April 9, 2007
ATHENS, Ohio - The Ohio football team began its third week of spring practice on Monday. The day's workout represented the halfway point of spring drills with eight of 15 workouts now completed.
Coming off Friday's scrimmage, the Bobcats were back in contact mode with a short offense versus defense workout at the end of practice. One of the most heated parts of any scrimmage is the line play. How the Bobcats fare up front during the 2007 will go a long way in determining Ohio's offensive success.
The Bobcat offensive line continued to improve in 2006, finishing the year ranked 22nd in the nation in sacks allowed and allowing All-MAC running back Kalvin McRae to rush for his second straight 1,000-yard season. The Bobcat front five did not utilize many players (only six players with more than 200 snaps), however, so developing depth will be key this spring. Ohio must replace two starters from last season, including All-MAC left tackle Matt Coppage.
Mike Eynon Junior
Eynon played in 13 games last season, including nine starts. He started one game at tackle and the other eight at guard. He had 48 pancake blocks and 14 decleaters while playing 599 snaps.
Paul Johnson Senior
Johnson started all five games he played last season at left guard, and has started 10 games in the last two seasons. He finished 2006 with an 80 percent grade, 23 pancakes and 10 decleaters.
Matt Miller Senior
A mainstay at right guard the last three seasons, Miller was one of three Bobcat lineman to start all 14 games last season. He has started 30 times during his career. In 2006, Miller was second on the team, playing 851 snaps and led the team with 61 pancake blocks.
David Shelby Senior
2006 was Shelby's first as a starter. He was in the starting lineup in each of Ohio's 14 games at right tackle and played a team-high 856 snaps. He registered an overall grade of 84 percent with 52 pancackes and 33 decleaters.
Tommy Stuck Junior
Stuck played in five games last season as a reserve center. In 101 snaps, he graded out at 79 percent with 8.5 pancacke blocks. Stuck played in all 11 games as a true freshman.
David White Sophomore
White played in all 14 games, making one start. He was a regular on Ohio's field goal and PAT squads. Offensively, he played 100 snaps and had 13.5 pancakes.
Others in the mix: Five other returning players saw limited action on the offensive line last season. Sophomores Shawn Fosnaugh, Chris Rodgers and Gary Schussler return as do juniors Josh Leuck and Brady Pisano. Leuck is in his first spring practice on offense after converting from the defensive line mid-way through the 2006 season. Sophomores Dathan Ferrainolo and Michael Philibin will also provide depth along the offensive front. Redshirt freshmen Jacob Black, Cole Bunner and Andrew Rauen worked with the scout team during their first seasons at Ohio. Two transfers, Brett Hines from Grand Valley State and Carl Spitale from Temple, will both participate in spring drills, but will have to sit out the 2007 season because of NCAA transfer regulations. Five newcomers will be added to the mix in the fall -- Joe Flading (Cincinnati, Ohio/Anderson), Dustin Laudermilch (Morgantown, W.Va./Morgantown), Marcus O'Hara (Hubbard, Ohio/Hubbard), Chris Spegal (Bethel Park, Pa./Bethel Park), and A.J. Strum (Delmont, Pa./Franklin Regional).
Q&A with Offensive Line Coach Keven Lightner
What is your top priority for the offensive line this spring?
"Our number one priority is probably to try and replace Matt Coppage at left tackle, and we have a few candidates there. We need to develop some depth. Last year, we thought we had some depth going in, but then we had some injuries and then we were pretty much playing five guys across the board the whole game. We want to get that spot settled in, replace those two seniors in J.J. (Knabb) and Coppage, and then get some depth at all the spots."
Losing two of your most experienced players, is there more teaching involved this spring than in the past?
"At the center spot, we're okay. We have Tommy Stuck who has played a lot of games and David White played some last year so I think we're okay there. We are doing a lot of teaching because there are a lot of young guys from those early recruiting classes. They're all in a position to play now. We're doing a lot of coaching on that, but that's the fun part of it."
How would you characterize the offensive line scheme in this offense?
"We have a lot of zone schemes, and we have a lot of man schemes. We do a lot of different things. We run the option so we run some inside, outside zone. We'll run a tackle play. We'll run power. The o-linemen in this offense have to be able to do everything. They have to be able to run well. They have to be able to man up on a guy, and they have to be able to zone a guy."
What is the number one thing you're looking for when choosing who will play up front?
"I really want to put the five toughest guys I have out there. In this offense, you have to be athletic, so I want tough, athletic guys. If we can get that, we can get a lot done."
More so than any other spot on the field, the offensive line requires a lot of chemistry and cohesion. How important are these spring practices toward building that unity for the fall?
"This has been huge. We're halfway through it and I see some things coming together. That's what we have to get out of this. I'd like to find eight to 10 guys that can play together. I think we got a good start on that."
There were five linemen in this year's recruiting class. Given the importance of chemistry up front, how will the newcomers fit in next fall?
"Those guys will be here this summer and they'll be able to get something out of it. If there's somebody I think that can handle the physical part, but might be behind a little mentally, than I'll get them caught up. If a kid is not ready physically, then he'll probably have to redshirt. If a kid can prove he can do it physically, we'll get him caught up."
The annual Green & White game will be held on Saturday, April 21 at 2 p.m. Ohio Athletics and the Ohio Sports Administration program is teaming up to present the second annual Bobcat Blitz which featured a full day of events surrounding the spring game. For more information, log on to www.BobcatBlitz.com.
Ohio Athletics will also hold its biannual merchandise sale at Pepsi Tail-Great Park.
Information about 2007 Ohio football tickets, including the return of the Bobcat Family Pack, can be found by clicking here.