Given the rash of players that graduated last year, the 2014 version of the Ohio Bobcats will feature lots of young talent, but perhaps none will be as exciting as sophomore Tarell Basham. At least, that's what the Ted Hendricks Foundation thinks, as they named him to the 2014 preseason watch list for the foundation's namesake award.
The award has been given annually since 2002 to the best defensive lineman in the nation, and has been awarded to players such as Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, and Jadeveon Clowney. Given that the award has only been around for a little over a decade, no MAC lineman, let alone an Ohio lineman, has won the award.
Basham is the only MAC player on the watch list, and he is no doubt deserving. In his freshman year, he only started five games but still recorded 7.5 sacks and 32 tackles, 16 of which he was unaccompanied on. Despite his limited playing time, the Football Writers Association of America named him to their Freshman All-American team.
The Bobcats will be banking on Basham to live up to the hype if they hope to achieve any sort of success this year. Given that the offense will rely on lots of young, unproven players, and still has question marks at some positions, head coach Frank Solich will need his defense to keep the team in games. It won't be any easy task, considering the explosive offenses the Bobcats face, but Basham will have help from the likes of juniors Ben Russell (linebacker, 8.5 tackles for a loss in 2013) and cornerback Devin Bass. Last year's young defense was the worst of the Solich era, but should improve this year and continue to improve in 2015.