As the Spring Game approaches for the Ohio Bobcats, it doesn’t exactly feel like spring in Athens. According to the National Weather Service, the average temperature is 10 degrees below normal for this time of year, while the low temperature sits two degrees below the historical average.
Besides the weather, the looming 2013 Spring Game is really what matters most at this point. With so many new faces, it is sill unclear who will replace the graduated seniors at key positions on both sides of the ball. And at wide receiver, this especially holds true. Wide outs such as redshirt junior Chase Cochran and redshirt senior Matt Waters are going to be key weapons in the arsenal of quarterback Tyler Tettleton come fall at a position that has been one of the most solid and consistent units over the past three seasons.
Read below to capture what spring football beat reporters Zak Kolesar and Chris Manning collected from practice on Tuesday morning:
A frigid spring in Athens:
As mentioned above, it has been a cold spring in Athens. Waters, an Iowa native, and Cochran, a born and bred Ohioan, are both used to the cold; however, they differ on their clothing choices. Waters said he stopped wearing long sleeves due to a fumbling problem in high school.
“I did (wear Under Armour) in high school, but I fumbled a little bit because the sleeves get slick, so I just kind of stopped wearing them,” he said. “I just got used to it, and I’m from Iowa, so it’s freezing there.”
Cochran, on the other hand, only wears them during practice.
“I don’t wear them in the games, so we’re like complete opposites,” he said. “I never wear them in the game, but for practice I like to be warm.”
Coupled with the cold weather, the ‘Cats also start practice early in the morning before most of campus is even awake and any dining hall is open, something that does not bother Waters.
“If you’ve got a full day of class, you might struggle a little bit, but it’s so nice just to get up and get it done,” Waters said. “You don’t have to worry about anything. You just come out here, take care of business and you got the rest of the day to go to class, get treatment and just relax.”
Newcomers eager to make an impact:
With wide receivers Donte Foster and Mario Dovell sidelined due to injuries, many young route runners on the Ohio Bobcats’ roster have gotten their numbers called on the practice field. Players who weren’t expecting to get a whole lot of playing time during the regular season – such as redshirt freshmen Jordan Reid and Sebastian Smith – are now taking advantage of the somewhat-limited receiver core.
“They want to be the starters just as much as the guys that are out, so they got something to prove they feel like,” Cochran said. “They’re out here working their butts off everyday just for more and more playing time.”
With coaches testing the waters by constantly shifting players in and out of drills, Bobcats without much of a résumé are trying their absolute hardest to make an impact. This may seem commonplace, but attempting to grasp a team’s playbook as quickly as possible is mentally challenging. However, with help from experienced teammates, the transition into a new offense is not as scary as it could be.
“I think the biggest thing is just trying to help them…feel comfortable being out there because I know, especially when I was younger, there were a lot of things I was doing that were awkward because they weren’t things I was doing before,” Cochran said.
Cochran, who caught four touchdown passes last season, has been one of the shining stars during early practices according to teammate and quarterback Tyler Tettleton. This has shown in both spring scrimmages, and it is now evident that his effect on the team reaches far beyond the playing field. With the lead receiver from last season, Foster, yet to make an appearance in pads, Cochran has embraced a leadership role.
New offensive line meshing well with team:
When a team loses five senior offensive linemen to graduation, you would expect there to be some bumps in the row. As of right now, this doesn’t seem to be a problem for the Ohio Bobcat football team. Even with losing two draft hopefuls – center Skylar Allen and guard Eric Herman – the current trench diggers have given their quarterbacks in scrimmages ample time to make plays both on the ground and through the air.
But for some players, losing five offensive linemen to graduation has impacted them in an off-the-field sense.
“Off the field Skylar (Allen) is one of my best friends, so it’s going to be real different,” Waters said.
The ‘Cats suffered 17 season-ending injuries during the 2012 season resulting in much of the current roster seeing playing time. Players and coaches preached a next-man up attitude last season, a philosophy that will carry over.
“The seasons are long, and we’re going to have injuries, there’s no question, but it’s just about stepping up,” Cochran said.
And players have done just that thus far. Waters has seen the learning experience that players have taken with them from last season showing on the field already. And it is only spring.
“We’ve got some guys stepping up at center at guards and stuff, so we’ll be all right,” Waters said.
Quote of the Week:
“I think if you watch the first two scrimmages, I think we move the ball really well. We were able to run the ball, we were able to pass the ball, we were able to get time, so all in all, just from my perspective, I think they’re doing a really good job.” ~ Cochran on the status of the team through the first two scrimmages.