College Football Preview: The 2014 Akron Zips
The Improving Akron Zips look for more positives in 2014.
2014 College Football Preview
Is 2014 the season the Akron Zips and Terry Bowden finally become a team to watch in the MAC?
Overview: Losing had become almost second nature to Akron and the school knew they needed to hire a coach with pedigree to return to being competitive. Enter Terry Bowden in 2012 and little by little the Zips have improved to where they weren't all that far away from becoming Bowl eligible a season ago which bodes well for this year with most of that talent back.
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Offense: The offense was the weakness for this team in 2013 and it all starts with the passing of Kyle Pohl. Pohl threw for over 2,400 yards but was a 56% passer and averaged less then 5 1/2 yards per attempt in a short passing attack and those numbers have to get better. Jawon Chisholm (188-892) made the most out of the room given him on the ground but it would be nice to break the 1,000 yard plateau and average 5+ yards per touch. Conor Hundley (100-425) needs a boost in his numbers especially if he is going to touch the ball over 100 times. Zach D'Orazio and Fransohn Bickley are back as the top two receivers but a combined 81 catches for 974 yards also says more is needed. The offensive line struggled in run blocking and was adequate in the short passing game where Pohl generally got rid of the ball. Center Travis Switzer is the veteran of this group as he enters his third year a starter but the rest of the line has some questions.
Defense: The defensive line is depleted with both starting ends gone and four of the top six players graduating overall. Nordly Capi and Cody Grice are back at DE and NG respectively but Ohio State transfer Se'von Pittman should have an immediate impact if not in trouble. The Zips have several top recruits ready to go as well and if a few pan out this will be a solid unit. The linebacking crew returns virtually everyone including the top two tacklers in Jatavis Brown and Justin March (82 T & 60 T) but the secondary loses three of it's top four with CB Malachi Freeman taking 60 tackles with him. Having said that, the depth that was in place in 2013 will be on the front lines and asked to not give up so many big plays in the air.
Special Teams: Zach Paul averaged nearly 43 yards on 65 punts while Robert Stein hit 9-16 field goals but is far from a sure thing from close or far. Bickley will return kicks once again but yards on punt returns which was an issue.
Outlook: The schedule is a bit on the tough side to say for sure that Akron will become Bowl eligible but the potential is certainly there. The good news is even if the Zips don't crack the upper half of the conference this year, most will be back for another go at it in 2015.