From Buckeye to Bobcat

Keegan Wilburn (right), suited up last fall for the Nelsonville-York Buckeyes. This spring Wilburn has early enrolled at Ohio University and is one of six players from the 2020 recruiting class to already join the Bobcats.

It’s February, so it’s technically the beginning of the off-season for college football.

But for the coaches and players who have dedicated their lives to the sport, there is no true off-season anymore. In that spirit, I’ll try this year to produce more content about the Bobcats during these ‘off’ months than I have in seasons past.

There will be a three-part series (in print) coming soon which will take a long look at Ohio’s 2019 season — what was learned, what can be useful looking forward — and in the interim I’d thought I’d start with an informal roster reset.

Ohio’s current roster, the online version found here, was recently rolled over. That means new additions have been noted in an official university document for the first time, and classes were rolled forward one year for those already in the program.

For the purposes of this piece, I simply took Ohio’s roster entering the 2019 fall camp (Aug. 2) and compared it to the most recent edition (Jan. 23). Let’s breakdown who’s new to the Bobcat roster, and who is no longer associated with the program as a player.

Before the breakout sections, some looks at the number in totality. All told, 22 players who appeared on the Aug. 2 roster are no longer with Ohio. To this point, OU has added 12 players to the list since Aug. 2. Some of the additions came on board during the season, or were eventually cleared to join, and some were new arrivals with the 2020 signing class inked in December.

New additions from the 2020 signing class

Ohio landed signed NLIs from 11 players during the ‘first’ signing day back in December. Of those 11, six have already enrolled at Ohio and are on campus. The half-dozen represent the largest number of early enrollees that Ohio has welcomed in during Frank Solich’s 15-plus years running the program.

They include: Cornerback Peter Kemeni (Milton, Ontario/Clarkston North), Quarterback C.J. Harris (West Bloomfield, Mich./West Bloomfield), Wide receiver Keegan Wilburn (Nelsonville, Ohio/Nelsonville-York), Punter Jack Wilson (Lancefield, Victoria, Australia/Gisborne Secondary College), Offensive lineman Bryce McNair (Deerfield Beach, Fla./Deerfield Beach) and Offensive lineman Wyatt Walton (Johnstown, Ohio/Johnstown-Monroe).

All six are true freshmen.

It was important for Ohio to get Harris in early. The Bobcats will be low on quarterbacks for spring camp, for starters, and with an open competition in store for the starter’s role it was essential for Ohio to get him in and acclimated to the process and life of Division I football as soon as possible.

Ohio is also replacing its three main specialists (punter, kicker, long-snapper), so getting Wilson started as soon as possible was also a priority.

With the addition of McNair and Walton, Ohio will have 21 offensive linemen on the roster for spring camp. I believe that’s a high for the Solich era, and with 10 freshmen (redshirts included) expect them to get a lot of work this spring.

New additions since last August

The next list of players are those that joined the roster sometime in the last six months. For example, DT Denzel Daxon was a Class of 2019 signee, but did not start fall camp with Ohio because of clearinghouse issues.

This group includes: Wide receiver Max Darrow (R-Sophomore, Dublin, Ohio/Dublin Jerome), Wide receiver Wade Sheets (Freshman, Convoy, Ohio/Crestview), Running back Nate Rieple (R-Freshman, Mentor, Ohio/Mentor Lake Catholic), Offensive lineman Drayton Bohnstadt (R-Freshman, Greenville, S.C./Mann), Wide receiver Marlin Washington (R-Junior, Orlando, Fla./Quincy University), and Defensive tackle Denzel Daxon (Junior, Nassau, Bahamas/Carol City (Fla.).

Outgoing seniors

The largest group of players leaving the program represent seniors who have used up their college eligibility.

This group includes many key contributors from 2019, and includes: PK Louie Zervos, P Michael Farkas, SS Javon Hagan, QB Nathan Rourke, WR D.L. Knock, LS Devin King, LB Eric Popp, LB Austin Clack, DT Cole Baker, LB Ryan Grooms, OL Marques Grimes, DE Sam McKnight, OL Austen Pleasants, OL Steven Hayes, WR Camryn Snow, DE Chukwudi Chukwu, and DT Brian Arp.

Zervos, Farkas, Hagan, Rourke, King, Popp, Baker, Grimes, Pleasants, and Hayes were all starter for most of the season. Knock was essential in several roles, Clack was a special teams regular, while McKnight, Snow, Chukwu and Arp were all part of the regular rotation.

Odd and ends

Several players, during the course of the season and immediately after it, left the program for various reasons.

QB Joe Mischler entered the transfer portal following the regular-season and is headed to Duquesne.

PK Corey Hare left the program on his own accord in August.

DE Dezman Cooper was a three-star recruit who committed to Ohio less than a year ago. He took a redshirt this season, and has submitted his name to the transfer portal, but announced recently he was stepping away from football for a while.

DT Antez Baker was left off the fall camp roster, and eventually dismissed from the program.

DE Amir Miller was dismissed from the program early in the regular-season after he was accused of stalking (among other charges) a fellow OU student.

As of the time of this writing, only Mischler and Cooper have appeared in the NCAA Transfer Portal.

Email at jarkley@athensmessenger.com; follow on Twitter @JasonAmessenger

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