Ohio is bringing an offensive tempo to Gillette that the Minutemen haven’t seen, yet.
Head coach Frank Solich runs a no-huddle, fast-paced offense that utilizes the pistol formation. For those that haven’t had the chance to watch Ohio, try to think back to the offense James Madison ran against UMass during their last meeting. There is a lot of quick passes mixed in with pro-style, up-the-gut runs. It’s the type of offense that will frustrate and confuse an opposing defense by its pure simplistic complexity.
Bad news for UMass: Ohio implemented this offense last year and is now figuring out the added layers.
In order for this offense to run effectively, a team needs a talented and poised starting quarterback. Lucky for Ohio fans, the Bobcats have two.
For the third week in a row, the Minutemen will likely face one of the best quarterbacks in the country. However, unlike Miami (OH), the Bobcats have more than one weapon.
The Ohio quarterback position conjures up the image of a 1980s Southie bartender greeting a new patron at 10 am: “Choose your poison, ya bastard.”
UMass will see either Tyler Tettleton or Derrius Vick this weekend – or maybe a combination of both. Tettleton, the incumbent starter, said yesterday that he is 100 percent playing this weekend. His coach wasn’t as sure. Regardless of who takes the field, the Minutemen will have their hands full. Both are comfortable in the pocket or on the fly, and both have a solid rapport with their receivers.
Tettleton is obviously the greater of the two possible evils. Last year he threw for 3,502 yards and 28 touchdowns while leading Ohio to its first 10-win season since Lyndon Johnson sat in the White House. Perhaps the most frightening stat for the UMass defense is that Tettleton also ran for more than 600 yards.
He picked up where he left off this season, and prior to his undisclosed injury ran for more than 100 yards in three games.
Heading into the season, Tettleton was on several award “watch” lists , including: the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, the Manning Award, and the Davey O’Brien Award. While his injury may have set him back, he is still gunning for the most important award of all: An undefeated season.
If Tettleton is still too banged up to play (or if Ohio gets a comfortable lead) expect to see Vick, a redshirt freshman out of Lincoln, Neb. During his two appearances, Vick has been very impressive and has 233 yards and four touchdowns. He has yet to throw an interception. Vick was overlooked by many teams in the Rocky Mountain region, only drawing scholarship offers from Colorado State, North Dakota State and South Dakota State.
This is another guy with the ability to run. Despite having only 38 yards on the ground, Vick runs a 4.6 40, which will surely be on display if the Minutemen fail to come up with answers to the QB draw.
After Donte Harden graduated, Tettleton was the team’s leading returning rusher. That kind of stat doesn’t fly outside of Ann Arbor, so the Bobcats had to find a back to carry the load.
So far Beau Blankenship has filled in admirably.
Blankenship, who actually went to the same high school (Norman North, in Norman, OK) as Tettleton has taken on the lion’s share of carries this year. The 5’9, 202-pound athlete has 113 attempts for more than 500 yards and appears poised to be Ohio’s second 1,000-yard rusher in as many years. He has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the Bobcats’ first four games. Blankenship is also adept as a receiver and has more than 90 yards on eight receptions this season, including a 28-yard touchdown.
Blankenship is a redshirt junior who originally committed to Iowa State before transferring to Ohio.
When Blankenship takes a breather, Daz’Mond Patterson, a true freshman out of Plant City, Fla., will get some reps. Patterson has 92 yards on 18 carries.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Injuries and graduation have hurt the Bobcat receiving corps more than any other unit.
Ohio lost three of its top receivers to graduation, including LaVon Brazill, now with the Indianapolis Colts. Heading into the season Donte Foster and Tyler Futrell were asked to pick up the slack, and for the most part did a decent job. However, Futrell is out this week with a shoulder injury and is getting an MRI to discover the extent of the damage.
Foster, who plays the split end spot for the Bobcats, is their most dangerous threat. So far Foster has 188 yards and four touchdowns and is a steady 10-yard-per-catch guy.
With Futtrell out, expect to see more from redshirt junior Landon Smith. Smith is a big-play threat. In limited time this year, he has 122 yards on four catches. He is also credited with changing the momentum of the Penn State game with his somewhat-lucky touchdown reception.
Chase Cochran, a redshirt sophomore, is Ohio’s flank receiver. Cochran hasn’t done much this year but has good speed and may see more targets in Futrell’s absence.
Jordan Thompson is Ohio’s feature tight end after reeling in 24 catches last year. Thompson, a redshirt senior, has 68 yards and a touchdown so far and is also considered a quality blocker. He has good size (6’4, 250 pounds), and Athlon Sports had him as one of their top tight ends in the MAC this season.
Outside the quarterback position, Ohio’s offensive line may be its greatest asset.
Anchoring this unit is 6’4, 319-pound senior Eric Herman, the Bobcats’ starting right guard. Herman, who is from a place oddly named Oregon, Ohio, was an Athlon Sports Preseason All-MAC selection – he earned the same honors in Lindy’s. There is some question as to Herman’s health heading into the UMass game. He missed Tuesday’s practice with an apparent back injury, but there is no further indication that he will sit against the Minutemen.
This kid is very good, and if he stays healthy may be the best lineman in the MAC this season.
Vince Carlotta will start at the other guard position. Carlotta is a redshirt senior and has seen action in each of his four years playing. He has good size (6’4, 289 pounds) and brings solid experience to the line.
The Bobcats’ second-best lineman is Skyler Allen, their 6’3, 288-pound senior center. Allen beat out J.D. Bales (a Preseason Second Team All-MAC selection by Lindy’s) for the starting spot and has done a solid job thus far. Allen is a disciplined vet and over four games has yet to register a penalty.
The tackles are a pair of redshirt juniors – Ryan McGrath and John Prior. Ohio is lacking some depth here as Mike McQueen is out for the game with an ankle injury.
What do you say to a team full of guys that less than a year ago were game planning for Central Connecticut State’s offense, and now, all of a sudden, are faced with their third-straight nationally ranked quarterback? Is there a speech that you make? Do you point to the bulletin board, which by now is littered with articles and comments slamming your team’s defense?
I assume the best course of action is to explain the reality of the situation as concisely as possible: “Welcome to Division I football, gentlemen.”
UMass faces yet another tall task against Ohio. It must try to pressure one of the best quarterbacks in the MAC, who – if he plays – will be standing behind the biggest and best offensive line in the conference.
The Minutemen must also keep an eye on a running back that has surprised many with his statistical output. Meanwhile, they have to adjust – yet again – to an offense that is completely different than anything they have seen.
Ohio can be slowed, but I’m not sure if it can be stopped by UMass. If the rain comes, and the Bobcats are forced to rely on its running game, this one could be closer than a lot of people think.
However, if it’s nice enough to throw, and Tettleton is calling the shots, this could be another long day for UMass’ secondary.