In each of the last two seasons, Ohio football has been poised for great things. The MAC knew it, Ohio's fans knew it, heck, many across the country knew it. The program even garnered a Sports Illustrated story with its 7-0 start in 2012. But each of the last two seasons have resulted in leadership lapses. This year, the football team keys in on making leadership a priority.
Even with talented and hard-working athletes like Tyler Tettleton, Dante Foster, Beau Blankenship and Travis Carrie, it became readily obvious that the on-field leadership was not quite where it needed to be. This is where the new mindset of the players and coaches comes in.
"It is an exciting time for us because I like our players attitudes," Frank Solich said on Ohio football media day. "I like what we did from the moment the season ended - with a lot of the leaders on that football team that were coming back came to me with some ideas. They wanted to get things done at a very high level. Therefore, we started structuring things around some of the things that they had talked about and some of the things wehad talked about being coaches."
The team took part in leadership training and conditioning with Navy SEALS at Strouds Run State Park just outside of Athens and received a talk from a Green Beret. The emphasis on picking up each other and "never leaving a man behind" seemingly has stuck.
Another way in which the team has stepped up is with its intensity and urgency in practice. At football media day, offensive coordinator Tim Albin noted that the team was getting many more reps in practice than they had gotten at the same point a year ago. A big part of that was the up-tempo nature that the players and coaches alike have been able to foster with this year's team thus far being more cohesive and responsible (according to their own assessments).
Hey it's no secret, the last couple of seasons..."we've been able to squeak our way into a bowl game, but at the same time, it's been a little rough," Cochran said. "We haven't been able to finish games out. So by getting more plays, getting more reps, we're more mentally prepared for games, and we're more physically prepared for games."
"This team, they're very hungry," Albin said. "We have had some great leadership. We had a phenomenal offseason. This football team wants to have their legacy and they're off to a good start."
Players were just as straight-forward about the need for leadership. Cornerback, and our number 11 player in the top player countdown, Devin Bass, talked at media day about a variety of things Bobcat football. On leadership: "Last year the leadership...it wasn't exactly there," Bass said. "Maybe it was on the field, but it wasn't vocal enough or you know, wasn't just energy coming out of people. And I think that's one of the big things that we have been working on this year is forth bringing that energy, and kind of communicating and just being more vocal with everyone on that front."
As it pertains specifically to the three-game stretch in November late last season in which Ohio was outscored 123-16 by Buffalo, Bowling Green and Kent State, junior Daz' Patterson has those opponents on his mind, just like they are on the minds of everyone else on this Ohio team. Those were the games in which the Bobcat leadership failed.
"Those guys, they're on our hearts, they're on our minds every day," Patterson said. "We do exercises, extra work at the end of lifting this offseason. We were doing 'BG up-downs,'...just think about it."
Ohio's captains this year are Derrius Vick, Josh Kristoff, Tim Edmond and Nathan Carpenter.
Not many around the Mid-American Conference have great expectations for this Ohio football team in 2014. They are working to get to Detroit all the same. Whether the leadership will be improved and whether it makes a difference is yet to be seen.