The Bobcats wrapped up fall camp on Friday afternoon inside Peden Stadium on a blessedly cool and crisp August afternoon.
It was a idyllic weather kind of day, and a good sendoff to a fairly drama-free three weeks of preseason prep.
Ohio is now one week out from the 2019 season opener against Rhode Island, at 2 p.m. in Peden Stadium, on Aug. 31. The Bobcats will begin the season fairly intact.
For the first time since I’ve covered the Bobcats, I believe Ohio made it through fall camp without a clear-cut, season-ending injury. There were no broken legs, or shredded knee ligaments, or ruptured pec muscles.
Yes, there were some sprained ankles, strained shoulders and a couple of broken hands/wrists. But Ohio will begin the season with the knowledge that anyway sidelined right now could conceivably be available to play in a few weeks.
“There were some strains and some muscle things that knocked guys out for a few days, and we weren’t happy about that,” granted Ohio head coach Frank Solich. “But we got through it in pretty good shape.”
Ohio’s three most serious injuries of camp — the apparent ones anyway — all came on the defensive line. Junior defensive end Amir Miller, third-year sophomore defensive tackle Michael Massinople and freshman defensive tackle Jeremiah Burton all suffered some sort of broken bones in the finger/hand/wrist area. All three have been out for at least a week, and likely won’t see action for another few.
But other than that bit of unfortunate news, Ohio’s camp has been a healthy one. The revamped offensive line had missed practices among the top two units. The entire linebacker group had just two missed practices among the first three units.
Even at WR and CB, two groups that had a fair bit of day-to-day shuffling throughout camp because of minor medical issues, ended camp essentially fully intact or nearly so. The running back group started camp on the thin side, but ended it with six players able to take full-contact reps.
None of Ohio’s projected top players — like QB Nathan Rourke or S Javon Hagan — had any sort of medical issue over the three weeks.
Beyond the medical issues, the completed camp period was also short on the kind of knock-down, drag-out fights that boil over in nearly every camp. There were two minor scuffles, and two heated player-coach exchanges, but for the most part the Bobcats kept the complaints and disputes under wraps.
What that ultimately means for the 2019 season is unclear, but I think it does show a focus on the ultimate goal of this roster — winning a MAC title. In that aspect, the Bobcats will break camp very much on the same page and pulling in the same direction.
It’s a business-like group that knows exactly how close the program has come to that title over the last three years. There’s still plenty of emotion evident, don’t get me wrong, but there was a concerted effort to take care of the job at hand in camp.
Ohio will dive into regular practices and regular game-week prep starting on Monday. I won’t be doing daily practice updates any longer, and hope those of you who read these dispatches from camp liked the coverage and analysis they provided.
With all that said, here’s the final two bits from camp blogging season….
Last injury update
I have no idea at this time how Ohio or Solich will handle the information regarding player availability during the season. It’s likely to be bottled up completely at some point, but here’s the final in-out set up from the final fall camp practice.
— WRs K.J. Minter and Tyler Tupa remained out again on Friday. Minter, after a solid camp, has missed the final week completely, and for Tupa I think this is his third batch of missed practices in camp. Drew Keszei, meanwhile, is out of the red jersey and back to being full go.
— The DL had its regular group of sit outs, with DE Bryce Dugan joining Miller, Burton and Massinople. In addition, DT Denzel Daxon was going through university orientation on Friday and missed the practice.
— Walk-on TE Luke Ewald has missed the bulk of fall camp after the first week. I don’t have any information on whether it was illness, or a physical injury.
— On the OL, Junior OT Felipe Fernandez was held out again on Friday. He missed quite a few sessions over the last half of camp, and 2019 signee Gary Hoover has been playing in his place at RT on the second team OL.
— Cornerbacks Ilyaas and Xavior Motley remained out. CB coach De’Angelo Smith said earlier this week he expects the pair to return in short order and hasn’t ruled either out from playing in the opener. Freshman corner Keniuel Gates was back in action on Friday, but freshman safety Jett Elad remained out.
Let’s see the two deep
Ohio should release an official two-deep lineup by the end of the weekend; I believe it’s required to have one posted going into game week.
But until then, here’s my official guess at how it might look. There’s no ‘inside information’ here, just how I would fill out the same sheet after watching practice over the last three weeks.
Of note, the WR group was my toughest spot to assign on the depth chart. It’s highly variable according to the personnel group on the field at the time, and what kind of matchups Ohio might be looking at. And, I think there’s a real chance you could see more than six WRs get game reps this fall.
Starter — Nathan Rourke, senior.
Backup — Kurtis Rourke, freshman.
Nathan’s younger brother has a a good frame, has proven he can decipher information quickly and the best arm talent in the group. I think he’s ahead of Joe Mischler at the end of camp, but don’t be surprised if Ohio tries to find reps for Mischler early in the season and keep Kurtis’ game count to four or less.
Starter — O’Shaan Allison, redshirt freshman OR Julian Ross, sophomore
Backups — De’Montre Tuggle, junior AND/OR Ja’Vahri Portis, junior
Yeah, I went back and forth on this one and just decided to pair them up. Ross missed the start of camp but finished strong. Allison has been steady and solid throughout. Ross is the bigger home run threat, and may get the nod.
Tuggle is in that same mix, in my opinion. Good quickness and acceleration. And Portis is going to play some as well, particularly on special teams.
Starter — Ryan Luehrman, junior.
Backup — Adam Luehrman, junior.
I expect both of the twins to play substantial reps this season, and Adam may be the starter in some games — I think he’s the better blocker. Alec Burton (redshirt freshman) is the clear third TE in the rotation, and I like true freshman Casey Clanton to get the nod if Ohio decides it needs a fourth TE at some point this season.
Starters — Cam Odom, junior; Shane Hooks, redshirt freshman; Jerome Buckner, redshirt freshman.
Backups — Isiah Cox, sophomore; Tyler Tupa, junior; Ty Walton, redshirt freshman.
Hooks got better as camp went on and he still presents the potential biggest matchup problem for opponents. Buckner missed a ton of practice time in camp, as did Tupa. Walton could easily fill in as a starter in the slot. This list doesn’t include D.L. Knock — who will get reps — or K.J. Minter. I believe Minter, when healthy could be an option at X.
Starters — LT Austen Pleasants, LG Brett Kitrell, C Steven Hayes, RG Hagen Meservy, RT Marques Grimes.
Backups — LT Samson Jackson, LG Kurt Danneker, C Nick Sink, RG Brody Rodgers, RT Gary Hoover.
Other than a couple of ankle issues, and Fernandez’ status late in camp, Ohio able to develop strong consistency in its top two units during camp. Can Jackson and Hoover (or Fernandez) be the quality depth OU needs at tackle? Time will tell, but I did feel Hoover and Jackson made jumps this camp.
Starters — DE Will Evans, NT Brian Arp, DT Cole Baker, DE Amos Ogun-Semore.
Backups — DE Sam McKnight, NT Kaieem Caesar, DT Marcus Coleman, DE Austin Conrad.
Like the OL, great consistency here was on display throughout camp. I think Baker is going to have a good year at the 3 technique, and Arp took a step this fall. Caesar was clearly the No. 3 interior player in camp, and Coleman (imo) has edged by Zach Burks for the second tackle spot. Ohio should go at least nine deep on the DL as DE Chukwudi Chukwu should also see reps.
Starter — SLB Dylan Conner, MLB Jared Dorsa, WLB Eric Popp.
Backups — SLB Jeremiah Wood, MLB Austin Clack, WLB T.J. Robinson.
Wood was one of the better defensive players in camp, in my opinion, and clearly it was the right call to slide him up from safety. Not on this list, but you can expect MLB Bryce Houston and WLB Keye Thompson to get reps this season, and both have the potential to be impact players on special teams.
Starters — CB Jamal Hudson, CB Marlin Brooks, S Javon Hagan, S Jarren Hampton.
Backups — CB Ilyaas Motley, CB Xavior Motley, S Alvin Floyd, S De’Vante Mitchell.
I went with the Motleys here as backups assuming they’ll be back soon. In truth, you might see Tariq Drake, or Justin Birchette, in the primary backup roles. I think the depth is much better at CB than a year ago. The top four slots at safety seem set, but young players like Jamison Collier and Isaac Gill could break through on special teams this year.
Starters — PK Louie Zervos; P Michael Farkas; LS Devin King; PR — Jerome Buckner; KOR — D.L. Knock.
Backups — PK Tristian Vandenberg, P Tristian Vandenberg; LS Justin Holloway; PR — Isiah Cox; KOR — Julian Ross.
The returner roles are far from set. Ty Walton, De’Montre Tuggle, Cox, Buckner and Knock do give Ohio plenty of options to consider either way.