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The big 2015 Akron football guide: Bowden's Zips ready for a fourth-year breakthrough

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As another wave of transfers becomes eligible and Terry Bowden's rebuilding efforts bear more fruit, Akron should be able to maneuver an easy MAC slate and reach bowl eligibility for the first time in 10 years.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. "One year away," one year later

There are some high-impact seniors here, from Jawon Chisholm on offense to a good chunk of the secondary. But whatever Akron accomplishes in 2014, a hefty core of potential difference-makers will return in 2015. [...]

[T]he most likely scenario is probably another year with five or six wins, followed by a breakthrough in 2015. But Akron fans have been waiting a while; waiting one more year might not be the end of the world. This program has momentum for the first time in nearly a decade. That's good enough for now.

Midway through the 2014 season, it looked as if Terry Bowden and his Akron Zips were going to prove me wrong. Despite blowout losses to Penn State and Marshall, they had upset Pitt and taken down EMU and Miami (Ohio) by a combined 35 points to move to 4-2. The Zips needed two more wins to secure bowl eligibility for the first time since their surprise MAC title run of 2005.

They only got one win, however. Tight, frustrating road losses to Ohio and Kent State and a blowout home loss to BGSU meant the Zips finished 5-7. After winning just three games between 2010-12, a five-win season is not yet something to scoff at, but the way it all unfolded was disappointing.

Still, the timetable didn't change. After consecutive years of improvement, Akron solidified its gains in 2014, and now the Zips have enough potential and experience to take the aforementioned step forward in 2015. There are plenty of questions still to answer -- the leading rusher and top two receiving targets are gone, as are the top two defensive ends and seemingly every safety -- but the upside is there.

2. Terry's island of misfit toys

Perhaps it speaks to the depths into which Akron had fallen. Terry Bowden came to town in 2012 after spending a decade as an analyst and three years at North Alabama.

The former Auburn head coach Bowden set out to rebuild the Akron program like it was an SEC squad. First, he hired assistants with plenty of power-conference experience: defensive coordinator Chuck Amato and special teams coordinator Jeff Bowden were both mainstays on his father Bobby's staff, and defensive line coach Todd Stroud was an Amato assistant at N.C. State. (Bowden just snatched up former Michigan offensive line coach Darrell Funk, as well.)

Bowden also established a "locals and south Florida kids" approach to recruiting that echoed what Charlie Strong successfully attempted at Louisville. Smaller recruiting budget and lesser facilities? No matter! Akron's 2014 roster featured 20 players from Florida.

Most notably, however, Bowden also searched the transfer market for immediate talent upgrades. Akron brought in defensive tackle Se'Von Pittman and offensive lineman Tommy Brown from Ohio State, defensive end Nordly Capi from Colorado State, and offensive lineman Joe McNamara from Wisconsin. The Zips' two-deep featured quite a few former three- or four-star players last year, more than most MAC teams.

Bowden has treated the Akron job like a major position, and he's still only won 11 games in three years. That tells you at least a little bit about what he inherited.

Another batch of reinforcements will be donning the blue and gold this year. Former four-star Pitt signee Tra'Von Chapman joins the mix at quarterback. Former Colorado State running back Donnell Alexander is the leading challenger to replace leading rusher Jawon Chisholm. Former Ohio State defensive end Jamal Marcus and Iowa State nose guard Rodney Coe will supplement what might be the MAC's most high-upside defensive line. Former Miami defensive back Larry Hope will fight for playing time in a redesigned secondary. And Washington State graduate transfer Darryl Monroe should make an immediate impact at linebacker.

Continuity can be a weapon in and of itself, and transfers are rarely around long enough to bring much continuity to the table. But talent and potential also matter, and there's a chance that all six of these players end up starting in 2015. Adding them to a lineup that already features Brown, Pittman, and former three-star signees like linebacker Jatavis Brown, safety Jerome Lane, and receiver Mykel Traylor-Bennett might give Akron as much pure athleticism as any team in the MAC. Now we'll have to see how much production this staff can wring from the potential.

2014 Schedule & Results

Record: 5-7 | Adj. Record: 4-8 | Final F/+ Rk: 105
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Adj. Scoring
Margin
Win
Expectancy
28-Aug Howard N/A 41-0 W 86% 25.1 100%
6-Sep at Penn State 45 3-21 L 4% -40.8 0%
20-Sep Marshall 17 17-48 L 8% -32.2 0%
27-Sep at Pittsburgh 43 21-10 W 73% 14.1 92%
4-Oct Eastern Michigan 128 31-6 W 69% 11.7 100%
11-Oct Miami (Ohio) 103 29-19 W 36% -8.6 77%
18-Oct at Ohio 106 20-23 L 17% -22.5 28%
25-Oct at Ball State 91 21-35 L 13% -26.7 11%
4-Nov Bowling Green 98 10-37 L 12% -27.0 13%
11-Nov at Buffalo 114 24-55 L 2% -48.4 0%
18-Nov Massachusetts 120 30-6 W 63% 7.9 97%
28-Nov at Kent State 107 24-27 L 15% -24.4 27%

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 19.0 119 29.8 75
Points Per Game 22.6 104 23.9 32

3. A standout performance every week

Akron didn't leave much room for doubt in 2014. The Zips played at a level above the 60th percentil or below the 15th percentile in 10 of 12 games, looking fantastic in wins over Pitt, UMass, Howard, and Miami while playing simply awful ball against Penn State, Marshall, Ball State, BGSU, Buffalo, and Kent State. Since three of the four best performances came in the first half of the season, you can certainly spot an early-vs.-late trend if you squint -- Akron's average percentile performance was 46 percent in the first half of the season and 20 percent in the second half -- but I'm not sure if there was a trend there or simple, random rolls of the dice.

  • Average percentile performance (5 wins): 65%
  • Average percentile performance (7 losses): 10%

Quarterback Kyle Pohl battled injuries midseason, but that alone doesn't explain Akron's offensive ups and downs. The Zips averaged more yards per play against Penn State (fifth in Def. S&P+) than Buffalo (113th), and more against Ohio (71st) than Ball State (107th).

Meanwhile, a defense that boasted decent continuity and injuries luck -- the top six linemen, four of the top five linebackers, and the top four defensive backs played in all 12 games -- had some strange results of its own: 4.7 yards per play allowed against Pitt (15th in Off. S&P+) but 6.3 against Penn State (103rd), 4.6 yards per play allowed against UMass (82nd), 6.0 against Kent State (116th) and 7.0 against Buffalo (94th). Akron played like a younger, less stable team than it should have. We'll see if that changes in 2015.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.75 117 IsoPPP+ 79.5 113
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 40.0% 88 Succ. Rt. + 90.5 107
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 28.5 39 Def. FP+ 101.0 53
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.5 114 Redzone S&P+ 84.1 115
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 25.9 ACTUAL 26 +0.1
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 91 113 110 113
RUSHING 109 103 113 86
PASSING 50 114 96 122
Standard Downs 108 116 106
Passing Downs 113 85 121
Q1 Rk 111 1st Down Rk 105
Q2 Rk 117 2nd Down Rk 106
Q3 Rk 75 3rd Down Rk 85
Q4 Rk 95

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Kyle Pohl 6'3, 217 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7000 208 383 2189 9 8 54.3% 18 4.5% 5.1
Thomas Woodson 6'1, 233 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8101 76 143 806 5 6 53.1% 6 4.0% 5.2
Chandler Kincade 6'5, 230 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8318
Tra'Von Chapman
(Pitt)
6'1, 210 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8931

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Jawon Chisholm RB
114 620 8 5.4 5.0 42.1% 3 1
Conor Hundley RB 5'10, 213 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7619 104 540 4 5.2 4.9 37.5% 2 1
Donnell Alexander
(Colorado St.)
RB 5'11, 219 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7593 71 428 2 6.0 4.4 52.1% N/A N/A
Kyle Pohl QB 6'3, 217 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7000 28 148 1 5.3 4.4 46.4% 4 3
Thomas Woodson QB 6'1, 233 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8101 26 157 0 6.0 4.2 57.7% 0 0
Cody Grice NG 5'11, 284 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000 21 44 4 2.1 0.8 14.3% 1 0
D.J. Jones RB 5'8, 197 Jr. NR NR 14 58 0 4.1 8.0 21.4% 0 0
Hakeem Lawrence RB 5'7, 176 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8062 12 61 0 5.1 2.4 50.0% 2 2
Manny Morgan RB 5'8, 190 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8156 9 38 1 4.2 2.7 44.4% 0 0

4. This new backfield could be fun

Even back in the 1990s, Terry Bowden (like his father) liked to wing the ball around. In his last good season at Auburn (1997), Bowden's Tigers attempted 31 passes to 28 rushes per game; Dameyune Craig threw for 3,277 yards while the leading rusher (Rusty Williams) had just 277. Bowden's Auburn career began with a 46-12 record while he incorporated modern, pro-style, pass-friendly offensive features. So perhaps it isn't surprising that he adopted another reasonably modern, pass-friendly approach at Akron.

In 2014, Akron was aggressive with the pass on standard downs but relatively conservative on passing downs. The Zips didn't have the personnel to go all-in with the pass, but they still preferred it (especially when Pohl was healthy), and it occasionally worked, at least against bad defenses.

At season's end, Pohl and Tommy Woodson had combined to attempt more than 45 passes per game, slinging to eight different targets at least twice per game and producing six receivers with at least 225 receiving yards. Running back Jawon Chisholm had his moments in the sun (17 carries for 102 yards against Miami, 19 for 184 against Kent State), but Akron wanted to pass.

The offensive identity under coordinator A.J. Milwee could be exactly the same in 2015, or it could change drastically. It will depend on newcomers.

Pohl and Woodson both return, but between redshirt freshman Chandler Kincade (perhaps the most highly-touted freshman signee of the Bowden era) and Pitt transfer Tra'Von Chapman, the battle for the starting quarterback position could be exciting. Chapman's dual-threat ability brings a different variable to the table, and Kincade's statuesque physique and big arm could make Akron even more pass-happy.

Meanwhile, Donnell Alexander could bring stability and efficiency to a run game that needs plenty of both. In two years at CSU, Alexander was a grinder; he emerged to average 21 carries and 106 yards per game over the last four weeks of his freshman season, then provided a nice change of pace for Kapri Bibbs in 2013. He didn't show a wealth of explosiveness, but more than 50 percent of his 2013 carries gained at least five yards. In theory, a running game that features Alexander, big Conor Hundley, a jitterbug (and former three-star recruit) like Hakeem Lawrence or Manny Morgan and nose tackle/fullback Cody Grice in short-yardage situations could be punishing and effective. It could also be worthy of more focus.

So Akron could start any of four quarterbacks and end up either more pass-happy or run-reliant. I'm bringing some serious specifics to the table right now.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Zach D'Orazio WR-Y
105 62 658 59.0% 20.8% 67.6% 6.3 -104 6.4 64.6
L.T. Smith III WR-Z
82 46 502 56.1% 16.2% 64.6% 6.1 -69 6.1 49.2
Andrew Pratt WR-X 6'5, 210 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 52 27 324 51.9% 10.3% 67.3% 6.2 -17 5.7 31.8
Fransohn Bickley WR-H 5'6, 147 Jr. NR NR 48 30 268 62.5% 9.5% 64.6% 5.6 -97 5.5 26.3
Mykel Traylor-Bennett WR-X 6'3, 205 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8011 41 17 256 41.5% 8.1% 68.3% 6.2 29 6.2 25.1
Tyler Williams WR-H
41 22 228 53.7% 8.1% 58.5% 5.6 -48 5.5 22.4
Imani Davis WR-Y 5'9, 176 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7556 34 22 191 64.7% 6.7% 76.5% 5.6 -75 5.6 18.7
Keith Sconiers WR-Z
26 16 169 61.5% 5.1% 69.2% 6.5 -26 6.9 16.6
Conor Hundley RB 5'10, 213 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7619 19 9 55 47.4% 3.8% 52.6% 2.9 -61 2.9 5.4
Jawon Chisholm RB
12 8 77 66.7% 2.4% 41.7% 6.4 -19 5.4 7.6
Anthony Ritossa TE
9 6 61 66.7% 1.8% 100.0% 6.8 -11 N/A 6.0
Jatavis Brown LB 5'11, 217 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8100 6 3 34 50.0% 1.2% 66.7% 5.7 -4 6.8 3.3
Josh Smith WR 6'1, 195 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 6 3 19 50.0% 1.2% 66.7% 3.2 -19 2.7 1.9
Austin Wolf WR-Z 6'3, 200 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7881 5 4 84 80.0% 1.0% 0.0% 16.8 37 N/A 8.2
Nick Bice WR 5'8, 153 Sr. NR NR 4 3 23 75.0% 0.8% 0.0% 5.8 -12 N/A 2.3
Michael Means, Jr. WR 6'2, 200 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7100
Richie Cooper WR 5'10, 185 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7966
Ray Ray Smith WR 5'9, 190 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7856

5. Wanted: big plays

As mentioned, Alexander wasn't exactly a big-play back at CSU. He's probably not going to fix what was a pretty significant problem for Akron in 2014: the Zips passed a lot but ranked just 122nd in Passing IsoPPP+ (which measures the magnitude of a team's successful plays). You can get away with a low completion rate (54 percent for Pohl, 53 for Woodson) if you're throwing vertical passes, but Akron wasn't. The two QBs combined to average just 10.5 yards per completion.

It is perhaps encouraging that Akron's two most explosive receivers in 2014 (Andrew Pratt and Mykel Traylor-Bennett, who combined to average 13.2 yards per catch, albeit with a 47 percent catch rate) return. If Akron's run game is more of a threat, then incorporating a little bit of play-action could get either or both of these guys open deep. Still, it's hard to get too excited when your two most explosive returnees combined to average just 6.2 yards per target.

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 97.1 2.71 3.66 39.8% 69.0% 21.7% 99.7 3.2% 6.8%
Rank 88 97 30 58 49 101 70 26 51
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Career Starts Honors/Notes
Travis Switzer C 39
Dylan Brumbaugh LG 6'5, 309 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000 23
Isaiah Williams LT 6'3, 295 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 11
Tommy Brown RG 6'4, 310 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8560 10
Quaison Osborne LT 6'3, 295 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7783 10
Joe McNamara RG
9
Cedric Brittnum RT
8
Michael Casimos LG 6'2, 302 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000 0
Stephen Ericksen C 6'3, 305 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7300 0
Andrew Bohan RG 6'3, 268 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000 0
Scott Boyett RT 6'7, 308 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7700 0
Montel Jordan OL 6'2, 310 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7856
Rich Kallay OL 6'5, 290 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7683

6. Two starters gone, four returning

It took Akron quite a while to settle on a lineup in the trenches. The Zips experimented with four different starting lines in the first seven games before settling on an Isaiah Williams-Dylan Brumbaugh-Travis Switzer-Tommy Brown-Cedric Brittnum combination for the final five contests. Switzer and Brittnum are gone, as is part-timer Joe McNamara, but four players with at least 10 starts do return, and all are seniors. That'll do. Akron's line was glitchy last year, allowing defenders into the backfield on rushes and on passing downs, but they were solid in short-yardage (as was Cody Grice as the short-yardage back), and they created a decent number of downfield opportunities.

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.82 48 IsoPPP+ 94.0 88
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 39.7% 46 Succ. Rt. + 97.8 77
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 32.8 17 Off. FP+ 103.0 30
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.2 48 Redzone S&P+ 101.8 55
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 23.3 ACTUAL 24.0 +0.7
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 45 85 84 88
RUSHING 43 66 71 62
PASSING 54 104 94 106
Standard Downs 85 75 88
Passing Downs 89 90 86
Q1 Rk 73 1st Down Rk 59
Q2 Rk 66 2nd Down Rk 90
Q3 Rk 75 3rd Down Rk 15
Q4 Rk 56

7. Don't let them pin their ears back

Chesty Chuck Amato wants swagger and aggressiveness from his defense. His Zip attack the run on standard downs and attack the passer on passing downs, and Akron's defensive stats show some of the fruits of that aggression: Akron was 10th in the country in Stuff Rate (run stops at or behind the line), 25th in Power Success Rate, and 26th in Passing Downs Sack Rate. They wanted to leverage you into predictability, then attack your predictable option.

It shouldn't surprise, then, that opponents tried to stay less predictable. Opponents threw six percent more frequently than the national average on standard downs and rushed five percent more than normal on passing downs. Akron's defense ended up a little bit too predictable in its own right and got caught flat-footed quite a bit.

Still, Amato's effect (along with that of the transfers) has been noticeable. Akron ranked 112th in Def. S&P+ in Rob Ianello's last year in charge and ranked 113th in Bowden's first year. But in 2013 and 2014, the Zips ranked 74th and 75th, respectively. If they can offset turnover in the secondary with an effective front seven, they should produce a similar ranking again this fall.

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 102.9 2.51 3.78 40.0% 60.0% 24.7% 104.8 3.9% 9.7%
Rank 50 16 112 81 25 10 59 88 26
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Nordly Capi DE
12 32.5 4.9% 10.5 5.0 0 3 0 0
Nmesoma Okafor DE
12 30.5 4.6% 7.0 4.5 0 0 2 0
Rodney Coe
(Iowa State)
NG 6'3, 305 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8604 12 29.0 4.1% 5.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Se'Von Pittman DT 6'3, 268 Jr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9565 12 26.5 4.0% 6.5 1.0 0 0 0 0
Cody Grice NG 5'11, 284 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000 12 24.5 3.7% 4.0 2.5 0 2 1 0
Keontae Hollis DT
12 14.5 2.2% 3.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jamal Marcus
(Ohio State)
DE 6'2, 240 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8962 13 17.0 2.2% 2.0 2.0 0 2 1 0
Alfonso Horner DE 6'3, 217 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7000 11 11.0 1.7% 1.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Darius Copeland NG 6'1, 257 Jr. NR NR 9 7.5 1.1% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Richard Dorvilus DE 6'1, 235 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8235 8 3.5 0.5% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Jatavis Brown WILL 5'11, 217 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8100 12 81.5 12.3% 14.5 4.0 0 1 3 0
Justin March SAM
11 55.5 8.4% 6.0 2.0 0 8 2 0
Darryl Monroe
(Washington St.)
LB 6'1, 235 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8156 12 54.5 8.0% 4.0 1.5 0 1 0 0
C.J. Mizell MIKE
12 51.0 7.7% 6.0 0.0 0 2 1 1
Dylan Evans SAM 6'2, 211 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 12 29.0 4.4% 3.0 2.0 0 1 0 0
Jon Shelby WILL
12 24.0 3.6% 1.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
John Rachal MIKE 5'11, 225 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7000 9 9.0 1.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Nick Rossi LB
12 5.0 0.8% 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Newman Williams LB 6'2, 240 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7856
Ulysses Gilbert III LB 6'1, 220 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8041








8. It's hard not to be excited about the front seven

Akron must replace its two top defensive ends, a decent backup tackle and two-thirds of last year's starting linebacking corps. When you're a MAC program, your depth might not be where it needs to be to absorb such losses without regression.

But it's hard to worry too much about Akron in this regard -- not with this load of transfers coming in. Jamal Marcus should be able to offset the loss of either Nordly Capi or Nmesoma Okafor, Rodney Coe should provide an upgrade for Deontae Hollis, and Darryl Monroe should be an instant contributor. Add to that the return of players like Jatavis Brown, Se'Von Pittman, and Cody Grice, and you've got a deep, athletic front seven, likely one of the best in the conference. Amato should again have plenty of athleticism at his disposal, and he should again attempt to utilize it aggressively.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Kris Givens CB 5'9, 163 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7333 12 35.0 5.3% 0.5 0 2 4 0 0
Devonte Morgan FS
12 33.0 5.0% 0 0 1 0 0 0
Martel Durant ROV
12 32.5 4.9% 0 0 3 5 0 0
Johnny Robinson FS
12 32.0 4.8% 0 0 1 3 0 0
Bre' Ford ROV
11 28.0 4.2% 0 0 2 0 1 0
DeAndre Scott CB 5'11, 180 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7100 11 25.0 3.8% 0 0 2 10 1 0
Bryce Cheek CB 6'0, 191 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000 12 19.0 2.9% 1 0 0 2 1 0
John Senter CB 5'7, 163 Sr. NR NR 12 15.5 2.3% 0 0 1 1 0 0
Jerome Lane FS 6'3, 212 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8314 12 12.5 1.9% 5 5 0 0 0 0
Drew Phillips CB
9 3.5 0.5% 0 0 1 1 0 0
Cory Morrow S 6'0, 204 Jr. NR NR 12 3.5 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Zach Guiser ROV 6'1, 205 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7717 12 3.0 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Larry Hope
(Miami)
DB 6'0, 183 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8378 2 2.5 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jamal Baggett S 5'9, 189 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8006
Chris Bivins DB 5'11, 185 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.7100
Jason Williams DB 6'3, 185 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7967








9. A black hole at safety

Corners Kris Givens and DeAndre Scott (combined: four picks, 14 break-ups in 2014) return, and JUCO transfer Chris Bivins and seniors Bryce Cheek and John Senter should assure the Zips decent depth at the position. Combined with depth at defensive tackle and linebacker, this should assure that Akron's efficiency numbers are solid and similar to last season's. But in the instances when aggression doesn't pay off, a brand new set of safeties will be tasked with preventing enormous gains.

There are intriguing candidates, sure. Sophomore Jerome Lane was a star recruit (by MAC standards) and as an OLB/nickel back, he had two enormous games last fall (two sacks against Miami, three against BGSU). If he settles in at free safety instead of moving to OLB, he could be a keeper. But Akron will otherwise be counting on either newcomers (sophomore Zach Guiser, redshirt freshman Jamal Baggett, transfer Larry Hope) or converted corners to serve as safety valves. That's scary.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Zach Paul 6'3, 216 Sr. 66 42.5 14 16 24 60.6%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Robert Stein 5'8, 169 Sr. 56 57.4 10 4 17.9%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Robert Stein 5'8, 169 Sr. 27-27 9-10 90.0% 4-6 66.7%
Tom O'Leary 5'11, 175 So. 5-6 0-2 0.0% 0-0 N/A
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Returns Avg. TD
L.T. Smith III KR 19 22.5 0
Drew Phillips KR 8 21.3 0
Imani Davis PR 5'9, 176 Sr. 18 4.2 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 49
Field Goal Efficiency 57
Punt Return Efficiency 76
Kick Return Efficiency 30
Punt Efficiency 62
Kickoff Efficiency 67
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 58

2015 Schedule & Projection Factors

2015 Schedule
Date Opponent 2014 F/+ Rk
5-Sep at Oklahoma 19
12-Sep Pittsburgh 43
19-Sep Savannah State NR
26-Sep at UL-Lafayette 72
3-Oct Ohio 106
10-Oct at Eastern Michigan 128
17-Oct at Bowling Green 98
31-Oct Central Michigan 85
7-Nov at Massachusetts 120
14-Nov at Miami (Ohio) 103
21-Nov Buffalo 114
27-Nov Kent State 107
Five-Year F/+ Rk -37.4% (121)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 99 / 114
2014 TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -2 / -2.6
2014 TO Luck/Game +0.3
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 12 (7, 5)
2014 Second-order wins (difference) 5.5 (-0.5)

10. Almost the easiest possible MAC slate

According to F/+, the top five teams in the MAC last year were WMU (56th), Toledo (59th), NIU (69th), CMU (85th), and Ball State (91st). Akron plays one of those teams in 2015 -- Central Michigan at home. Seven of eight conference opponents ranked 98th or worse last year, and including non-conference gimme Savannah State, the Zips will basically have nine tries to offset what is a pretty stout trio of non-conference opponents: Oklahoma, Pitt, and UL-Lafayette. (Yes, Akron beat Pitt last year and could do so again. From a pure stat standpoint, however, that isn't incredibly likely.)

There are questions for Terry Bowden to answer in 2015. The receiving corps and defensive backfield have holes to fill, and while there are new, intriguing options at quarterback, there are no guarantees of improvement. Akron was indeed incredibly unstable from week to week, and Bowden has to prove that was because of inexperience and not the coaching staff.

Still, between the exciting new batch of transfers and the ease of the schedule, I would be shocked if Akron wasn't bowling this coming winter. Bowden has done a solid job of raising expectations within the hapless program he inherited, and I'm betting 2015 is when he reaps some rewards. He will have one of the most athletic, exciting teams in the conference, and if his Zips go 1-1 against CMU and BGSU, they could produce a record gaudy enough to threaten for the division title. This should be a fun year.