April 16, 2007
ATHENS, Ohio - The Ohio football team completed its 12th practice of the spring on Monday. The Bobcats are in their final week of spring preparations leading up to the Green & White game on Saturday, April 21.
The Bobcats boasted one of the top pass defenses in the MAC last season, finishing the season third in the league in passing yards allowed. One of the keys to that success was the play of the cornerbacks.
The Bobcats must replace one half of its starting cornerback duo from last season. First-team All-MAC corner T.J. Wright is gone, but junior Mark Parson (Richmond, Va.) returns after finishing the season ranked among the nation's top 20 in passes defended. In addition to finding a new starter, developing depth at the position will be a priority.
Idris Lawrence Sophomore
Lawrence played in 13 games as a redshirt freshman as a reserve corner and on special teams. He made nine tackles on the season.
Mark Parson Junior
The most experienced player in the group, Parson transitioned from nickel corner to starter, appearing in the lineup for the last 10 games of the season. He broke up 18 passes, the second most in school history, and ranked tied for 18th in the nation with 1.21 passes defended per game. His six passes defended against Akron ranked as the top single-game performance in the nation last season.
Dustin Tatum Junior
Tatum played primarily on special teams in 2006, but did get some reps as a reserve corner. In 10 games last season, he made two tackles. Tatum has not participated this spring due to an injury.
Others in the mix: A host of players redshirted during 2006 and now will be expected to compete for both the starting and reserve roles. Shannon Ballard and Julian Posey were part of last season's recruiting class. Sophomore Thad Turner made the move from receiver during the Bobcats' bowl preparation last season and will get his first extended look on defense. Chris Miller transferred during the winter from the Air Force Academy and must sit out the 2007 season. Two newcomers will join the roster in the fall. Billy Gonzales, a product of Auburn Riverdside High School in Bonney Lake, Wash., was named first-team All-South Puget Sound League as both a defensive back and wide receiver last year. Gonzales was rated as one of the top 100 players in Washington in 2006. Kenny Jackson from Liberty High School in Youngstown recorded six interceptions in 2006 and returned three of them for touchdowns. He was a first-team all-county and first-team All-Trumbull Athletic Conference selection in 2006.
Q&A with Cornerbacks Coach David Brown
What have been your impressions of competition to replace T.J. Wright this spring?
"The way I look at it, Mark Parson is replacing T.J. and we need to find a second corner to replace Mark as far as production goes. Guys are really competing and doing a good job. It will probably be fall camp before we figure out who is going to start, but it's really competitive right now with Thad Turner, Idris Lawrence and Julian Posey. Those guys are competing for a spot and doing a good job overall."
How has those open spot affected the competition among the corners?
"It has definitely raised the competition level. Nothing is given. Everyone wants to get on the field, and they're doing a good job of competing."
Has Mark Parson stepped up to take on more of a leadership role since he is the most experienced corner on the roster?
"He's the leader of the group. He's kind of quiet as far as demeanor, but he does a great job of talking to the guys and letting them know what to do and what not to do. He does a great job of leading by example. He's pretty detail oriented so it makes it easy."
How has Thad Turner's transition from offense worked out so far?
"Basically, if you look at it this is like his second spring ball when you count all the bowl practices so that was good experience for him then. Thad is just a really fast guy. He's one of the fastest guys on the team so that makes him pretty easy to teach as a corner. He's learning the fundamentals and learning the scheme. He's doing a good job."
Where do the cornerbacks fit in to the Bobcats' defensive scheme?
"We play a lot of man so we need guys that can lock down and make the quarterback pat the ball so we can get some sacks. We definitely need guys that can stay on an island, protect themselves and make one-on-one plays."
There were a lot of pass deflections last year. Has turning some of those break-ups into interceptions been an emphasis this spring?
"That's been a big emphasis. It's great to be able to get a hands on the ball as many times as we did last year, but it was disappointing we couldn't turn more of those into interceptions. We've focused on finishing off plays. We're doing a great job of getting there, but finishing plays off is what we've really been focusing on."
The Bobcats have two practices remaining before the annual Green & White game on Saturday, April 21 at 2 p.m. in Peden Stadium. 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 a merchandise surplus sale at Gate 1 of Peden Stadium beginning at 12 p.m.
Information about 2007 Ohio football tickets, including the return of the Bobcat Family Pack, can be found by clicking here.