Team preview: Ohio
Blue Ribbon Yearbook previews the 2006 college football season, exclusively on Insider.
Frank Solich has been around football long enough to know a program doesn't just get better overnight.
However, going into his second season at Ohio, Solich feels a whole lot better about the Bobcats' prospects of turning things around than he did last year.
"Very much so," the former Nebraska coach said. "It's obvious [improvement] just looking at the first spring practice. We come into this year vastly different."
If the Bobcats hope to make major strides in the MAC East this season, the places they need to improve are in the passing game and with team depth.
Ohio had an opportunity to finish with a winning record in 2005, but after reaching the 4-4 mark with a 34-20 victory over Buffalo, the team dropped its final three games. "We could compete early in the year, but we got banged up and lacked the depth to finish out the season," Solich said. "We were obviously not the same football team at the end of the year as at the beginning."
The Bobcats showed how well they could compete in their second game, stunning Pittsburgh 16-10 in overtime for Solich's first victory at the school. Cornerback Dion Byrum returned two interceptions for touchdowns under the Friday night lights at Peden Stadium to put a little buzz into the Ohio program.
The Bobcats came back to earth the following week with a 45-0 loss to Virginia Tech. That exposed one of the team's season-long flaws -- not being able to pass the ball. Kalvin McRae led a potent rushing attack that averaged 174.1 yards per game to rank third in the MAC, but the Bobcats' passing game ranked at the bottom of the conference (118.5 ypg) and 114th in the nation.
There was no question going into the offseason Ohio had to fix its passing game if it hoped to contend in 2006. "Either that, or don't throw," Solich said. But he was joking.
Even though the passing game woes were not affixed to only quarterback Austen Everson's shoulders, Solich did open up competition for the job in the spring and summer. Junior Brad Bower, sophomore Brandon Jones and redshirt freshman Josh Febus were all given an equal shot to unseat Everson, and the battle was expected to continue into the summer before Solich selected a starter.
Whoever wins the battle will be in charge of an offense that returns eight starters, including first-team All-MAC back McRae.