For the last 16 seasons, there has been a constant in the Ohio football program in Frank Solich.
Solich came to Ohio before the 2005 season, and quickly turned the Bobcats into contenders in the Mid-American Conference.
Ohio played in the MAC Championship in Solich’s second season, eventually winning 115 games on the Bobcats’ sidelines.
Solich retired from coaching on July 14, paving the way for a new era of Ohio football.
That new era officially begins on Saturday, when Tim Albin takes the sidelines for the first time at Ohio’s head coach.
The Bobcats host Syracuse inside Peden Stadium at 7 p.m.
Albin is certainly no stranger to Ohio football, serving as offensive coordinator in Athens under Solich for the last 16 seasons.
Continuity has always been the key for Solich during his years at Ohio, as Jimmy Burrow served as the defensive coordinator for his first 14 seasons.
Even the new addition to the coaching staff — running backs coach and passing game coordinator Tyler Tettleton — is a familiar face. He was the quarterback for Albin and Solich from 2011 through 2013.
“The staff, we’ve been together so long, it’s such a strong staff,” Albin said. “It’s been very, very easy, the transition part of it.
“The staff has really made the transition very smooth.”
Ohio will also have a returning starter under center in redshirt sophomore Kurtis Rourke.
Rourke got his feet wet last year, starting the three games the Bobcats were able to play. He completed 30 of 44 passes for 386 yards and three touchdowns.
He follows in the footsteps of his brother Nathan Rourke, who was 24-13 as a starter during three seasons for the Bobcats.
Rourke will share the backfield with senior tailback De’Montre Tuggle.
Tuggle gained 403 yards in just three games last year, averaging 7.6 yards per carry with six touchdowns.
Backup quarterback Armani Rogers also saw time last year, rushing for 133 yards and two scores while passing for 48 yards and another score.
The meeting will be the first in 100 years against Syracuse, and it will be the first time the Orange have played in Athens.
Syracuse defeated Ohio in the only previous two meetings, coming in 1916 and 1921.
Dino Babers enters his sixth season leading Syracuse, which returns 10 starters on both sides of the ball.
The Orange won 10 games as recently as 2018, but struggled last year. Syracuse was 1-10 with eight losses in a row to end the season.
Redshirt junior Tommy DeVito is the starting quarterback for Syracuse. He played in four games last year, completing 48 of 96 passes for 593 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.
Sean Tucker will be the starter in the backfield, as he rushed for 626 yards and four touchdowns last year.
The Bobcats open the season with consecutive home games, hosting Duquesne on Sept. 11 at 2 p.m.
Ohio travels to Louisiana on Sept. 16 for a Thursday game, then to Northwestern on Sept 25.
The MAC opener is at Akron on Oct. 2.
The season opener is also the final in Athens for tight ends Ryan and Adam Luehrman. The 2015 Athens High School gradates opted for an additional season for the Bobcats due to the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
Another Athens graduate, redshirt senior Brody Rodgers, will be playing along the offensive line.
Nelsonville-York graduate Keegan Wilburn is also a receiver on the 2021 Bobcats’ roster.
Ohio was 2-1 in the games it got to play last season. The season didn’t begin until Nov. 4, and three games were canceled due to COVID-19.
The Bobcats and the rest of college football certainly hope for a more normal season in 2021.
It all kicks off with Saturday’s opener against Syracuse.
“I know the fan base is very excited about it,” Albin said. “A lot of tough games. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”