2018 Football #ThirdOfTheGame Preview – Offense

2018 Football #ThirdOfTheGame Preview – Offense

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In head coach Lee Owens' first 14 seasons guiding Ashland University's football team, the Eagles have scored at least 400 points seven times – including the last three seasons in a row.

While there are key positions to be replaced on the 2018 AU offense, including having to find four new starting offensive linemen, the unit is stocked with experience and potential.

At quarterback, senior Billy Bahl, a transfer from NCAA Division I Miami (Ohio), brings 15 collegiate starts to the position, and enters practice on Thursday (Aug. 9) as Ashland's No. 1 passer. Bahl threw for 3,390 yards and 21 touchdowns as a Redhawk.

"He came out of the spring as our clear No. 1," Owens said, "and he's earned it. He's led. He was voted an accountability captain. So he's done everything you need to do to win that position, to lead at that position. And now he needs to go play."

Redshirt junior John Davies is the primary backup to Bahl, and has seen time in 12 games in the past two seasons.

"We have a lot of confidence in him," said Owens. "We're sure that we can win with John."

Health will be the big key at tailback, where Ashland will look to have its top three runners – senior Andrew Vaughn (1,095 yards, 13 touchdowns rushing; 24 catches) and juniors Keishaun Sims (455 yards, four touchdowns rushing) and Luke Ogi (298 yards, two touchdowns rushing) – at 100 percent at the same time.

"Luke's healthy, and Keishaun's healthy, and Andrew's healthy, which is a good thing," Owens said.

A freshman who may force his way into some time in the backfield is Ronald Lee.

"We've got some guys who can play," said Owens. "It's going to be competitive."

Senior Mack Mikulski returns at fullback, and by the end of 2017, had become a key cog in the offense with three touchdowns.

"He's a big, strong guy. We have some depth there," Owens said. "Between the tight end and fullback position, it gives us a chance to get big and physical if we need to."

Owens said the strength of the offense is at wide receiver, where four of the top five performers from last fall return – sophomore Logan Bolin (team-high 43 catches, 505 yards, six touchdowns), seniors Kamaron Green (35 catches, 456 yards, six touchdowns) and Jamie Hence (25 catches, 330 yards, two touchdowns), and junior Stanley Jackson Jr. (24 catches, 409 yards, one touchdown).

"We're going to get the ball to those guys, there's no question about that," said Owens.

Michael Schweitzer (33 catches, 330 yards, six touchdowns) came on to lead the tight ends last season, and returns as a sophomore in 2018 to do so once again. Junior Ben Fago is back after playing in every game last season in multiple-tight-end formations, and sophomore Austin Phillips is coming off a season-long injury in 2017. Owens also didn't rule out bringing senior Jack Holl back from the defensive side of the ball to once again play tight end, if the need arises.

"We've got some guys who can play there, and we're excited about it," Owens said.

Along the offensive line, junior Ryan Maguire will be the veteran at left tackle, but the other four positions will be up for grabs. Of the 18 other offensive linemen heading into camp, three are juniors, two are sophomores, two are redshirt freshmen, and 11 are true freshmen.

"It's competitive. We've got a few guys that have played here for two or three years, and it's their turn," said Owens. "We've got some young guys who have some unbelievable ability. There may be some growing pains early. We've been there before, but I don't know that we've been there with the talent we have. If they can block our guys up front, then we'll be OK."

 

 

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