There are 93 days until MACtion returns. Until then, we count the days.
Ohio’s offense was incredibly good last year. If the numbers should speak for themselves: Ohio’s 508 total points, 39.1 points per game (No. 9, nationally), 44 rushing touchdowns and 5.7 rushing yards per carry were all school records. Running back A.J. Ouellette was able to reach four digits worth of rushing yards last year (1,006) and first-year quarterback Nathan Rourke wasn’t too far behind him (912). At 244.5 total rushing yards per game, Ohio led the league running the ball as a team
Of course, inserting a junior-college-transfer quarterback that goes off to lead all quarterbacks in rushing touchdowns (21) is going to stand out. But the offensive line needs some recognition, especially since most of them are coming back.
Ohio’s rushing production was really great, but there wasn’t a lot of ground covered through the air. A lot of that had to do with Rourke completing 55.1 percent of his passes (four pins below the national average) while calling more run plays (554 rush attempts, fourth in MAC) than pass plays (321 team pass attempts, third-fewest in the MAC).
But cleaning up the passing is solvable. Plus, the offensive line is reliable in pass protection. Tied for No. 16 nationally, Ohio allowed only 16 sacks on 337 drop backs (4.7 percent sack rate) — a loss of only 93 yards on the season (No. 14 nationally).
This positional group is deep and experienced, and it’s possible that Ohio’s offense can still be really productive in 2018.
LT, Joe Lowery — A redshirt-senior, Lowery stands at 6-foot-7, Lowery started the last two seasons for Ohio at left tackle.
LG, Joe Anderson — Anderson’s entering his final season with the Bobcats by way of El Camino College with three-for-two eligibility. The 6-foot-6, 340 pound started every game last season at his position.
RG, Hagen Meservy — As a true freshman, Merervy started all but one game last year for the Bobcats. Not bad for somebody who came into the program with a two-star rating by 247sports composite.
RT, Austen Pleasants — Pleasants started the final six games of the schedule last year, and is now a redshirt-junior that’s listed at 6-foot-7, 328 pounds.
More depth: Durrell Wood’s getting a sixth year of eligibility after he started one game last year and was injured after that. (He used 2014 as his redshirt year.) There’s an opening at center for him to find playing time, or at least in the rotation at guard.
Other returnees that found some playing time last year include Marquise Grimes (redshirt-junior), Kyle Kuhar (redshirt-junior), Steven Hayes (junior), Nick Sink (redshirt-sophmore), Felipe Fernandez (redshirt-sophomore), Adam Notestine (redshirt-sophomore) and Brett Kitrell (sophomore).
Players lost: Ohio lost two starters from last year. The first being center Jake Pruehs is graduated, but he’s a guy that started all but four games throughout his career at Ohio. And those four games he didn’t start in were during his sophomore year. While Pruehs never got a shot at the NFL, replacing a center that was a full-year starter who finished his senior season by having his team have one of the best offensive seasons in ____ years isn’t as simple as recruiting and development. (Of course, recruiting and development are anything but simple.)
Second, Jared McCray. McCray has been hurt throughout his career.
Ohio will be thin on OL today. Depth guys Nick Gibbons, Stephen Langenkamp and Jared McCray all left back in Athens (injuries)
— Jason Arkley (@JasonAmessenger) October 25, 2014
Injuries/personnel: Haven’t seen DE Kevin Robbins in last 2 practices. OT Jared McCray suffered apparent knee injury today.
— Jason Arkley (@JasonAmessenger) August 10, 2015
Jared McCray (OL) will not return. Has been playing most of the year with injured hand. No word on tonight’s injury
— Jason Arkley (@JasonAmessenger) November 16, 2016
Ohio injury update; WRs Brendan Cope and Jerrid Marhefka both back tonight. OLs Durren Wood and Jared McCray remain out however
— Jason Arkley (@JasonAmessenger) October 31, 2017
Even after not playing his junior year and only 16 games played until then, McCray was the opening-game starter for Ohio last year and made it to the mid-way point of the season.