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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 27, Digital 6

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 27, ISSUE 6 91 ception at the Bronco 37. The Bobcats then lost to Troy in the Dollar General Bowl. But while the sustained success has been great, es- pecially for an Ohio program that was struggling might- ily before Solich arrived, it's left some longing for more. "They can't get over the hump," said Andrew Gil- lis, sports editor at The Post, the student newspaper. "They've always been good to very good, just never great. In the four MAC title games, they've played in un- der Solich, the opposing teams were a combined 45-9. "… The offense will have to be better than last year, as the defense will take a step back due to graduation. They'll be competitive again. As for winning the MAC? That's a completely different question." But the goal nonetheless. The Bobcats finished 8-6 last season but have some big questions entering 2017, like finding key replace- ments on defense, one that was fifth in the nation in rushing yards allowed last season and produced 44 sacks, and settling on a quarterback. The defensive line lost three starters, including Tarell Basham, who had 11.5 sacks last season. But the linebackers, led by fifth-year senior and a favorite to win MAC Defensive Player-of-the-Year Quentin Poling, and secondary should be strengths. Safety Javon Hagan anchors the back half of the defense, after he was the conference defensive freshman of the year in '16. But it's likely be a rotation in the front, Gillis said, and that might mean a dropoff in the rush defense that allowed only 104 yards per game last season. But per- haps Kevin Robbins, a fifth-year senior who had 3.5 sacks last season, can emerge as a pass-rush specialist. "Their defense is always solid, so I wouldn't expect too many changes (in that)," Gillis said. The same can't be said on offense, where the Bob- cats were shaky, to say the least, in the second half of last season. In eight of the last 12 games, the offense failed to score more than 24 points, and that's after it had scored at least 37 in three of its first four. Part of that was on the quarterback position. Now, it'll be up to Quinton Maxwell, most likely, to solidify the spot. The sopho- more passed for 1,247 yards with eight TDs and four interceptions as a part-timer last season. But he'll face competition from J.C. transfer Nathan Rourke. But Maxwell, who will guide a Bobcat offense looking to be more wide open, enters camp with the edge. "He's an incredibly smart kid with a high ceiling," Gillis said. "He was up and down last year, though, look- ing lost at times then looking like the future of the Bob- cats at others." The skill positions are young but not without experi- ence. And running back A.J. Ouellette, who missed the end of last season with a foot injury, is back to lead the ground attack. Ohio beat Penn State in 2012 and hung with a ranked Tennessee team early last season, falling 28-19, so it's unlikely to be rattled in the first permanent-lights night game in Ross-Ade Stadium. "I think there's always a bit of (players) wanting to prove themselves, too, because a lot of these kids were passed over by Big Ten schools and went to Ohio," Gillis said. "I believe that to be true for every MAC school. "Solich will have the team motivated and ready to go." — Kyle Charters

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