Frank Solich: ‘Best Group Of Running Backs We’ve Had’

It’s hard to believe, but Frank Solich is entering his 11th season as head football coach at Ohio University.

Does it feel like it’s been a decade?

“Not really,” Solich said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “It’s gone by very, very quickly. I’ve had great support here from the top on down. Our president’s been great. We’re on our third AD now, but they’ve been really good ADs and we’re getting great fan support. It’s going by well.”

Solich, who spent the majority of his career at Nebraska – where he was head coach from 1998 to 2003 – turns 71 in September but doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon. In fact, he hasn’t really given it much thought.

“I don’t,” he said. “I don’t dwell on that. I think once you start to dwell on it, you’re probably going down a track that ought to take you out of it. I think as long as I stay relevant to the players and am able to do a great job and my health stays good – we’ll see how it goes. But right now, we’ve got a great staff. A lot of these guys have been with me through most of my time here. Two of them have been with me the entire 10 years – Jimmy Burrow and Tim Albin. They can make it easy on a guy, so things are going pretty well.”

That’s putting it mildly. The Bobcats had played in just two bowl games prior to Solich’s arrival in 2005; they’ve since played in six and have won two of their last three.

OU went 6-6 last season but endured injury on top off inexperience. This year, however, the Bobcats believe they can compete for a MAC championship.

“We’ve got two quarterbacks coming back with quite a bit of experience, so we’re hoping and expecting to get excellent play from that position,” Solich said. “Derrius Vick and JD Sprague both played considerably last year. Derrius was our starter, got hurt about a third of the way into the season and didn’t really come back and play again until right at the end of the year. JD came in and performed well for a guy that really didn’t have any experience at that point in time.”

Vick completed 58.8 percent of his passes for 1,156 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions last season. He also rushed for 390 yards and one touchdown. Sprague, meanwhile, threw for 1,236 yards, three touchdowns and five interceptions and added 264 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

“So we think we have two guys that are very capable of playing excellent ball,” Solich said. “They’re going to need to do that, but we got a great group of guys surrounding them from an offensive standpoint. I really like our receivers – a great collection of receivers, really. Our running backs are the best group of running backs we’ve had since I’ve been there.”

Top returners include A.J. Ouellette, who rushed 160 times for 785 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns last season, and Sebastian Smith, who had 31 catches for 385 yards and two touchdowns. Ouellette, in fact, led the team in receiving touchdowns, with three.

OU averaged 28.5 points in its wins last year but just 12.5 points in its losses.

“In our conference, you need to put points on the board,” Solich said. “That’s just the way it is. So we’re going to obviously have a good throwing game as well as a good ground game.”

The Bobcats open at Idaho and host Marshall and Southeastern Louisiana before traveling to Minnesota for arguably their toughest test of the season. They face the Golden Gophers in Minneapolis on Sept. 26.

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