats announced the signing of their talented class of 2015 Wednesday, with what just might be Ohio's most exciting recruiting class of the past decade.
(Take a look at the entire class, and you can sort this table however you want by clicking on the category)
|Austen Pleasants||Ironton, Ohio (Dawson-Bryant)||OL||2-Star||6'6''/305|
|Brian Arp||Kearney, Nebraska (Kearney Senior)||DT||NR||6'3''/265||Y|
|Clayton Glasco||Pickerington, Ohio (Pickerington Central)||OLB||3-Star||6'0''/215||Y|
|Demetrius Colbert||Cincinnati, Ohio (Colerain)||LB||3-Star||6'1''/220||Y|
|Elijah Ball||Cincinnati, Ohio (Princeton)||WR||3-Star||6'2''/175||Y|
|Evan Croutch||Youngstown, Ohio (Boardman)||ILB||2-Star||6'1''/225||Y|
|Jake Hale||Powell, Ohio (Olentangy, Liberty)||LS||2-Star||6'1''/205||Y|
|Javon Hagen||Jacksonville, Florida (Trinity Christian Academy)||S||3-Star||6'0''/190||Y|
|Jeff Christian Jr.||Cincinnati, Ohio (Colerain)||CB||3-Star||5'11''/175||Y|
|Joe Anderson||El Camino Community College||OL||NR||6'6''/330||Y|
|Joshua Cooper||Mississippi Delta Community College||OL||NR||6'1''/315|
|Keith Key||Columbus, Ohio (Bishop Hartley)||DE||2-Star||6'3''/216||Y|
|Kyle Belack||Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (Myrtle Beach)||WR||2-Star||5'11''/190||Y|
|London Cloud||Bedford, Ohio (Bedford)||ILB||3-Star||6'1''/207||Y|
|Louie Zervos||Tarpon Springs, Florida (Tarpon Springs)||K||3-Star||5'9''/165||Y|
|Marques Grimes||Southfield, Michigan (Southfield)||OL||2-Star||6'6''/295||Y|
|Deontai Williams||Jacksonville, Florida||S||3-star||6'1''/175||Y|
|Maxwell Howell||West Palm Beach, Florida (Palm Beach Lakes)||CB||3-Star||6'2''/185||Y|
|Mayne Williams||Cincinnati, Ohio (Colerain)||S||3-Star||6'0''/180||Y|
|Quinton Maxwell||Richmond, Missouri (Richmond)||QB-PRO||2-Star||6'3''/205||Y|
|Sam McKnight||Cleveland, Ohio (Glenville)||DT||3-Star||6'2''/260|
|Adam Luehrman||Albany, Ohio (Athens)||ATH||NR||6'4''/200||Y|
|Ryan Luehrman||Albany, Ohio (Athens)||ATH||NR||6'4''/214||Y|
Ohio entered this offseason with several serious holes to fill. Graduation, injuries and general attrition took its toll on the roster. The 'Cats added a potential future star quarterback when Minnesota Gopher Conner Krizancic transferred to Ohio earlier this year, but he has to sit out the 2015 season. Besides, while quarterback play wasn't spectacular in 2014, a lot of that had to do mainly with holes at other positions, especially wide receiver.
With a balanced approach Ohio filled nearly every hole and added depth at other spots. A trio of receivers give the 'Cats depth and a few athletes who could possibly crack the starting rotation from day one. A quartet of offensive lineman, including a pair of JUCO players, give the team options and bulk at a core unit that has been ravaged by injuries the past few years.
On defense, Ohio added athletes in the secondary (with a huge surprise addition on Signing Day) and linebacking corps and a few special players who could develop into key pieces on the line. Then, there's special teams.
MAKING AN IMPACT:
Laugh if you must, but I think the two players who are most likely to make an immediate impact on this team are the two special teams players: kicker Louis Zervos and long snapper Jake Hale.
Ohio's kicking has been a bit of a mystery game since Matt Weller's graduation two seasons ago. A year after winning a lengthy kicking battle and winning over the hearts of Bobcats fans, junior kicker Josiah Yazdani saw his field goal success rate drop by nearly 30 percent. Long time long snapper (eh?) Miles Chapman has graduated. Suddenly, Ohio has two glaring needs on special teams — field goal kicking and long snapping — and these two have the potential to jump in and contribute right away.
Zervos, a 3-star kicker from Florida, is considered a top 10 player at his position in this class. He possess a powerful leg, and though he dealt with some accuracy issues in high school, should push Yazdani for the role come fall. With Hale Ohio has a specialized snapper; a player who has been trained specifically for this role for years. Don't be shocked if he's in that spot when the season begins.
While the special teamers may be my vote for the most likely to make an early impact, they aren't the only highlights of a surprisingly deep class.
On offense Elijah Ball gives Ohio a stud wideout that could develop into an excellent weapon. Another interesting piece is wideout Matthew Seymour. Not much is known about him, but what is known is he is Ohio's second Canadian signee in as many seasons. Seymour hails from New Westminster, British Columbia — Maleek Irons, Ohio's 2014 Canadian signee, also hails from BC.
It's also interesting to note that the 'Cats didn't replace the loss of Trae Williams after Williams flipped to Northwestern a few weeks back. A.J. Ouellette emerged as a true star in the making for Ohio in 2014 and has three years of eligibility remaining. Irons has four years, and sophomores Papi White, Robbie Walker and senior Daz' Patterson give Ohio plenty of athletic options to complement those more traditional downhill options.
On defense, the three Colerain commits were huge gets for the Bobcats. All high 3-star players, Mayne Williams (safety), Jeff Christian Jr. (cornerback) and Demetrius Colbert (linebacker), are incredibly talented pieces. Each fills a need and combined with Maxwell Howell (who originally committed to the class way back in 2013, before decommitting and ultimately rejoining and enrolling this winter) there's a good chance they could leave their mark on a defense that needs some fresh blood in 2015.
Oh, and that surprise I mentioned earlier: safety Deontai Williams flipped from the University of Georgia to sign with Ohio. Williams, a high 3-star prospect out of Jacksonville, Florida, is a fast, aggressive and defensive back prospect. An athlete in high school, Williams played both sides of the ball and flashed his speed (which you can see in his highlights) often.
Williams notches Ohio's 2015 class up another level.
AN EXCELLENT CROP, WITH TIME TO DEVELOP:
Taken as a whole, Ohio's class won't earn praise from the recruiting services as being one of the MAC's best, but it's one of Solich's finest efforts since he came to Athens, in my humble opinion. It doesn't overreach. It's not weighted down by an abundance of players at one position (like in years past). There are no glaring holes.
Instead, Solich recruited undervalued players who fit his system. Quinton Maxwell gives Ohio another future option at quarterback. The secondary signees should give Ohio more options and help improve the 'Cats pass defense in 2015.
It's deep, and with that depth comes time for many of these players to develop. In a few seasons players such as Deontai Williams, Kyle Belack (also already enrolled), Sam McKnight, Colbert and Ball could be household names for Bobcat fans.