Ohio Bobcats

Ohio’s Armani Rogers (18) prepares to celebrate with Shane Hooks (5) after scoring a touchdown during a 52-10 win over Bowling Green last season.

Tim Albin finds himself in a different role this season, but it’s not unfamiliar.

Albin, the new head football coach at Ohio University, watched over his first scrimmage on Saturday since taking over the position from the retired Frank Solich.

Albin wasn’t as focused on just the offense, as he had been during his 16 seasons as Solich’s offensive coordinator, but he knew what to do as Ohio saw live action.

“It’s been 20 years, but it’s like riding a bike,” Albin said, in reference to his stint as a head coach at Northwestern Oklahoma State. “I stay out of their way. We have an unbelievable staff. Our staff is what’s the difference. The guys do a great job. I stay out of their way.”

Albin let his staff, and his players, go to work on Saturday. The Bobcats were able to get 11-on-11 reps for most of the first and second teams offenses and defenses.

Kurtis Rourke took most of the reps at quarterback with the starters, with Armani Rogers also getting a shot to run the offense. CJ Harris also saw time at quarterback during the scrimmage plays.

Rourke and Rogers were Ohio’s quarterbacks during 2020’s three-game season, and will continue to battle for playing time this year.

“For the first scrimmage, feel like we did a great job on offense,” Rogers said. “Defense did a great job as well. They gave us a great look. We went out there and competed. Receivers making plays for us. Linebackers making plays for us. O-line was giving all the quarterbacks time in the pocket to make some great throws.”

Ohio’s offense in the scrimmage centered mostly around the running game. De’Montre Tuggle is a proven commodity as the returning tailback, and he looked the part when he caught a screen pass from Rourke for 24 yards on the first play, then ripped off a 16-yard run three players later.

Tuggle only had six touches for 55 yards, unofficially, on the day, but Albin knows he has a workhorse in the senior.

“He’s put on some weight and he’s faster,” Albin said. “That’s usually a good equation.”

Ohio has plenty of options at running back. Senior Julian Ross didn’t participate due to injury, but the Bobcats still found carries for four other running backs.

Junior O’Shaan Allison was the first to get reps after Tuggle.

True freshman Sieh Bangura also gained attention with hard runs between the tackles.

“He’s a hard runner,” Rogers said. “He’s not afraid of contact. If it’s fourth-and-one, he’s not afraid to put his nose in there and go get that extra yard.”

Senior Jake Neatherton also got carries during the scrimmage.

“They’re all talented,” Albin said of the running backs. “Some of them have a little more this or that, but it’s a deep room and he’s (Bangura) definitely going to make it tough. It’s a one-back system. Only one guy’s out there. There’s going to be some headaches coming down the road in who goes in what series.”

Bryce Houston, Ben Johnson, Jack McCrory and Kyle Kelly all made plays at linebacker, with Dane Middlebrook, Aiden Malenchek and Will Evans be among the playmakers on the defensive line.

Ohio’s first offensive drive ended when Tristian Vandenberg missed a 42-yard field goal wide to the right.

The longest play of the day came when Rogers opened the seventh possession with a 27-yard pass to true freshman Miles Cross.

Ohio’s offense found the end zone twice, both coming late in the practice in red-zone situations.

Rourke found Jerome Buckner open for a 14-yard pass, with Stephen Johnson following with the extra point.

The final scrimmage play of the day was Rogers hitting a pass to tight end Alec Burton in the back, corner of the end zone.

“I saw the matchup,” Rogers said. “It was Burton, then we had a corner over there, a smaller guy. I just liked the matchup over there.”

Ohio started the final drives from the defense’s 25-yard line. Albin said the red zone situations were a wrinkle that the Bobcats haven’t done in past scrimmages, but a curveball he threw at his assistant coaches on the fly.

“Just tried to throw them a little wrench. The guys handled it,” Albin said.

The Bobcats are three weeks away from the season opener against Syracuse, and another scrimmage is set for Saturday.

Ohio is more than a week into fall camp, and took a step toward that opener by getting the first scrimmage on game film.

“I think pretty good on both sides of the ball,” Albin said. “I know the guys, they’ve got some dead legs right now with camp going on. I thought they had really great energy.”

Promotions on the staff

Albin will enter his first season as Ohio’s head coach, meaning another coach will have the title as offensive coordinator.

Albin and Ohio announced on Friday that the promotion went to quarterbacks coach Scott Isphording.

Isphording has been elevated to offensive coordinator, a position Albin held the last 16 seasons.

Offensive line coach Allen Rudolph will serve as the co-offensive coordinator.

“It’s a great combination between Scott and Allen,” Albin said. “We’ve got a system.”

Isphording is in his ninth season on Ohio’s staff, and he has been the quarterbacks’ coach since 2014.

Rudolph enters his third season with the Bobcats, the previous two seasons as the offensive line coach. He is a 24-year coaching veteran.

“He’s the best game-day adjustment guy I’ve ever been around, and I’ve been doing this 31 years,” Albin said of Rudolph. “He’s a great technician.”

Email at kwiseman@athensmessenger.com; follow on Twitter @KevinWmessenger

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