#96 Akron Football 2015 Preview

Akron Zips

Overall Rank: #96
#7 Mid-American

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Akron was expected to take a pretty big step last season. The 2013 campaign ended with a lot of hope after the Zips won four of their last five games. That momentum did pay off early in 2014, with Coach Terry Bowden leading his team to a 4-2 record by mid-October, including an impressive win at Pittsburgh. However, they won just one game down the stretch against Umass and failed to reach their first bowl game since 2005. This year bowl eligibility is again a reasonable goal.

2014 Record: 5-7, 3-5
2014 Bowl: None
Coach: Terry Bowden (11-25 at Akron, 151-87-2 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: A.J. Milwee
Defensive Coordinator: Chuck Amato

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Conor Hundley, RB, 540 yards
Passing: Kyle Pohl, QB, 2,189 yards
Receiving: Andrew Pratt, WR, 324 yards
Tackles: Jatavis Brown, LB, 99
Sacks: Jerome Lane, LB, 5.0
Interceptions: Kris Givens, CB, 2; DeAndre Scott, CB, 2

Other Key Returnees: QB Thomas Woodson, WR Fransohn Bickley, K Robert Stein, DL Cody Grice

Key Losses: RB Jawon Chisholm, WR Zach D’Orazio, WR L.T. Smith, LB Justin March, LB C.J. Mizell, DL Nordly Capi, P Zach Paul

Akron’s defense finished the 2014 season ranked first in the MAC in scoring defense and second in total defense. The return of linebacker Jatavis Brown gives defensive coordinator Chuck Amato an aggressive tackler to build around. There are some big losses on the line, most notably Nordly Capi, but Jamal Marcus, a transfer from Ohio State, is more than capable of making up for that loss. The Zips also expect transfers Rodney Coe and Darryl Monroe to step in and help bolster the front seven. Even with those losses, there is more pure athleticism in this front seven than anywhere else in the MAC. If all the pieces come together, the defense alone could carry Akron to a bowl game. However, there are questions in the secondary where both starting safeties need to be replaced. In the pass happy MAC, experience at safety is terribly important and this team is lacking in that department.

Akron had some success slinging the ball around in 2014. Kyle Pohl threw for 2,189 yards and by the end of the year was attempting quite a few passes. Pohl is now a senior, but the starting job is not his. Tommy Woodson played pretty well when Pohl got hurt and freshman Chandler Kincade and Pittsburgh transfer Tra’Von Chapman could make this a four way race heading into the fall. Receivers Andrew Pratt, Fransohn Bickley and Mykel Traylor-Bennett return and have the potential to add a much needed big play dimension to the Akron offense. The ground attack was not too impressive last season. Conor Hundley returns after ranking second on the team with 540 yards and four rushing touchdowns. But bigger hopes rest on the shoulders of Colorado State transfer Donnell Alexander. He is not an explosive back, but Alexander is a bruiser who can move the chains.

The Bottom Line:
The offense has a lot of potential and a lot of different options. They could throw more with Pohl or one of the other quarterbacks, or they could rely on Alexander to grind out some yards. It remains to be seen which way the personnel takes Coach Bowden and company. The defense may take a step back at first, but there is more talent there than last year. They just need to come together and play like a cohesive unit. Once again Akron avoids the toughest competition in the MAC West (Western Michigan, Northern Illinois and Toledo) and that could lead the Zips to a bowl game. However, just about everybody thought the same thing last year and it did not happen.

Projected Bowl: None

2014 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 123.7 (106th in nation, 10th in conference)
Passing Offense: 249.6 (49, 6)
Total Offense: 373.3 (88, 9)
Scoring Offense: 22.6 (101, 9)
Rushing Defense: 148.6 (43, 4)
Pass Defense: 222.5 (53, 3)
Total Defense: 371.1 (44, 2)
Scoring Defense: 23.1 (28, 1)
Turnover Margin: -0.17 (76, 6)
Sacks: 2.17 (62, 5)
Sacks Allowed: 2.00 (56, 8)


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