Helping the Cause


Five players ready to breakout for Ohio

Pete Nakos / Asst. Sports Editor

After watching Ohio football go through spring practice, five players appeared capable of making a significant leap and contributing next season for the Bobcats. Let’s look at who they are:

1. Maleek Irons, rising redshirt senior running back:

AJ Ouellette, the Bobcats’ leading rusher who reached the 1,000 yard mark a season ago, is back. With the graduation of No. 2 back Dorian Brown, however, Irons could take on a role similar to two years ago.

Irons sat out last season because of off-the-field disciplinary issues. The season before, he and Brown shared the bulk of the carries due to Ouellette’s season-ending injury in the opening game of the season.

In 2017, Irons finished the season with 439 yards on 95 carries, including five touchdowns. He has the capability of being a faster threat than Ouellette, and with a season away from playing the game, there shouldn’t be anything to hold back.

This spring, Irons was one of the few Bobcat running backs able to see live contact time during drills, due to Ouellette and Julian Ross still recovering from injuries from the season.

2. Amos Ogun-Semore, rising redshirt freshman defensive end:

The Bobcats will enter the 2018 season with just one returner from their front seven and a spot to fill at every defensive line position.

Ogun-Semore, a 6-foot-5 defensive end, caught attention during the spring, but particularly Ohio’s abridged version of a spring game. In just 60 live scrimmage plays, Ogun-Semore delivered two sacks, two quarterback hurries and a forced fumble.

“We’re looking for a lot of those younger guys to rise up and start proving themselves,” Ohio head coach Frank Solich said.

Ogun-Semore showed his worth and if a successful summer follows, his name could be called often in the fall.

Blake Nissen | PHOTO EDITOR

Ohio's Quarterback Nathan Rourke prepares to throw the ball during Ohio's homecoming game against Central Michigan University on October 7, 2017. The Bobcats lost 23-26.

3. Isiah Cox, rising redshirt freshman wide receiver:

Papi White has shined for the Bobcats the past three years, coming out of the backfield and in the slot position. But as the redshirt senior prepares for his last season, Ohio will have to face life post-White.

In spring camp, Cox showed glimpses of the plays he can make, such as a 26-yard reception in one of the Bobcats’ scrimmages.

Cox seems to be the apparent heir to White’s role along with incoming freshman Jerome Buckner. Cox has the potential to make a name for himself this year, a taller version of White, he can still match the latter’s speed. For Ohio, the key this year with Cox is to make sure he gets his share of reps and hopefully makes them count.

4. Ryan Luehrman, rising redshirt sophomore tight end:

One of the only holes in the Bobcats’ offense is at the tight end position. Ohio lost four-year starter Troy Mangen, who signed a free-agent contract with the Atlanta Falcons, and Mason Morgan to graduation. The Bobcats showed multiple packages with two tight ends last season, used to optimize the running attack. Ohio’s ideal tight end can block well and catch the football on passing downs.

Luehrman seems capable of filling one of those roles. He saw minimal playing time last season, but he was on the travel roster for special teams. A native of Athens, he caught passes in high school from Joe Burrow.

He didn’t officially join the roster until January of his freshman year, too. It’s a process referred to as ‘Gray-shirting’ in college football. He worked out on his own, went to classes and, in general, was a full-time college students, but he was not recognized as part of the roster until January. Ohio didn’t hesitate to do so because he could learn behind veterans Morgan and Mangen.

This spring, the redshirt sophomore saw time with the first-team offense. The Bobcats aren’t worried about putting points on the board in the fall, they know they have the skills to do so. They just want to be sure they have the right guys to block for their stable of running backs, and Luehrman will be a large cog in the engine.

5. Cole Baker, rising junior defensive lineman:

With the loss of the starters in the front seven, Ohio knew it was going to need to add depth, too. Instead of trying to bring in more freshmen to replace the holes, the Bobcats opted to go the junior college route.

So far, it's worked.

Defensive lineman Baker, a product of East Mississippi Community College, joined the Bobcats as an early enrollee in January and shined during spring camp. He entered camp with another early enrollee: rising junior college transfer, Zach Burks, another defensive lineman.

At 6-foot-3 and 275 pounds, Baker’s navigating through the depth chart and with a solid fall camp, could find himself as a starter in the fall.

If Baker can help the Bobcats stop the run, something the program has taken pride in during recent years, and put pressure on the quarterback, it could answer some questions for Ohio.

“They both, I believe, have the ability to help us right away,” Solich said.

Development by: Megan Knapp / Digital Production Editor

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