Ohio Football kicks off the 2019 season on August 31st with the weight of Mid-American Conference title expectations on their shoulders. To achieve that goal, they’ll have to run through a formidable slate of quarterbacks blocking the path to glory.
Rhode Island – TBD
Last year’s starter Jajuan Lawson received his diploma, so the Rams have a wide-open battle raging at the position right now. Expect to see a bevy of names under center at Peden Stadium as head coach Jim Fleming continues to evaluate his options before CAA action gets underway. Vito Priore should get the first snaps, the Atlanta native started four games for Rhode Island last year and impressed in the team scrimmage, tossing three touchdowns.
Pitt – Kenny Pickett
One of the more seasoned signal-callers the Bobcats face in 2019, Kenny Pickett and the Panthers are fresh off a surprise trip to the ACC Championship game and Pickett’s stability was a big reason for last year’s success. Pickett played the role of steady hand for Pitt, posting a 12:6 TD-INT ratio and 120.3 QB rating. Pro Football Focus has the junior slotted in at #84 on the Top-130 FBS QB rankings. Keep an eye on his accuracy against an experienced Bobcat secondary, he’s committed 15 turnover-worthy plays since 2017, but only seven went for INTs.
Marshall – Isaiah Green
A rekindling of the beloved rivalry features a QB that took hold of the Thundering Herd as a freshman. Isaiah Green goes into his sophomore season riding high off a bowl victory over South Florida and he’s one of the best talents Ohio takes on all season. Green averaged 7.4 yards per attempt in his freshman campaign while throwing 15 TDs and 10 INTs. Green’s turnover story is similar to Pickett’s as he committed nine turnover worthy plays as a freshman and goes into 2019 ranked #72 in PFF’s QB rankings.
Louisiana – Levi Lewis
The most impressive passer on the non-conference slate could easily be Levi Lewis who is taking over for Andre Nunez after playing in limited action behind the senior in 2018. Lewis completed 62.7 percent of his throws for a whopping 9.9 yards per attempt along with seven TDs and two INTs. The one caveat with those numbers: limited snaps. Lewis never threw more than seven times in a game. Many of those attempts came against backups so the pressure is on PFF’s 66th ranked field general to prove his 2018 efficiency wasn’t a fluke.
Buffalo – Matt Myers
Fresh meat is on the menu in Ohio’s MAC-opener.
Matt Myers takes over for the reigning MAC Player of the Year as Tyree Jackson begins his NFL journey. Myers won a three-way battle with Dominic Johnson, and Kyle Vantrease. Expect a similar play style to the one that Jackson displayed in his career, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Myers established himself as a dual-threat quarterback in high school. The West Seneca West alum won the state title in his senior season on the back of 2,397 yards and 24 touchdowns through the air to complement 1,037 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground. It remains to be seen how his skills translate at the next level and Ohio should benefit from facing him early in the season.
Northern Illinois – Marcus Childers
Childers represents one thing in Ohio’s matchup against NIU: stopping the run. The junior stampeded the Bobcats last season with 23 carries for 169 yards, and it was a glaring anomaly. Childers notched just two games all season with more than 58 yards on the ground and he doesn’t create a lot of fear with his arm. Childers threw for 2,175 yards, 15 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions on 5.5 yards per attempt. He did have 30 catchable passes dropped in 2018 but unless his MAC title performance (300 yards, 4 TDs) becomes a normal occurrence, expect similar passing numbers this season from PFF’s 80th ranked QB.
Kent State – Woody Barrett
Woody Barrett is a similar quarterback to Childers with a little more rushing upside sprinkled in. Barrett started his college career at Auburn before building a résume in community college and injecting some new life into the position for Kent State. Barrett tends to bail on his reads early and scramble out of the pocket more than the Golden Flashes would like but he has the raw talent to take a big leap this season. More poise should bring extra big-play opportunities for the Kent State offense and boost Barrett’s accuracy (58 percent completion) above the Mendoza line.
Ball State – Drew Plitt
Drew Plitt takes the reigns from four-year starter Riley Neal and he showed tools in limited action last season that should excite Cardinal fans. Plitt started three games in 2018, finishing with 1,008 yards passing on 64.9 percent completion and 7.7 yards per attempt. The biggest question is his ability to put up points. Plitt is the only passer on the Bobcats schedule with a negative TD:INT ratio, finishing 2018 with six scores and eight turnovers through the air. Ohio ate him alive in a 52-14 drubbing last season, something PFF’s 82nd ranked QB will have to put behind him when the Bobcats come to town.
Miami-OH – Jackson Williamson
Miami is another team replacing a longtime starter as Jackson Williamson takes over the huddle from Gus Ragland. Williamson has never taken a snap for the RedHawks, but he brings a three-star high school résume to the table and has arguably the best receiving combo in the MAC with Jack Sorenson and Luke Mayock flanking him on the outside. Williamson could break out quickly with that duo, but the unknowns leave him as the 120th QB in PFF’s rankings.
Western Michigan – Jon Wassink
Wassink is the best and most experienced passer Ohio faces in 2019. Ranked 52nd (highest among Ohio opponents) on PFF’s preseason assessment, Wassink leads a Broncos squad that many expect to be battling Toledo all season for the West Division crown. The junior was knocked out for the last month of the 2018 campaign in a 51-24 loss to the Rockets, and finished with 1,994 yards passing, 8.1 yards per attempt, and a 61.6 completion percentage. He was on pace for 24 touchdowns before his season was cut short and the combination of experience plus the bad taste of a 1-3 finish with him on the sidelines should produce a highly motivated Wassink in 2019.
Bowling Green – TBD
It’s a carousel at the most important position for Bowling Green. After multiple quarterbacks transferred in the offseason, new head coach Scott Loeffler is choosing between Grant Loy, Darius Wade, and Matt Mcdonald. All three are expected to see significant time against Morgan State in the season opener, but Mcdonald has yet to find out his eligibility status for the season. It’s the definition of a rebuilding year in Bowling Green.
Akron – Kato Nelson
The dream crusher.
Kato Nelson took over as the Zips full-time quarterback late in 2017 and was a big reason why Akron upset the Bobcats and punched their ticket to Detroit. Nelson made a big leap in the passing game from year one to year two and he should be playing his best football when the Bobcats travel to Infocision Stadium. He does a lot of damage with his legs and consistent improvements with his arm should continue for PFF’s 55th ranked QB in 2019.