ATHENS, Ohio – Fifteenth-year Ohio football head coach Frank Solich met with the media today to discuss the Bobcats' (0-0) 2019 season opener against Rhode Island (0-0) on Saturday (Aug. 31) at Peden Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. EST.
Saturday's contest will be broadcast live on ESPN+, with Michael Reghi and Dustin Fox on the call.
Saturday's game can also be heard on the Ohio Sports Network from Learfield IMG College. Russ Eisenstein returns for his 12th season as the "Voice of the Bobcats." Ohio Alum Rob Cornelius has been a part of the broadcasts for two decades. WXTQ (Power 105) in Athens returns as the 11-station network's flagship. The broadcasts are also available online through TuneIn.com/OhioBobcats and on the TuneIn app.
"We are excited about the season getting started. We're looking forward to it. I know the players are anxious to play the first game and get into our season, so I'll be glad to answer any questions you may have."
On the depth at running back:
"I think that Coach (Tim) Albin plans to play a lot of those guys and to just see how it all plays out. There's very little game experience in the room. Julian [Ross], having him being able to come back, hopefully be healthy and stay healthy, will be key. He's one of the fastest players, if not the fastest, player on our team, and has a chance to be a breakaway threat kind of a runner. He's gained weight, and he's gotten stronger, but then you can go through and there's a couple guys, Ja'Vahri [Portis], Jake [Neatherton], that as walk-ons played well, although they've both [Portis and Neatherton] had some injuries that took them out of some time leading up to this. We have a couple of young guys coming in, too. There's a list of guys that we've got to get them to where they are proven players for us and get that figured out. We have to get enough time to them to show what they're all about and all of them will be used in some fashion or another. Obviously, they're talented guys, so special teams will come into play for some of those guys also."
On younger players gaining experience during non-conference play:
"You can go really across the board there in terms of positions, and there's young guys that we want to see what they're all about. Some of them have been in the system and have yet to be able to get playing time to where they've proven themselves. We've got to find out a little more about those guys. We had a very good freshman class. We're going to have to find out a little bit more about those guys. Some of those guys will end up playing for us the whole year, so there's a lot of look-and-see that will be going on through, certainly, the non-conference schedule to try to make sure that we're developing depth at a lot of positions. We've talked about that before in the offensive and defensive line, that'll be critical, especially the interior defensive line. We're very sound at defensive end, linebacker, corners, safety should all be strong positions for us but, even there, we have some young guys that may be able to help some. We're still in a process of evaluating as we go into the start of the season."
On past success against Football Championship Subdivision Teams:
"You've got to have very good football teams to pull that off and some of it is our approach. We understand that a lot of those teams have great athletes and they have proven that throughout the course of some seasons where some major upsets have occurred. Our whole philosophy was generally based on taking them one game at a time, but there's also a bigger picture to be seen. We're trying to do both; take them one game at a time, but still see the big picture"
On team's preparation for Rhode Island:
"It's good, I think we're in a good position right now. We're going to operate this week as a typical game week. We're not going to drive them hard. Today will be a no-padded practice, it'll be a typical Monday as if they were coming off a Saturday game. We'll do it in the field house like we usually do. Tuesday will be a padded practice, not ridiculously long, but we'll go through everything; individual, group, 7-on-7s, team and exchange and all of those kind of things to make sure that we're finishing up on our preparation. Wednesday will most likely be a half-padded day, but we'll see. It won't be a long, hard-driven practice, but a good practice. We still need to work at getting better when we step on the field. Thursday will be our typical walkthrough, and Friday will be what we've called our Fast Friday. This will be the routine that our players will go through for the rest of the year, except when we get to some MAC conference games that are in the middle of the week."
On who would take over at quarterback if senior quarterback Nathan Rourke were forced to exit a game:
"We're still practicing and still evaluating. It may take into the season a little bit to really establish the number two guy. Both of them have great potential in that regard, Joe [Mischler] has a little bit of an advantage in that he's been here a while longer, so he has basically a year under his belt. Kurtis [Rourke] came in middle of the school year and did get a spring ball with us. He had a really good fall camp and has an excellent arm. He's a very good passer and can make the crucial and key throws. Joe really has shown excellent passing ability, so there are two guys that have ability that are fighting for the position right now."
On what was learned from last season's opener against Howard:
"We've looked at that hard. Number one, I thought Howard was a good football team, and I thought they played exceptionally hard against us and they played hard for four quarters. Were we in great shape for the game? Did we work them too hard leading up to the game? Those are all questions that you ask yourself and you try to figure out because we did not have a great start to the season. If you look at our other non-conference games, we had a tendency to let some explosive plays happen quickly against us. It wasn't rolling offensively as we much as it has been in the past. We didn't necessarily dominate on the special teams part of it. Those are all areas that we can be playing at a very high level right now and we try to make sure that number one we worked them hard early but then backed off on them so that they could be as fresh as they could be going into this game and hope that this start would be a little bit better. We did study that, and I don't know if there's any one simple formula for making it work better, but we're trying some things."
On the strength of the non-conference schedule:
"I think it's a very strong schedule. Rhode Island, I think they're on the move. They had a winning record this past year, which is something they haven't had with any kind of consistency in quite some time. I think they've got a really good head coach. Coach Fleming, I think is excellent, and he's done a great job there. He's got a good staff put together, apparently, and you can see the progress in their program. Even getting back to earlier questions about preparations for them, there are a lot of reasons not to take them lightly. They have a punt and kick returner that returned two kicks for touchdowns last year, and he led the nation last year in combined special teams yards with over 1,000. Goodness gracious. Any time you lead the nation, look out. They have some All-Americans in preseason; they certainly have all-conference players on both sides of the ball, so you've got to be ready to go against these guys. And then you get into the next three, and they're all teams that played in bowl games last season. It's a difficult schedule in that regard, and it'll really tell us early on where we're at and whether or not we're off to a good start or whether or not we've got to get some things changed around. I know one thing is we can't play early like we did some games last year and get behind like we did and then all of the sudden come back and have chances to get back in the game or win the game, that doesn't work all that often. We need to get off to better starts in our earlier games and that's not going to be easy because of the competition."
On if there is anything he's tired of after 21 seasons as a head coach:
"I don't know what it would be. There's nothing that jumps out at me. I enjoy the media to a certain degree, obviously. I'm glad we have some people that are interested in covering us, and that's all part of the game, and it's great for our players. I can't think of a thing that I don't enjoy in this business."
On team's health heading into the opener:
"We haven't ruled anyone out yet, as we get a little later in the week there are some question marks. We had two minor surgeries, if a surgery is minor, that shouldn't take a long time to heal. Whether those guys can play with casts or not, that's still remains to be seen. Other than that, what we're trying to heal up from is just soft tissue stuff; pulled groins, pulled hamstrings and some ankle injuries that we're trying to recover from. In some ways, I think we were fortunate to not have the major stuff that puts you out for the year, but we've had our fair share of the other kind of injuries that hamper you as you go through fall camp a little bit."
On senior quarterback Nathan Rourke heading into the opener:
"I think last year at the first game, we substituted for him to get him to the sideline and let him settle down. He's a bright guy, but the thing about him is that he wants to win, and he wants to play perfect football. There's nobody around that does that, but he's played a lot of games that were close to that for us. He's always pushing himself, and I think he'll get off to a great start. I don't foresee anything different in doing that. I think that'll be able to lead him maybe to a special season. He's a special player, a special leader for us and an intelligent young man so he represents us very well. In fact, I think the three quarterbacks combine for a GPA of 3.85, if I'm not mistaken, which is really something special and is something that you want out of your quarterbacks."
On preparing himself for the mistakes young players make:
"No, I'm not prepared for that. I'm wanting them to play really good football. We'll expect that out of them. Will mistakes be made? Yeah, it's going to happen, but we haven't built our program by just putting pressure on a player that if you make a mistake, you're out of there or done. that's not the way it works with us. I think the players that you're talking about are going to be surrounded by a lot of good players, and I think we'll be able to help them in that regard. If they get off to a bad start or have a bad play, I think we can overcome that."
On defensive coordinator/safeties coach Ron Collins:
"I think he's done a great job. We haven't played any games, but his preparation, the time and energy he's put into it, and the organizational skills he's used as the defensive coordinator, I think, have been great, so we're going to be a well-coached football team on that side of the ball."