Preview 2017: Akron Zips
Previewing and looking ahead at the Akron Zips season – and what you need to know.
What You Need To Know About The Akron Zip Offense
Explosive early on, but inconsistent throughout the season, Akron had an okay run that should be far stronger as long as everything is fine up front.
Getting back rising RB Warren Ball for another year of eligibility helps, but now the line has to block for him. Fortunately, all five starters return up front to give it a shot.
The O should be more balanced, but it’ll be too easy to rely on QB Thomas Woodson and a passing game that can push it down the field, even with some of the key targets gone.
Biggest Key To The Akron Zip Offense
The running game has to start working. The passing attack will be fine, but now the rest of the O has to help the cause. Two years ago, the Zips ran for 200 yards or more five times and won all five. The ground attack wasn’t great, but it had its moments. Last season it failed to hit the 200-yard mark, or even get to 180 yards. The pieces are there to do more.
What You Need To Know About The Akron Zip Defense
It’s not another rebuilding season – after losing almost all the key parts from the great 2015 D – but there’s plenty of work to do in the secondary and up front.
The top four tacklers return, but both ends have to be replaced along with both corners. Ulysees Gilbert is back at one linebacker spot, and the tackles should be a strength, but replacing three starters in the secondary is a problem considering the D has to be able to …
Biggest Key To The Akron Zip Defense
Get into the backfield. The Zips finished third in the nation against the run in 2015 and 15th overall, giving up just 332 yards per game. Everything changed last season as the defensive front wasn’t nearly as strong as the D finished 114th in the nation. What was the problem? The pass rush fell off the map with 17 fewer sacks and not enough big plays overall.
The Akron Zips Will Be Far Better If …
The team does everything right again. It al ties together, two years ago, the Zip defense was strong, the team finished 13th in the nation in turnover margin, and the O had the ball for almost 33 minutes a game. Last year, Akron was 114th in the nation in turnover margin – going a -8 on the year – and had the ball for fewer than 26 minutes a game. Reverse that, and cut down on the penalties, and the season will turn around.
Best Akron Zip Offensive Player
QB Thomas Woodson, Sr. – It’s going to be an interesting situation. Tra’Von Chapman was thrown into the mix for a while last season, and while he couldn’t throw consistently, he ran well. Nick Johns will also battle it out for the gig, transferring over from Virginia. But it’s Woodson who has the experience to make the offense his again – once he returns from an offseason shoulder problem. He throws too many picks, but he has a live arm, completing 60% of his throws last season for 2,079 yards and 18 scores with six picks in seven games. Now he has to stay in one piece – and win back his job.
2. QB Tra’Von Chapman, Sr.
3. PK Tom O’Leary, Jr.
4. OT Logan Tuley-Tillman, Sr.
5. WR Austin Wolf, Sr.
Best Akron Zip Defensive Player
LB Ulysses Gilbert, Jr. – Athletic, fast, and tough enough to be the leader from the moment he took over a full-time starting gig last year, he led the team with 121 tackles with four sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss in his All-MAC season. The 6-1, 225-pounder can do it all, including apply the pressure on a regular basis for a D that needed pass rushing help. A tackling machine, he made 17 stops against Ball State, and hit the double-digit mark seven times.
2. CB Alvin Davis, Soph.
3. LB Brian Bell, Jr.
4. S Zach Guiser, Sr.
5. NT Darius Copeland, Sr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
RB Van Edwards, Jr. and/or Warren Ball, Sr. – Ball got hurt early on after running for 181 yards in his first two games, and Edwards got his shot at taking over. He had his moments – running for 112 yards against Ball State – but he only finished with 492 yards on the season for a team that didn’t do much to grind it out. The backs have to help the cause more – and be given the opportunity to do it.
The Akron Zip Season Will Be A Success If …
They get back to a bowl game. They’re not good enough to win the MAC title, but they’ve got more than enough talent to at least go bowling for a second time in three seasons. It won’t be easy with a brutal schedule with five road games in a seven date span in the middle of the season. Even so, anything less than six wins will be a major disappointment.
Key Game To The Akron Zip Season
Sept. 30 at Bowling Green – The Zips have to get through the first four games 2-2 – they’ll lose at Penn State, beat Arkansas Pine-Bluff, and need a upset at home against Iowa State or on the road at Troy – and then start out the MAC season hot. With road games at Western Michigan and Toledo coming up in mid-October, they need to sneak in a conference road win somewhere early on to get in the hunt for a bowl game.
2016 Akron Zips Fun Stats
– Akron 1st Quarter Scoring: 49 – Akron 2nd Quarter Scoring: 103
– Rushing Yards: Opponents 2,696 – Akron 1,586 - Time of Possession: Opponents 34:01 – Akron 25:59