ATHENS, Ohio - Ohio University football head coach Frank Solich held his weekly press conference on Monday afternoon to preview the Bobcats' matchup against Norfolk State this Saturday.
On Ohio's Secondary
"I think they've done a good job. If you look at us from last season, we were expected to have a secondary that was really experienced with our starters. Our safety's coming back, our corner's coming back, the problem is we lost the two starting corners, so the guys that got some experience last year, behind them, at least Larenzo, has stepped up and played very well. If you look at Ian, and you look at Devin, they're guys that are basically redshirt freshmen with no experience, and have been thrown in the mix. Jamil Shaw, who had a lot of experience from the previous season, has a shoulder injury and is done for the year. So we really lost our top three returning corners to start the season. When you look at it from that standpoint, the guys that are playing now have done a remarkable job, and I think that our experience that is surrounding them has helped."
On Ohio getting off to a faster start
"I don't know that there's anything that you can work on to get off to a faster start. I don't know how to pinpoint that and say, `If we just get this done, we're going to put points on the board right away'. It's a matter that we played pretty good football games the first three games, and things aren't just going to go as smoothly as you'd like them to go normally, early in the game. You've got to kind of settle into the game and get adjusted to what they're doing. No one has totally run away from us in the first quarter or second quarter. We did have a 14-point deficit in the first quarter this past game, but we did end up leading at halftime 17-14. I don't think we're getting off to horrible starts, it just seems like we've been more productive after we've settled in on what we want to do with our offensive game plan and defensive game plan as the game has gone on."
On Norfolk State
"There's no question, they've got a lot of transfers and a lot of junior college players on their team, so they've got themselves a good football team. They're very athletic when you look at them on tape, so I don't know how they're perceived by other people, I know how they're perceived by our coaches, and I know once our players get a chance to see them on film I know how they'll be perceived by our players. They're a very good football team, they're capable of winning and so we're just going to have to be on top of our game and do what we've been doing in the first three games, and that's been taking good care of the ball and forcing some turnovers and making some big plays. One of the things that happened this past week that I think helped us is that we've got better play from our special teams. We've got pretty good play from our offensive unit, we've got a pretty good defensive unit and our special teams are getting better. Hopefully, with that combination, we'll put together a team that is not easy to beat. Certainly they're capable of winning this football game, we've got to play our very best."
"They'll play very good football, and they'll be very confident in their abilities coming in, as they should be. So we expect it to be a heck of a football game, and with our approach of always just trying to get ready for the next opponent. We're putting everything into that and hopefully it's going to be good enough."
On Special Teams
"Across the board, in looking at Marshall, they had dangerous return guys. Their punter was averaging very well, they have a field-goal kicker that's good and they covered kickoffs very well, and we worried about them blocking punts as well as returning punts. So we had to be functioning well in all areas in order to win the game as far as special teams goes. If we had breakdowns in special teams, I think it would have cost us the game."
On Norfolk State's skill set
"Theycan really run. Their outside backers are really athletic and they are very good one-on-one football players. It's not a deal where you're just going to knock them off the ball and think that it's going to be an easy day - that's not going to be the case. They're balanced on offense, they're averaging 30-points, about 170 yards rushing, 190 yards passing - I believe - so they are a lot like us. You have to worry about both aspects of the game from the defensive standpoint, their running game and their throwing game. They've got skilled people, they've got guys that can really make big plays on both sides of the ball.
On the Remaining Schedule
"As far as the toughest part of our schedule being behind us, we never see it that way. Those games are done with. The toughest part of our schedule lies ahead of us. So we're going to continue to take this game like we have all the others, one game at a time. It's the best way to prepare for football games, and not have yourself play a game to where you've left something on the field and you look back and say, `I wish we would have done this or that, or played a little harder, or been better prepared'. We prepare the same for every single football game, and these guys deserve a lot of attention because they are a good football team."
On Tyler Tettleton and Matt Weller
"Matt and Tyler have both won the MAC Player of the Week honors, and they've definitely earned those honors - their play - has been consistent. I think in Matt's first ball game, he would probably like to have a few things back, but most everybody does. He's really in a grove right now, he's tremendously confident, and not only is getting a great job done now field-goal wise, but if you look at the hang time on his kickoffs and how instrumental that is in terms of our starting field position, it has really been critical, and he's done a great job of that of course. Tyler has been so competitive throughout his career here. He only has one gear and he only knows how to play the game one way, I can't get him to not practice. He was banged up going into last week's ball game and then he had an injury that bothered him throughout the week last week. He then suffered an injury in the game, so at the end of the game he was struggling throwing the ball, yet he was able to do enough to get it done. We're going to tie him up this week a little bit before he gets up and goes out 100 miles an hour like he usually does, whether he likes it or not."
On Beau Blankenship
"He was banged up coming off the previous game, and there was one day where he did not practice, but he's the type of guy, who you can't keep off the field either. You've got to love that if you've got those types of guys in your system, because that's not always the case. They're (Beau and Tyler) setting great examples, but we've got to be conscious of their health.
On the running backs
"Boykin got some snaps in the game. He was not 100 percent in last week's game at Marshall as he was coming off a hamstring injury. I think he'll be better this week. If he's better this week then he can get some more playing time, that way we can have a fresh tailback back on the field for every snap.
On the Bobcats' younger running backs
"Then you look at our two young guys, Kyle's getting some kickoff returns, Daz (Patterson) has got some time in this last game, and so they'll gain more and more confidence, so before it's all over we'll have a pretty strong group of running backs. Beau was banged up, Ryan was not 100 percent, so we have confidence in those two young guys, so with that confidence - we put him in, and I thought he did a very good job. Anytime younger players can gain experience in crucial situations, I think it is really beneficial to players. One thing he could have done a little bit better was stay in bounds on the throw to him. He knew that, but it was a tough situation, you've got the sideline and they knocked him out. But you stay inbounds."
On having depth at running back
"Some backs are just workhorse backs and can just go and go and go. Beau is that way. But to try to do that for a season is pretty tough, so you'd like to have other backs share that responsibility as you go through games. Once we get completely healthy we'll be able to do that pretty well."
On Ohio's Defensive unit
"It's a good group, I like their demeanor, I like their athleticism, they can run, so our starting group up front is a very good starting group. We worried a little bit about experience in the linebacker spot with losing Noah, but Keith (Moore) has played well and that's working itself out. Our guys are pretty good tacklers, and they support quick."
On Nick Carpenter and Jelani Woseley's Leadership
"Both those guys are pretty quiet guys on the field, but their leadership shows in other ways. They're really competitive guys, they've played hurt, they've made big plays in games for us, so you can't get enough of those kind of guys. We're fortunate that those two guys are like that for us, but we've got other guys on that team that are very much the same way. These guys take advantage of almost every opportunity. There was a pass or two in the previous games that he (Jelani Woseley) would have liked to have held on to, but that was a crucial play in this ball game, that interception. Nate seems to be in the right place at the right time, and that's because he's such a smart football player. What goes unnoticed, there's a number of knockdowns in passes that he has, even though he's not very tall, he's got over a 36-inch vertical and quarterbacks think they can throw over him fairly easy, but it doesn't really happen that way."
On Ohio's Defensive Pressure
"We're probably getting more pressure and more hits on quarterback from just the foreman rush and that's great to see. You don't want to always have to rely on a blitz to pressure a quarterback."