Nearly nine months ago Tyler Tettleton wore the Ohio green and white as a Bobcat football player for the last time, losing to ECU 37-20 in the 2013 Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl and ending his three-year run as the starting quarterback of the Ohio Bobcats. The race to replace the most accomplished quarterback in program history was on.
All through spring ball and summer/fall camp redshirt junior Derrius Vick and redshirt sophomore JD Sprague battled it out for reins of the Ohio offense. The two, both agile, athletic medium-sized dual threat guys, pushed one another to the brink, but come the end of fall camp we still didn't have a winner; until Monday. During the first weekly MAC head coaches teleconference of the 2014 season head coach frank Solich announced that Vick had one the battle and will start in Week 1 vs. Kent State.
"I think it was very close between Derrius and JD and on any given day you could say the other one practiced as he would if he were the starter," head coach Frank Solich said during his Monday afternoon press conference. "When you add it all up, the fact that it was very close, the experience that Derrius has going into the season weighed a little bit in terms of him being named the starter."
Vick was the presumed favorite from the start of the battle. He has been in the program for three seasons, seeing action in two. He's been sitting behind Tettleton, learning, and getting valuable game reps for the past two seasons. In 2012 he started in place of an injured Tettleton at home vs. Norfolk State. He's seen time in 18 games over the past two seasons. Ultimately, it's that experience that gave him the edge in the battle, as Solich confirmed in his weekly radio show shortly after the teleconference, saying, "when it's very close, you tend to go with experience."
In the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl he spelled Tettleton to perfection in the second quarter, going 3-for-3 for 100 yards, with an 80-yard touchdown to Donte' Foster, but inexplicably didn't see much action after that. Vick has a powerful arm, but isn't as accurate as Tettleton. where he's most deadly is in his ability to keep defenses on their toes thanks to his running ability. Tettleton flashed great mobility in 2011 when he ran for 666 yards and 10 scores, but never was able to regain that edge in the following seasons; whether that was his fault, or the result of playcalling, it's hard to tell.
Vick is fast, agile, and has great field vision. Bobcats fans are hoping that will be put to use this fall. Ohio brought back Scott Isphording this winter to serve as the co-offensive coordinator with Tim Albin. Isphording came from Toledo where he had spent most of his four years there as the team's quarterbacks coach, overseeing the development of Terrance Owens. Before he went to Toledo, ISphording was the tight ends coach at Ohio.
Isphording offensive style is viewed as more progressive and up-tempo than the attack Albin has engineered at Ohio.
Of course, the battle isn't actually over yet. Solich also confirmed that Sprague will see some snaps in Week 1, and we could eventually wind up with some form of a dual-quarterback system. Don't laugh, Isphording ran it at Toledo in the first two years of Owens' career with the Rockets.
"Both will play. Both will have opportunities. Both need to play at a very high level for us to be successful and I believe they both will," Solich said.
He admitted there will be a leash for Vick, so while Vick has earned the starting job for now, Sprague could still take it from him in coming weeks. Even if Vick hangs onto it, expect to see a few series each game where Sprague comes in to spell Vick and provide a sort of change of pace for the 'Cats offense.