March 30, 2007
ATHENS, Ohio - The Ohio football team completed its third practice of the spring on Friday, March 30. The Bobcats have 12 workouts left, culminating in the annual Green & White game on April 21 at 2 p.m.
Friday's workout was the spring's first in full pads after working in shorts for the first two. Of the 15 practices allowed by the NCAA, only 12 can be designated for contact. The first two days must be non-contact practices. While the Bobcats were in full gear on Friday, they did not utilize the practice as a tackling day. The NCAA mandates that of the 12 practices where contact is allowed, no more than eight may involve tackling, and no more than three of those can be used primarily for 11-on-11 scrimmaging.
One group that the Bobcats hope don't get tackled very often is the wide receivers. The wide receiving corps features a good mix of experience and youth. Two seniors and two sophomores who saw significant game action in 2006 return. In addition, the Bobcats need one of several youngsters who redshirted last season to emerge as potential threats.
Justin Fitzgerald Senior
The Bobcats most experienced wideout, Fitzgerald had 15 catches for 115 yards while playing in all 14 games last season. In 30 career games, he has 37 catches for 379 yards and a touchdown.
Chris Garrett Sophomore
Garrett made his mark on special teams last season, finishing his rookie campaign as the MAC's top punt returner with a 14.5 yard-per-return average. He was a third-team Freshman All-America pick by The Sporting News as a return man. Offensively, Garrett had 10 catches for 84 yards and rand the ball 19 times for 97 yards.
Chido Nwokocha Senior
Nwokocha made an immediate impact in his first season with the Bobcats out of the junior college ranks. He was one of five Ohio players with at least 20 catches. Nwokocha was one of the Bobcats' top possession receivers with 10 of his catches accounting for first downs, including six catches on third down.
Taylor Price Sophomore
Price played in all 14 games as a true freshman, including one start. He made nine catches for 77 yards in his rookie campaign. Price was also used as a punt returner in the season opener with 26 yards on five returns.
Others in the mix: Several players with limited experience will need to step up to help improve the Bobcat passing game. Terrence McCrae and Robert Mercer both spent their first seasons learning the Ohio system. Sophomore Brandon Peterson redshirted as well during an injury-plagued season. Peterson caught four passes in six games in 2005. Senior Robert Preston and juniors Tyler Huffman and Matt Lawson are also in the mix after playing mostly on special teams in 2006.Two newcomers will be on hand in the fall. LaVon Brazill, a product of Lake Worth High School in Lantana, Fla., caught 23 passes for 615 yards and eight touchdowns in his final scholastic season. Riley Dunlop, a native of Liberty Township, Ohio, totaled 67 career receptions for 1,083 yards at Lakota East High School.
Q&A with Wide Receivers Coach Derek Mason
What is the top priority for the receivers this spring?
"We have to become a more efficient and consistent receiving corps. We have some good young talent mixed with some veterans who have played so we think we can be more athletic. We think we can be a pretty good receiving corps, but it all comes down to consistency."
You do a lot of fundamental work with the receivers every day. How important is that type of instruction to the development of the receiving corps?
"When you have young guys, you really have to make sure that you coach everything. Sometimes it may feel to those younger guys that I'm over-coaching it, but really you can't over-coach it because they don't know it. If I say it 100 times, it only takes one time to hear it to get it right. I'm going to keep harping on the fundamentals, and by the time we get out of the spring they'll have it down heading into this summer."
Is it important to identify this time of year who can be a big-play threat?
"We're looking to find out who can get the ball deep. We've got big guys, we've got fast guys, we've got medium guys that are explosive. With this group of guys, I think we have more potential playmakers - big, small, what-have-you. We must establish this spring who is going to be our deep threat and from there we can carry it over into this summer and hopefully next fall it works for us."
Chris Garrett and Taylor Price both played quite a bit as true freshman. Are you expecting some of the guys that redshirted last season to emerge and join them in the rotation?
"You're talking Brandon Peterson, who played as a true freshman, you're talking about Robert Mercer, and you're talking about Terrence McCrae. Those guys will make an impact for us. They have speed and size. They have athletic ability and some knowledge of the system. They're fine-tuning it now. I think they're going to be ready to step on the field and compete for us next fall. That's what we need."
Does not knowing who the starting quarterback is affect the receivers at all?
"It doesn't because we don't know who the receiving corps is going to be. For us right now, these guys don't care who is throwing it to them. They want to make sure they do their jobs, be efficient and help move the chains."
The Bobcats have 12 more practices this spring, including the annual Green & White game 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.
Information about 2007 Ohio football tickets, including the return of the Bobcat Family Pack, can be found by clicking here.