So far, so good for Vick & Ohio’s passing game

Published 2:00 am Friday, September 25, 2015

ATHENS, OH (AP) — There are a lot of caveats of course.

It’s a small sample size. It’s non-conference play. Things could change any week with an injury, or injuries.

But for the moment, Ohio senior quarterback Derrius Vick is one of the most efficient passers in the country and the Bobcats’ offense suddenly looks a lot more explosive as a result.

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It’s certainly not bad news, especially considering the conventional wisdom that surrounded Ohio’s year-long quarterback competition in 2015. You know, the old football saying that states ‘If you have two quarterbacks, then you really don’t have one.’

As it’s turning out, the Bobcats have at least one — who’s not yet finished growing into the position.

“Derrius has worked really, really hard on his fundamentals,” Ohio quarterbacks coach Scott Isphording said. “He’s still not there yet, but I think all that work is showing.”

It’s hard to argue against the early season numbers for Vick, who played in a backup role in 2012-13 before starting seven games in 2014.

Vick, a career 57.0 percent passer at Ohio, is hitting on 70.8 percent of his throws this year. And they aren’t dump offs either; Vick is averaging 11.42 yards per attempt — the third-best number in all of FBS football.

Vick has thrown for 548 yards, with four touchdowns and two interceptions, in essentially seven quarters of play in 2015. He leads the Mid-American Conference in passing efficiency (182.1), and his passer rating (185.9) is No. 7 nationally. His 16.12 yards per completion rank seventh in the country.

How well is Vick throwing the football? The Ohio record for a single season in completion percentage is 64.3 (Tyler Tettleton, 2011), and the best single-season efficiency rating is 148.6 (Tettleton, 2011). Vick is way above those numbers so far, and his 11.42 yards per attempt would also dwarf the previous single-season make of 8.9 (Bob Babbitt, 1962).

The numbers could, and likely will, dip with Saturday’s trip to Minnesota and the Gopher’s nasty pass defense. But the point is this: Ohio needed to improve its passing game from 2014 and it appears the Bobcats are on the right track.

“Hopefully the offense is starting to improve on the things that we need to improve on,” Vick said. “I thought we started doing that, and the receivers have kept making plays.”

Ohio players and coaches point toward returning experience as a primary factor in the Bobcats’ surge in passing prowess. The indoor practice facility also allowed all Ohio’s quarterbacks and receiving targets to fine-tune their games during the off-season; that hasn’t been the case in years past either.

“From my standpoint, maybe it’s better fundamentals by me,” Vick explained. “From the receivers, they’re a year older, a year more veteran. They run those routes a little bit better and all that.

“Ultimately, where it starts is the line though,” he continued. “They have more experience, they can hold blocks longer for us to throw more deep balls.”

Ohio head coach Frank Solich said the Bobcats’ ability to find more big plays — particularly in the passing game — and take care of the football are contributing factors in Ohio’s 3-0 start. The Bobcats are plus-5 in turnover ratio, and rank 34th nationally in an explosiveness metric that measures points per successful play.

“Winning the turnover ratio and the explosive play battle are two things that we feel are critical to winning football games,” Solich said. “And we’ve been able to do that so far.

“But every game is a new game when you line up, in terms of those issues. Hopefully we’ll continue to take care of the ball the way we have,” the coach continued. “We need to continue to find ways to make big and explosive plays against anybody we play.”

Isphording said Ohio’s production has been a reflection of the growth done by the entire offensive unit, not just the quarterbacks.


“I also think that a big thing that is showing is we’re a lot better. We’ve got a lot more snaps underneath us, as a unit,” he said. “We have guys who are making big plays. The biggest cog, the o-line, is so much better.


“When all that happens, it’s easier for the quarterback.”


Nothing figures to be easy for Ohio at Minnesota, but the Bobcats feel a lot better about the state of their offense than a year ago. Ohio had 34 points in its first three games of 2014, and has 101 points after three games in 2015.

Vick will be starter against the Gophers. And given his production, is Ohio ready to declare him ‘the guy’ for the rest of the season? Junior J.D. Sprague is still sidelined with an upper body injury.

“If he continues to play at this rate, then sure, he’s certainly earned it,” Isphording said. “We’ll see. I don’t want to say definitely because J.D. has done some good things as well.

“But if Derrius is able to play this way, and improve then, yeah, he’s probably the guy.