2013 Akron football's 10 things to know: Bad breaks and long roads

Robert Mayer-US PRESSWIRE

Terry Bowden still has a really, really long way to go at Akron. Advanced stats, schedule, roster, projections and more below.

Confused? Check out the glossary here.

1. Terry Bowden is taking the long way

There are a few different ways to build talent when you take over a program that has fallen on hard times. (And when you go 3-33 over a three-year span, I figure that probably qualifies as "hard times.") You can load up on junior college transfers, hoping the immediate boost they provide can carry you to both success and the ability to sign better four-year players a couple of years down the road. You can load up on transfers from other schools, hoping for the same thing. Or you can simply sign classes of mostly four-year talent, hoping that the short-term pain (and unlikely immediate success) is mitigated by the long-term pluses of steady program building.

All three of these options have pros and cons, of course. With transfers (junior college and otherwise), you are banking on their ability to become quickly assimilated into your program. You're also banking on your talent identification skills; a class of failed junior college transfers can doom you both by ensuring a bad product and by ensuring that, come Year 3, you have very little "third year in the system" talent. Meanwhile, by signing mostly freshmen, you're waiting.

With the reputation he built at North Alabama (where he was known for taking many a Division I transfer), one would probably have assumed that second-year Akron head coach Terry Bowden would have gone with either Option 1, Option 2, or a combination thereof. But while Akron's best first-year player was indeed a transfer (quarterback Dalton Williams came to Akron from Stephen F. Austin on a fifth-year, no-wait transfer), early returns are that Bowden is actually electing to take the long way. While we may learn of more fifth-year transfers in the next couple of months, it doesn't appear that there are any in the pipeline just yet. And of the 39 players he has signed on National Signing Day in the last two years, only five have come from junior colleges.

Thanks to some transfers away from Akron last year, the 2012 Zips squad was exceedingly young; but they improved regardless, at least on offense, and while close losses kept the record from improving, this was probably Akron's best team since 2008. Depth should be much stronger in 2013, though the quarterback position will probably determine whether we see much improvement in the win total.

2012 Schedule & Results

Record: 1-11 | Adj. Record: 2-10 | Final F/+ Rk: 109
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
30-Aug Central Florida 14-56 L 18.5 - 29.8 L
8-Sep at Florida International 38-41 L 21.1 - 28.1 L
15-Sep Morgan State 66-6 W 31.6 - 17.9 W
22-Sep at Tennessee 26-47 L 16.1 - 31.8 L
29-Sep Miami (Ohio) 49-56 L 44.8 - 48.8 L
6-Oct Bowling Green 10-24 L 25.2 - 37.5 L
13-Oct at Ohio 28-34 L 29.2 - 29.0 W
20-Oct Northern Illinois 7-37 L 14.4 - 27.4 L
27-Oct at Central Michigan 14-35 L 26.6 - 29.3 L
3-Nov at Kent State 24-35 L 31.4 - 33.0 L
10-Nov Massachusetts 14-22 L 21.7 - 36.6 L
20-Nov at Toledo 23-35 L 15.9 - 32.1 L
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 26.1 79 35.7 106
Adj. Points Per Game 24.7 94 31.8 95

2. Bad turnover luck = bad close-game record

The Akron defense defensed just 38 passes; only 11 FBS had a lower total than that. But they also recorded only five interceptions. On average, 20-25 of your passes defensed are interceptions, so a combination of stone hands and bad luck cost the Zips about four takeaways. Meanwhile, they recovered just 38 percent of all fumbles. In all, bad luck cost them in the neighborhood of eight to 10 turnovers, and three or four points, per game. It probably makes sense, then, that Akron went 0-4 in one-possession games. The Zips were at least slightly unlucky in all four of those games, though the coup de grace was the loss to UMass; UMass defensed seven Akron passes but picked off four of them (two deep in Akron territory) and returned them for a combined 80 yards.

Of course, Akron lost 11 games, and we can really only ascribe luck to four of them. The Zips lost the other seven games by an average score of 38.4 to 16.9. The steps forward were undeniable, but there obviously still a few steps left to take.

Offense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 45 108 85 115
RUSHING 108 107 86 112
PASSING 16 103 76 109
Standard Downs 99 74 107
Passing Downs 110 103 114
Redzone 100 97 104
Q1 Rk 67 1st Down Rk 86
Q2 Rk 72 2nd Down Rk 118
Q3 Rk 116 3rd Down Rk 79
Q4 Rk 112

3. Akron's new offensive coordinator is 26 years old

Head coach Terry Bowden is an offense guy. We've known that for a while. His first four Auburn teams (1993-96) all averaged at least 30 points per game. His first North Alabama team averaged 39. He ran the show for Akron's offense last fall, and the impact was clear; Akron's 26.1 points per game in 2012 were its second-highest average since 2003.

In 2013, however, with defense and special teams still in need of serious attention, Bowden is doing a little bit of delegation. He promoted A.J. Milwee, former North Alabama quarterback, to the role of offensive coordinator in December. There's a very good chance that Milwee is younger than you are. And while I'm not going to do any research to prove this for sure, let's just say that you probably aren't going to find two coordinators with a wider age range than Milwee and defensive coordinator Chuck Amato (though Utah's Brian Johnson and Dennis Erickson come close); at 66, Amato is more than twice Milwee's age, which is pretty fantastic.

4. Wanted: big plays

As you see above, Akron's efficiency ratings (Success Rate) were pretty consistently higher than their explosiveness ratings (PPP+), especially on standard downs. The Zips were rather tactically successful, and in quarterback Dalton Williams, running back Jawon Chisholm and receiver Marquelo Suel, they had three players capable of carrying the load and moving the chains. But big plays were a rarity, to say the least. You can coach your way to first downs, but you need play-makers to score points, and Akron wasn't quite there yet. And now they must deal with replacing both Williams and and Suel.

Kyle Pohl, Williams' most likely replacement, was perfectly efficient in the competitive, season-ending loss to Toledo. He completed two-thirds of his passes (28 of 42) and threw two touchdown passes, though only two passes were of any notable distance (overall: 7.6 yards per completion), and he was sacked four times. It is hard to say who might have a good chance at the job other than Pohl, though, so he better work out.

Suel, meanwhile, was far from a big-play threat, but his 75 percent catch rate was outstanding; he was a reliable option on both standard and passing downs, and his consistency could be missed. Aside from perhaps senior Jerod Dillard, nobody else in this receiving corps provided any major big-play ability either, but at the very least the experience level here is strong. The quarterback, be it Pohl or somebody else, will have at his disposal a unit deep with options (none of which are amazing, all of which are decent) and players who are now in their second year in this system.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Dalton Williams 326 522 3,387 62.5% 25 16 19 3.5% 6.0
Kyle Pohl 6'3, 206 So. *** (5.5) 38 58 366 65.5% 5 2 3 4.9% 5.6
Thomas Woodson 6'2, 190 Fr. ** (5.4)








Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
TD Adj.
POE
Jawon Chisholm RB 6'1, 190 Jr. ** (5.1) 180 953 5.3 4.9 5 -5.9
Conor Hundley RB 5'10, 203 So. ** (5.3) 73 279 3.8 2.9 3 -10.3
Quentin Hines RB 35 194 5.5 9.6 1 +1.5
Hakeem Lawrence FB 5'7, 164 So. ** (5.4) 22 82 3.7 2.3 0 -3.9
Dalton Williams QB 10 21 2.1 4.6 0 -2.1
Kyle Pohl QB 6'3, 206 So. 8 49 6.1 2.2 0 +0.3
Wade Edwards RB 5'8, 170 RSFr. ** (5.3)





Manny Morgan RB 5'8, 180 Fr. ** (5.4)




Anthony Lauro RB 5'10, 190 Fr. ** (5.4)




Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yds/
Target
Target
Rate
%SD Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Marquelo Suel WR-Y 102 76 820 74.5% 8.0 18.7% 58.8% 8.0 82.7
L.T. Smith WR-Z 6'0, 197 Jr. ** (5.3) 77 48 509 62.3% 6.6 14.1% 63.6% 6.6 51.3
Dee Frieson WR-H 5'8, 181 Sr. ** (5.2) 70 48 400 68.6% 5.7 12.8% 68.6% 5.6 40.3
Keith Sconiers WR-X 6'0, 171 Sr. *** (5.6) 55 41 479 74.5% 8.7 10.1% 61.8% 8.8 48.3
Jawon Chisholm RB 6'1, 190 Jr. ** (5.1) 54 38 310 70.4% 5.7 9.9% 61.1% 5.7 31.3
Jerrod Dillard WR-X 6'5, 199 Sr. ** (5.2) 47 29 401 61.7% 8.5 8.6% 59.6% 8.5 40.4
Imani Davis WR-H 5'9, 165 So. ** (5.4) 32 14 99 43.8% 3.1 5.9% 65.6% 3.1 10.0
Zach D'Orazio WR 6'2, 201 So. ** (5.2) 20 15 197 75.0% 9.9 3.7% 70.0% 9.8 19.9
Andrew Pratt WR-Z 6'5, 205 So. ** (5.2) 20 10 156 50.0% 7.8 3.7% 40.0% 8.9 15.7
Tyrell Goodman WR-X 6'2, 198 So. ** (5.2) 19 14 113 73.7% 5.9 3.5% 63.2% 6.1 11.4
Tyler Williams WR-Y 5'7, 145 Jr. *** (5.5) 19 11 110 57.9% 5.8 3.5% 36.8% 3.8 11.1
Quentin Hines RB 9 7 54 77.8% 6.0 1.6% 55.6% 5.9 5.4
Conor Hundley RB 5'10, 203 So. ** (5.3) 7 5 59 71.4% 8.4 1.3% 42.9% 8.3 5.9
Nolan Procter WR 5'8, 160 Sr. ** (5.2) 4 1 6 25.0% 1.5 0.7% 0.0% 0.8 0.6
Dylan Potts WR 5'11, 190 Sr. ** (5.2) 4 2 2 50.0% 0.5 0.7% 50.0% 0.6 0.2
Will Fleming TE 6'4, 230 Sr. *** (5.5) 3 2 8 66.7% 2.7 0.5% 100.0% 1.6 0.8

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 86.7 2.96 1.95 37.3% 66.7% 20.8% 118.6 3.0% 4.8%
Rank 108 64 122 79 62 92 44 32 36
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Career Starts/Honors/Notes
Mitch Straight RG 28 career starts
Adam Bice RT 22 career starts
Travis Switzer C 6'2, 280 Jr. ** (5.3) 15 career starts
Jarrod Pughsley LG 6'5, 291 Sr. NR 11 career starts
Vinnie Rizzo C 10 career starts
Dylan Brumbaugh LG 6'5, 287 So. ** (5.4) 4 career starts
Quaison Osborne LT 6'3, 290 So. ** (5.2) 3 career starts
Micah Lio RG 6'8, 308 Jr. ** (5.2)
Joe Petrides RT
Andrew Bohan LG 6'3, 262 So. ** (5.4)
Michael Casimos OL 6'2, 271 RSFr. ** (5.4)
Cedric Brittnum OL 6'5, 315 Jr. ** (5.2)
Stephen Erickson OL 6'4, 275 Fr. ** (5.4)

5. Akron's offensive line was downright solid in 2012

A quick passing game might not lead to many big plays, but it helps to diffuse the opposing pass rush and avoid sacks. As a result, Akron's sack rates were perfectly acceptable last season, and it might not have had much to do with the offensive line. But the line was pretty good at converting short yardage and was decent at creating opportunities for Jawon Chisholm and company. That says good things about its overall proficiency, though if the primary reasons for this decent play were guard Mitch Straight and tackle Adam Bice, that could be a problem. These two, along with center Vinnie Rizzo, have run out of eligibility, taking their 60 career starts with them. Akron does return four players with starting experience, including two sophomores, but there is a good chance that the line won't be quite as reliable in 2013. That's never what you want to hear when you've got a new starting quarterback, though again, Bowden and Milwee will give the QB quite a few easy, quick passes to throw.

Defense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 101 111 115 104
RUSHING 111 99 98 100
PASSING 71 112 118 109
Standard Downs 110 114 104
Passing Downs 101 91 101
Redzone 99 92 102
Q1 Rk 104 1st Down Rk 107
Q2 Rk 90 2nd Down Rk 102
Q3 Rk 104 3rd Down Rk 85
Q4 Rk 109

6. The Akron defense was incredibly, ridiculously small last year

In Akron's final depth chart of 2012, the Zips produced one of the smallest defensive two-deeps you will ever see at the FBS level.

Average size of defensive ends on final two-deep of 2012: 6'2, 229
Average size of defensive tackles: 6'1, 272
Average size of linebackers: 6'1, 215
Average size of cornerbacks: 5'11, 183
Average size of safeties: 5'10, 191

So basically, Akron's tackles were smaller than the average 3-4 end at the major conference level, the Zips' ends were essentially regular-sized linebackers, and their linebackers were basically big safeties. You can survive like this if you've got speed and experience -- Northern Illinois' defense really wasn't much bigger than this -- but Akron had little of either in 2012. And while the offene improved dramatically in Bowden's first season, the defense performed at basically the same level as 2010-11. Or, to put it another way, the defense was still pretty bad.

This year, Akron could see quite a few newcomers in the rotation. Three-star junior college transfer Keontae Hollis could make for a nice (if still undersized) tackle combo with sophomore Cody Grice (7.5 tackles for loss), junior college transfer Jon Shelby and three-star freshman Jerome Lane could provide some play-making ability and depth in the linebacking corps (a unit that lacked both last year), and an experienced, semi-interesting secondary welcomes junior college transfer Donte Williams to the mix, as well. The defense won't be much bigger this fall, but one can see how a deeper, and perhaps marginally more talented two-deep could give Amato a few more buttons to press.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 94.1 2.99 3.21 41.1% 58.0% 21.6% 75.0 2.5% 6.0%
Rank 82 74 60 89 10 36 101 112 71
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Cody Grice NG 5'11, 272 So. ** (5.4) 12 36.0 5.0% 7.5 0 0 0 0 0
J.D. Griggs DE 12 35.5 5.0% 11 6 1 3 0 0
Albert Presley DE 6'2, 226 Sr. NR 7 23.0 3.2% 8 2 0 1 1 0
Nico Caponi DT 6'3, 270 Sr. ** (5.3) 9 23.0 3.2% 3 2 0 1 0 0
Alfonso Horner DE 6'3, 200 So. ** (5.3) 12 19.5 2.7% 2 1.5 0 1 0 0
Isaiah Williams DT 6'3, 264 Jr. ** (5.2) 11 8.5 1.2% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jamel Turner DE 6'3, 215 So. **** (5.8) 9 6.5 0.9% 3.5 2 0 0 0 0
Mike Davis NG 6'0, 280 So. NR 5 2.5 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Varnell Garrett DE 6'3, 223 Jr. NR 2 1.0 0.1% 1 1 0 0 0 0
Austin Bailey DE 5'11, 247 Sr. ** (5.4)

James Price NG 6'0, 305 So. ** (5.2)

Keontae Hollis DT 6'2, 285 Jr. *** (5.5)






Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Kurt Mangum MIKE 12 79.0 11.0% 5 1 1 1 1 1
Troy Gilmer WILL 12 55.5 7.8% 4 0 0 3 0 1
Justin March SAM 6'0, 203 Jr. *** (5.5) 11 48.5 6.8% 2 0 1 3 0 0
Dylan Evans SAM 6'2, 191 So. ** (5.2) 10 18.5 2.6% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jatavis Brown WILL 5'11, 203 So. ** (5.2) 11 18.0 2.5% 0.5 0 0 0 1 0
Gary Ransom MIKE 5'11, 215 Jr. NR 9 11.0 1.5% 0 0 0 0 1 0
Nick Rossi LB 6'0, 217 Jr. *** (5.6) 12 7.0 1.0% 0.5 0 0 0 0 1
Conor Seeman MIKE 6'3, 227 Sr. NR 10 3.0 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Keionne Baines LB 5'11, 226 RSFr. ** (5.3)

John Rachal LB 6'2, 206 RSFr. ** (5.3)

Jon Shelby LB 6'1, 210 Jr. ** (5.2)

Jerome Lane LB 6'3, 203 Fr. *** (5.5)






Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Johnny Robinson S 5'9, 184 Jr. ** (5.2) 12 51.0 7.1% 2 0 0 1 1 0
Malachi Freeman CB 5'9, 174 Sr. NR 12 47.5 6.6% 2.5 0 0 7 0 0
Anthony Holmes S 6'0, 192 Sr. *** (5.5) 10 41.0 5.7% 1 0 0 2 0 0
Avis Commack CB 12 34.5 4.8% 1 0 1 3 0 0
Bre' Ford S 5'10, 204 Jr. ** (5.3) 12 27.5 3.8% 3 0 0 1 1 1
Bill Alexander CB 5'8, 170 Sr. *** (5.5) 8 19.0 2.7% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Devonte Morgan S 5'10, 185 Jr. ** (5.2) 9 18.5 2.6% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Micklos Blake CB 12 17.5 2.4% 0.5 0.5 0 3 0 1
Josh Richmond S 9 15.0 2.1% 0 0 1 0 0 0
Bryce Cheek CB 6'0, 184 So. ** (5.4) 8 7.0 1.0% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Seth Cunningham CB 6'0, 181 Sr. ** (5.4) 9 7.0 1.0% 0 0 0 1 0 0
John Senter CB 5'10, 160 So. NR 6 3.5 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Martel Durant CB 5'10, 167 Jr. NR 7 1.5 0.2% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Sean Graves S 5'11, 177 Sr. NR 10 1.5 0.2% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Donte Williams DB 5'10, 180 Jr. ** (5.2)






7. Aggression looks good on you

The line was decent to solid against the run (Akron actually stood up to short-yardage situations quite well and made some plays behind the line of scrimmage) and should be again, but the already-iffy pass rush will be hurt by the loss of end J.D. Griggs, probably meaning another year of general passivity from the secondary. But if Amato can unearth just one or two more play-makers, the ceiling for this defense could be reasonably high.

In players like tackle Cody Grice, linebacker Justin March (two tackles for loss, three passes broken up), corner Malachi Freeman (2.5 tackles for loss, seven passes broken up) and safeties Johnny Robinson, Anthony Holmes and Bre' Ford (combined: six tackles for loss, four passes broken up), Amato had some players he didn't mind sending into attack mode. But with limited ability elsewhere, he still had to be pretty cautious. Aggression looks good in blue and gold, but it might be another year before Amato can attack as much as he wants.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Zach Paul 6'3, 218 So. 65 40.9 4 11 18 44.6%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB TB%
Zach Paul 6'3, 218 So. 35 59.3 15 42.9%
Robert Stein 5'8, 164 So. 24 49.7 6 25.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Robert Stein 5'8, 164 So. 38-39 6-8 75.0% 3-4 75.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Imani Davis KR 5'9, 165 So. 13 19.3 0
Tyler Williams KR 5'7, 145 Jr. 12 14.9 0
Imani Davis PR 5'9, 165 So. 19 8.8 0
Dee Frieson PR 5'8, 181 Sr. 5 -0.6 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 116
Net Punting 116
Net Kickoffs 80
Touchback Pct 63
Field Goal Pct 45
Kick Returns Avg 123
Punt Returns Avg 83

8. Special teams are a great equalizer (for teams not named Akron)

Robert Stein is a solid kicker, Zach Paul was pretty good at booting touchbacks on kickoffs, and in general Akron covered well on kickoffs. So there's that. But elsewhere the special teams unit was lacking. There was no return man worth writing home about (not that anybody "writes home" anymore), and if Paul couldn't induce a fair catch on a punt, the return man was probably running a long way. Akron was unable to leverage field position in its favor, and it goes without saying that this needs to change in 2013.

2013 Schedule & Projection Factors

2012 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
29-Aug at Central Florida 54
7-Sep James Madison NR
14-Sep at Michigan 22
21-Sep UL-Lafayette 78
28-Sep at Bowling Green 67
5-Oct Ohio 83
12-Oct at Northern Illinois 50
19-Oct at Miami (Ohio) 106
26-Oct Ball State 84
2-Nov Kent State 80
16-Nov at Massachusetts 124
29-Nov Toledo 62
Five-Year F/+ Rk 117
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 118
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -14 / -4.0
TO Luck/Game -4.2
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 14 (7, 7)
Yds/Pt Margin** +3.8

9. You've got to start somewhere

Akron improved a solid amount in 2012, from 117th in the F/+ rankings in 2010 and 118th in 2011 to 109th. The offense was easily Akron's best since 2008, and even the defense's overall ranking improved slightly (from 108th to 105th). The Zips were a few good breaks from potentially finishing 3-9, 4-8 or even 5-7. But they didn't. Improvement on paper is fine, but improvement in the win column is the only thing that ends up mattering. Between luck, a lack of big plays, and poor special teams, Akron won just a single game for the third straight year. And with new talent needed atop the depth chart at quarterback, receiver, offensive line, and linebacker, there's nothing guaranteeing that the Zips will be too much better in 2013.

Still, improvement is improvement. For the first time in 3-4 years, Akron looked like it might be going somewhere last fall. The Zips play host to five teams projected 78th or worse in 2013, and road trips to Miami (Ohio) and UMass are in no way guaranteed losses. If Bowden can find a couple more interesting pieces, either via redshirt, the 2013 recruiting class, or an impending transfer, this team could threaten to win at least 3-5 games. Bowl eligibility is a bit too much to aim for, but when you've won three games in three years, winning three in a season would be pretty clear, definable improvement. So let's start there.

10. Akron won a MAC title eight years ago

Akron does, by the way, play in the MAC, perhaps the most parity-happy league in the country. The Zips came out of nowhere to win the MAC in 2005, Buffalo did the same in 2008, and in the midst of a four-decade bowl drought, Kent State surged to the doorstep of a BCS bowl in 2012. Turnarounds can happen pretty quickly in this league, and while 2013 probably won't be amazing for Akron, it certainly bears mentioning that Terry Bowden might not have to wait too much longer to make waves.

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