The top 10 Akron football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
1. DE Jamal Marcus, Sr.
The 6-2, 240-pound veteran end earned Third Team All-MAC honors with a nice year as a pass rusher making 5.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss to go along with 30 tackles despite missing two games. He’s a linebacker-sized athlete who started out his career at Ohio State before transferring to Akron. Now it’s his time to rise up and become the main man with a great burst off the ball and the toughness to hold up against the run when he gets to chase down ball-carriers.
2. QB Thomas Woodson, Jr.
While he might not be consistent as a passer, he grew into the role as the main man for the attack finishing with 2,202 yards and 16 touchdowns with 11 picks while finishing second on the team in rushing with 591 yards and three scores. He also caught a 14-yard touchdown pass – he can do a little of everything, and considering the major personnel losses, he’ll have to. He’s not going to be the most accurate bomber, but he doesn’t have to be. He has to keep the offense moving no matter what.
3. S Zach Guiser, Jr.
Very smart and very active, the Academic All-MAC performer has the speed and ball-hawking skills to be an all-star on the field this season as well as a much-needed team-leader. While he’s built like a corner at 6-1 and 195 pounds, he provides a little bit of pop as a rangy free safety making 59 tackles led by a great nine-stop performance in the bowl win over Utah State. With two picks and five broken up passes, he’s good with the ball in the air, and this yet he should double the numbers.
4. CB DeAndre Scott, Sr.
A good-tackling corner, the 5-11, 185-pound veteran grew into a role as the season went on leading the team with six interceptions with ten broken up passes including four picks in the first five games. Steady in the open field, he’ll make the one-on-one tackle – 26 of his 32 tackles were solo stops – he should be a shutdown all-around playmaker on the outside. Teams will start to stay away from him more and more.
5. WR/LB Jerome Lane, Jr.
The 6-3, 220-pound son of “Send It In Jerome” Lane from basketball fame, Lane grew into the team’s best receiver leading the way with 782 yards and eight scores on 39 catches highlighted by a four-catch, 104-yard, two touchdown day against Eastern Michigan. Big and physical, he’s a tough matchup problem for most defensive backs, and he’s just fast and athletic enough to be used as a defensive back or even a linebacker. He can return kicks, too.
6. DE Se’Von Pittman, Sr.
A big veteran for the defensive front, he did a decent job both inside and out finishing with 36 tackles with seven tackles for loss and three sacks. However, he wasn’t the pass rushing star expected to blow up three years removed from his transfer from Ohio State. A tackle early on in his career, he’s a big end with a good enough burst to get into the backfield from time to time, but he’s more steady than sensational.
7. LB Ulysees Gilbert III, Soph.
Is the Florida native ready to step up and shine as one of the new linebacking stars? He has decent 6-1, 225-pound size and good pure tackling ability, but most importantly, he has the smarts to become the new leader and main man for a corps that loses way too many veteran stars. A special teamer for most of last year – highlighted by a blocked kick against Miami University – he has the quickness and skills, and now he’ll get the opportunity.
8. QB Tra’Von Chapman, Jr.
It wasn’t quite fair. He got the start against Oklahoma and Pitt to start, and he couldn’t handle the nasty defenses missing on all eight of his throws against Oklahoma and going 4-for-14 against Pitt in the losses. The 6-1, 216-pounder has a good arm and can move – he was a star dual-threat Pitt recruit – but he got thrown into a bad situation to start last year. He can play, and he might get a shot here and there to get on the field in some way.