BOISE, Idaho — Frank Solich has been able to use his experience, instincts and contacts in being able to hire three different offensive line coaches over the last three seasons.
And each of the three — Dave Johnson to Bart Miller to current position coach Allen Rudolph — have done the job in forging the Bobcats’ offensive front into the wedge capable of cracking opening opposing defenses for a potent, high-scoring Ohio offensive scheme.
Long-time Ohio offensive coordinator Tim Albin said each of the three has had particular strong suits, and believes Rudolph’s unique talent will prove valuable for OU in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Friday. The Bobcats (6-6) face Nevada (7-5) in Boise at 3:30 p.m. ET.
“Without question, Allen is the best in-game adjuster I’ve been around,” Albin said. “Dave had his strengths. Bart had his strengths. But Allen is spot on.
“He’s seen a few more things than I have. He’s seen some pretty crazy stuff,” Albin added. “He’s seen it all, and he knows how to get us adjusted to whatever we face.”
Ohio finished 2019 as the second-highest scoring offense in the MAC with 34.7 points per game. Over the last three years, with three different OL coaches, the Bobcats have produced a MAC-best 38.0 points per game. Three of Ohio’s best seven offensive seasons — in terms of yardage — have come in the last three years.
But it’s Allen’s ability to adjust that will come into focus for the Potato Bowl. First, Nevada — normally a 3-3-5 defense — is a bit of an unknown with four player suspensions and three new defensive coaches in the mix for the bowl game.
The Wolf Pack is liable to look nothing like their 2019 film.
And secondly, the Bobcats will have a re-worked offensive line for the bowl game. Ohio will have its fourth different starting offensive line against Nevada.
Junior left guard Brett Kitrell will not play after having surgery for a lower leg injury. Senior center Steven Hayes, the starter, will not play either after academic issues from the fall semester KO’d his bowl availability.
In that duo’s place, Ohio will have junior Nick Sink make his fourth start of the season at center. Redshirt freshman Kurt Danneker will be making his first career start at left guard.
The other three slots up front remain set with seniors Austen Pleasants (left) and Marques Grimes (right) at the tackles and junior Hagen Meservy set to continue to start at right guard. That trio has started every game this season at their respective positions.
For the season, Ohio’s OL helped the Bobcats finish fourth in the MAC with 2,598 rushing yards and 216.5 per game. OU still leads the MAC with 5.5 yards per carry.
Ohio is fourth in the MAC in sacks allowed (20), and has had five games in which it didn’t allow a sack.
The Bobcats have continued to produce after losing three All-MAC offensive linemen to graduation after 2018. Pleasants, Grimes and Hayes were All-MAC honorees this season.
Albin said the game plan won’t change with Danneker making his first start. Sink has filled in admirably all season.
“We’re going to run the ball, okay? That’s what we do, that’s who we are. We’re starting up front,” Albin said. “We try to recruit to it, and we try to build the roster with that in mind.
“So let’s see what we got.”
In and around town
Ohio’s bowl trip has included one practice, and several team, bowl-oriented activities in the two days on site.
The Bobcats left Athens early Monday morning, landed in Boise by Monday afternoon, and then worked a service project (with Nevada) later in the day at a local high school.
In conjunction with Feeding Children Everywhere volunteers, Ohio and Nevada players worked together to package as many meals as possible in one hour. The teams combined to package total of 60,300 meals, roughly 33 percent more than the established goal of 40,000.
The second-annual Albertsons Tackle Hunger event is designed to craft ready, portable, meals that will distributed throughout the area for the next several months.
In addition, Ohio QB Nathan Rourke was the Bobcat recipient of the of the bowl game's Humanitarian Award.
The team had a free evening on Monday.
Tuesday’s docket including morning meetings for the players and staff, and an afternoon practice at Boise State’s Caven-Williams Sports Complex (indoor practice facility). Ohio then was to join Nevada for a team dinner in downtown Boise on Tuesday night.
Ohio will hold a morning practice on New Year’s Day (Wednesday), with an afternoon event scheduled at a nearby sports complex.