One might take the 2012 Akron Zips season as the glass being half full or half empty.
The eternal optimist could say the Akron Blue and Gold could have had more than one victory in 2012. The Zips lost five games by 10 points or less, including an overtime loss at Florida International. There was that late fourth quarter setback against Miami and a 20-point rally at Ohio, only to come up short. Akron owned a 10-point lead at halftime against Kent State before falling to its rival.
A pessimist meanwhile could say it was the third consecutive 1-11 season for UA – the worst three-year stretch since Akron joined the Football Bowl Subdivision. In addition, the Zips have lost 20 consecutive games to FBS competition and 15 straight against Mid-American Conference teams.
Here is a look at the Akron Blue and Gold as they prepare for the 2013 campaign.
One change that was a beneficial to the Zips in 2012 was the move from a two-back offense to the spread. Bowden found the right man to run it last season in Dalton Williams, who put up some phenomenal numbers. He passed for 3,387 yards and 25 touchdowns as UA lead the MAC in passing , averaging 312.8 yards per game.
This year, under new offensive coordinator A.J. Milwee, Kyle Pohl, will be at the QB controls when the team opens the regular season Aug. 29 at Central Florida. The sophomore was Williams’ backup in 2012 and started the season finale at Toledo.
Pohl completed 65.5 percent of his passes with five touchdowns in 2012. If he struggles or gets injured, look for freshman Thomas Woodson to get the nod. Nick Hershman, who is a transfer from Colorado, should enter the mix after completing his transfer requirements set by the NCAA.
In the spread offense, there is one running back and for the Zips, that spot is held by junior Jawon Chisholm. Although he had been in and out of the lineup with an assortment of injuries, for the past two seasons he has flirted with the 1,000 yard mark. Last year, he rushed for 953 yards and five touchdowns. In addition, he caught 38 passes for 210 yards and two scores. Behind Chisholm, look for sophomore Conor Hunley. His was strong in short yardage situations a year ago.
The receiving corps is strong despite the graduation of Marques Suel, who paced UA in catches with 76. Jerod Dillard could fill the void left by Suel. He snagged only 29 passes last year for 401yards but led the group with nine touchdowns. L.T. Smith was moved from the wide position to a slot and should improve on his 48 catch season of a year ago with three scores. Senior Keith Sconiers had 41 receptions. Look for converted quarterback Zack D’Orazio, along with freshman Mykel Traylor-Bennett and Austin Wolf, to see playing time
The offensive line brings back a pair of starters in senior Travis Switzer and junior Jarrod Pughsley. Look for sophomore Quaison Osborne to battle for one of the remaining starting spots on the line, as well as freshman Michael Casinos. Coaches really liked Joe Petrides, liked coming out of spring drills.
Over the past couple of seasons, the Zips defense has had its good and bad moments. It was mostly tough moments in 2012 as they allowed 428 total points and an average of 450 yards per game. Associate head coach and defensive coordinator Chuck Amato again has his work cut out for him.
The defensive line was one of the Zips strengths for most of the season until injuries caught up with the unit. They are led by three starters in Cody Grice, Nico Caponi, and Albert Presley. Grice paced the line in tackles with 47 last year while Caponi’s forte is stopping the run. Look for depth this season in Alphonso Horner who had 28 tackles and 1.5 sacks last year. Moses McCray and C.J. James, a transfer from Colorado State, are also in the picture.
The linebacking corps will be very thin with the graduation of Kurt Mangum and Troy Gilmer, who were the defense’s top two tacklers as season ago. The lone returning starter is junior Justin March. He was third on the team in tackles with 62, along with an interception and three pass breakups. Look for sophomore Jatavius Brown to see significant time, as well. In addition, Washington State transfer C.J. Mizell should help the depth of the linebacking corps.
The defensive secondary was scorched for 30 touchdowns a season ago. That number must come down if the Zips have any chance of success this season. The quartet is young with experience in junior strong safety Johnny Robinson, who led the group in tackles last season with 61. Senior cornerback Malachi Freeman had 54 stops and seven pass breakups. Bre Ford is a potential big play contributor.
UA’s kicking game will be an asset in 2013. P Zach Paul had a solid first season, averaging 40.9 yds per punt while 18 of them were downed inside the opponents 20-yard line. PK Robert Stein also had a strong opening to his career connecting on 9-of-12 field goals kicking (four of them at Tennessee). He a career-best 46 yarder at the end of the first half against Bowling Green.
The Zips open on August 29, traveling to UCF before the home opener on September 7 against FCS member James Madison. It’s Big House time September 14 when UA travels to Ann Arbor to face Michigan before 100,000 fans.
The month of September closes with the MAC opener at Bowling Green – one of the favorites to win the Eastern Division.
October has home games against Ohio and Ball State, with road tilts at Northern Illinois (the pre-season favorite to win the MAC) and Miami.
November sees the annual battle against Kent State, a road trip to Massachusetts and a home matchup against Toledo to finish up the regular season.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Over the past three seasons, UA football has been mired at the bottom of the FBS. The hiring of Terry Bowden kicked off a journey toward respectability. However, personnel-wise the Zips are still a bit short against other teams in the MAC. Acquiring the necessary players will take time, but Bowden is a great salesman.
The Zips showed last season they can be competitive; they just need to close games at the end. The schedule is tough to start, especially the trip to Ann Arbor . Opening the MAC against BGSU then in October facing Ohio then on the road at NIU is no daunting task.
The players have bought into Bowden and his philosophy. Along with adapting various changes, the 2013 squad should be rewarded with multiple wins – consequently breaking those long losing streaks against the MAC and FBS competition.