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Terry Bowden brought Akron football back to life, but now's the hard part

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Getting to eight wins and a top-80 spot in S&P+ is a magnificent accomplishment.The only thing harder than creating success is maintaining it. This is Bill C's daily preview series, working its way through every 2016 team. Stay tuned!

Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. Great! Now do it again!

The Zips have enough potential and experience to step forward in 2015. There are plenty of questions, but the upside is there.

Akron was incredibly unstable from week to week in 2014, and Bowden has to prove that was because of inexperience and not the coaching staff.

Still, between the exciting batch of transfers and the ease of the schedule, I would be shocked if Akron wasn't bowling. Bowden has done a solid job of raising expectations within the hapless program he inherited, and I'm betting 2015 is when he reaps rewards.

-- The 2015 Akron guide

In college football, a crystal bowl of potatoes -- the prize for winning the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl -- signifies rise and redemption.

  • In 2011, Ohio scored in the last minute to beat Utah State, securing the program's first bowl win.
  • In 2012, Utah State pummeled Toledo to cap an 11-win season, a top-20 finish, and a "We've arrived" declaration. After decades in the wilderness, the Aggies have now been bowling for five straight years.
  • In 2013, San Diego State handled Buffalo to win its first bowl since Brady Hoke left. It confirmed the potential of the Rocky Long era. Two years later, the Aztecs won 11 games.
  • In 2014, Air Force and head coach Troy Calhoun completed the most stunning turnaround of the year, beating Western Michigan to finish 10-3 a year after going 2-10.
  • In 2015, it was Bowden's turn to hold potatoes aloft. In the fourth year of his rebuild, he led the Zips to Boise, and they held off Utah State for the crown.

You could see the progress, especially on defense. Bowden and his seasoned staff (which features his father's former assistant at Florida State, Chuck Amato) needed a year to get situated but improved dramatically on defense in Year 2. After a stagnant third year, they added more talent to a loaded defense and broke into the Def. S&P+ top 40.

The offense was still limited, which rendered Akron only a MAC-average team. But the defense was enough to drive the Zips to eight wins -- they were 0-3 against teams in the S&P+ top 50 and 8-2 against everybody else.

Bowden needed four years to pull this off when the average successful rebuild breaks through a bit earlier. But he got there. And now he has to do it again.

Akron must attempt to repeat last year's success without its top two running backs, two of three receivers, all five starting offensive linemen, half of the defensive line two-deep, all three starting linebackers, and three of the top six defensive backs.

The defense will still have a pair of stud ends and aggressive options in the secondary; the offense boasts quite a bit of quarterback experience and an exciting transfer.

Bowden is now responsible for 50 percent of Akron's bowl appearances and 100 percent of its bowl wins. The Zips had fallen into a deep pit when he arrived; after winning 20 games from 2003-05, they won 12 from 2007-09 and three from 2010-12. Getting to eight wins and a top-80 spot in S&P+ is a magnificent accomplishment.The only thing harder than creating success is maintaining it.

2015 Schedule & Results

Record: 8-5 | Adj. Record: 7-6 | Final F/+ Rk: 84 | Final S&P+ Rk: 80
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Win
Expectancy
vs. S&P+ Performance
vs. Vegas
5-Sep at Oklahoma 4 3-41 L 9% 0% -12.3 -6.5
12-Sep Pittsburgh 46 7-24 L 19% 10% +1.4 -4.0
19-Sep Savannah State N/A 52-9 W 75% 100% +15.9
26-Sep at UL-Lafayette 104 35-14 W 77% 99% +31.7 +29.5
3-Oct Ohio 69 12-14 L 34% 35% +3.3 +1.0
10-Oct at Eastern Michigan 122 47-21 W 72% 99% +24.0 +18.5
17-Oct at Bowling Green 25 10-59 L 5% 0% -40.9 -37.0
31-Oct Central Michigan 67 6-14 L 19% 9% -7.6 -5.0
7-Nov at Massachusetts 100 17-13 W 61% 92% +5.2 +6.5
14-Nov at Miami-OH 113 37-28 W 59% 95% -0.2 +2.0
21-Nov Buffalo 98 42-21 W 70% 95% +16.5 +17.0
27-Nov Kent State 109 20-0 W 89% 100% +4.7 +9.5
22-Dec vs. Utah State 53 23-21 W 38% 42% +10.0 +9.0

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 22.4 108 24.1 39
Points Per Game 23.9 99 21.5 23

2. Little room for doubt

Bowl game aside, Akron did its fans a favor by rarely leaving the outcome in doubt, one way or the other. The Zips scored just 7.6 points per game in their five losses, keeping two games close but showing minimal reason for hope. Meanwhile, in their seven regular season wins, they averaged 35.7 points per game and won only once by fewer than nine points.

Just about everybody plays better in wins than in losses, but Akron's spread of outcomes was pretty incredible.

  • 7 regular season wins
    Average percentile performance: 72% (~top 35) | Average win expectancy: 97% | Yards per play: UA 6.2, Opp 4.4 (+1.8)
  • 5 regular season losses
    Average percentile performance: 17% (~top 105) | Average win expectancy: 11% | Yards per play: Opp 5.5, UA 3.7 (-1.8)

When the offense was able to bring something to the table, the Zips usually rolled. But that was infrequent. And while things got a little better when quarterback Thomas Woodson took over in Week 3, the downs were still quite down. Meanwhile, the defense mostly held things together, allowing more than 24 points just three times. But they managed to lose twice while allowing just 14 points; that should almost never happen.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.26 68 IsoPPP+ 91.0 100
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 38.0% 106 Succ. Rt. + 92.6 104
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 28.5 41 Def. FP+ 30.3 82
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 4.3 84 Redzone S&P+ 100.2 75
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 17.2 ACTUAL 18 +0.8
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 104 103 104 100
RUSHING 75 116 111 121
PASSING 97 67 69 67
Standard Downs 76 72 70
Passing Downs 118 119 114
Q1 Rk 103 1st Down Rk 113
Q2 Rk 90 2nd Down Rk 71
Q3 Rk 91 3rd Down Rk 117
Q4 Rk 113

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Thomas Woodson 6'1, 240 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8101 162 307 2202 16 11 52.8% 11 3.5% 6.7
Tra'Von Chapman 6'1, 216 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8931 10 35 157 1 1 28.6% 3 7.9% 3.1
Kyle Pohl 11 27 135 0 0 40.7% 1 3.6% 4.6
Matthew Hoyer 6'4, 210 Sr. NR NR
Kato Nelson 6'1, 195 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8327

3. Woodson brings stability

Akron still had a couple of duds after Thomas Woodson took over, but there was no question that they were less frequent. Pitt transfer Tra'Von Chapman began the season as the primary quarterback but struggled drastically. He completed a combind four of 22 passes for 29 yards against Oklahoma and Pitt, and senior Kyle Pohl completed just nine of 25. Combined, that is a remarkable 28 percent completion rate. That Akron scored even 10 points in those games was a minor miracle.

With Pohl injured, Woodson got an extended look against Savannah State, and while SSU was one of the worst FCS teams in the country, Woodson still showed nice potential. He completed 12 of 20 passes for 207 yards and rushed 11 times for 63 yards, and that was enough to secure the job.

Woodson's 3.6 percent INT rate was too high, and his 53 percent completion rate was too low. But he took a pretty low number of sacks for a mobile QB, and his strong moments were quite strong: 14-for-22 for 222 and four scores against EMU, 17-for-30 for 258 and four scores against Buffalo.

With a depleted supporting cast, Woodson will need to improve to even post the same stats he managed last year. But he might be able to pull that off.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Conor Hundley RB 203 908 10 4.5 3.9 38.9% 0 0
Thomas Woodson QB 6'1, 240 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8101 124 677 3 5.5 4.5 44.4% 5 2
Donnell Alexander RB 107 499 3 4.7 4.5 34.6% 1 0
Tra'Von Chapman QB 6'1, 216 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8931 28 76 0 2.7 3.1 32.1% 1 0
Cody Grice NT 22 35 4 1.6 1.2 4.5% 0 0
Van Edwards, Jr. RB 5'9, 185 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7533 14 60 0 4.3 2.1 35.7% 1 1
Hakeem Lawrence RB 5'7, 180 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8062 6 11 0 1.8 0.0 0.0% 1 1
Imani Davis WR 4 15 0 3.8 2.9 25.0% 2 1
Kyle Pohl QB 4 6 0 1.5 3.1 25.0% 0 0
D.J. Jones RB 5'8, 191 Sr. NR NR
Manny Morgan RB 5'8, 185 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8156
Jaleel Davis RB 5'11, 205 Fr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7642







Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
Yds/
Target
%SD Success
Rate
IsoPPP
Imani Davis WR-Y 82 47 613 57.3% 24.1% 7.5 70.7% 47.6% 1.41
JoJo Natson
(Utah State)
WR-Y 5'8, 165 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8000 79 51 504 64.6% 21.4% 6.4 41.8% N/A N/A
Jerome Lane WR-Z 6'3, 220 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8314 73 39 782 53.4% 21.5% 10.7 54.8% 46.6% 2.20
Andrew Pratt WR-X 56 28 280 50.0% 16.5% 5.0 51.8% 37.5% 1.16
Mykel Traylor-Bennett
(2014)
WR-X 6'3, 205 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8011 41 17 256 41.5% 8.1% 6.2 68.3% N/A N/A
Tyrell Goodman WR-X 6'2, 215 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) NR 27 12 104 44.4% 7.9% 3.9 44.4% 37.0% 0.93
A.J. Coney WR-H 5'8, 180 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) NR 21 11 125 52.4% 6.2% 6.0 38.1% 42.9% 1.27
Austin Wolf WR-Y 6'3, 210 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7881 19 10 212 52.6% 5.6% 11.2 73.7% 52.6% 2.15
Michaelee Harris (Louisville) WR-Z 6'0, 210 Sr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9172 16 9 113 56.3% 3.9% 7.1 56.3% N/A N/A
Michael Means, Jr. WR-Z 6'2, 200 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7100 13 5 61 38.5% 3.8% 4.7 69.2% 30.8% 1.49
Conor Hundley RB 11 7 70 63.6% 3.2% 6.4 54.5% 36.4% 1.87
Richie Cooper WR
10 6 49 60.0% 2.9% 4.9 80.0% 40.0% 1.10
Josh McNeil TE 6'5, 265 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8528 9 7 37 77.8% 2.6% 4.1 66.7% 44.4% 0.73
Anthony Young WR-Y 6'0, 176 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8281 7 3 94 42.9% 2.1% 13.4 85.7% 42.9% 3.23
Newman Williams TE 6'2, 250 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7856 6 6 71 100.0% 1.8% 11.8 100.0% 100.0% 1.15
Anthony Lauro WR-H 5'10, 195 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7947
Avery Cagle TE 6'4, 227 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7633
Kwadarrius Smith WR-Y 5'9, 165 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7856
Jaquavis Dixon WR-H 6'2, 185 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7594

4. A brand new skill position corps

First, the good news: JoJo Natson has arrived. One of the nation's more diverse, entertaining skill position threats, Natson rushed caught 108 passes for 883 yards and rushed 79 times for 612 yards at Utah State in 2013-14; he was also dynamite in punt returns, averaging more than 11 yards per return and scoring four times in those two seasons. The senior from Oakland Park, Fla., is tiny and hard to hold onto. The custom-made slot receiver's addition alone brings a level of versatility to the Akron offense that it just didn't have before.

Now the bad news: Natson might have to touch the ball a lot. Running backs Conor Hundley and Donnell Alexander, who combined for 310 carries and 1,407 yards, are gone. So are receivers Imani Davis and Andrew Pratt, who combined for 75 catches and 893 yards.

None of these four players were irreplaceable; neither Hundley nor Alexander averaged even five yards per carry, and Davis and Pratt combined to average 6.5 yards per target. Still, from a pure volume standpoint, a lot of last year's touches are gone.

Sophomore Van Edwards began the season as the first-string running back, while juniors A.J. Coney and Jerome Lane and senior Tyrell Goodman joined Natson in the starting receiving corps. Edwards had 14 carries last year, and Goodman and Coney had 23 catches.

The addition of Natson, Louisville transfer Michaelee Harris, and all-or-nothing Mykel Traylor-Bennett (who missed 2015 with injury) gives Akron options. But there are almost no knowns. Of course, the bar isn't very high, so maybe this works out just fine.

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 91 2.73 2.69 36.4% 59.6% 23.9% 151.8 1.9% 6.2%
Rank 108 93 108 94 106 113 23 11 43
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. 2015 Starts Career Starts Honors/Notes
Dylan Brumbaugh LG 13 36
Tommy Brown RG 13 23
Quaison Osborne RT 11 21
Isaiah Williams LT 10 21
Andrew Bohan C 12 12
Kyle Ritz LT 6'5, 305 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 5 5
Stephen Ericksen C 6'3, 300 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7300 1 1
Undrea Bullard RT 6'6, 295 So. 2 stars (5.2) NR 0 0
LaVonne Gauthney LG 6'1, 290 Jr. NR NR 0 0
Michael Casimos LG 6'2, 320 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000 0 0
Ryan Kortokrax RG 6'3, 300 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7433 0 0
Mitchell Hlay LT 6'7, 275 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7917

Rich Kallay RG 6'5, 290 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7683

Cedric McCoy RG 6'5, 330 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7900

Jovann Letuli OL 6'5, 335 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7794

Montel Jordan LG 6'4, 330 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7856

Trevor Brown LT 6'5, 275 Fr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7895

Brandon Council RT 6'4, 330 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7756

5. A brand new offensive line

More bad news: Those responsible for 59 of Akron's 65 starts on the offensive line last year are gone. This includes three-year starting guard Dylan Brumbaugh and two-year starters Tommy Brown, Quaison Osborne, and Isaiah Williams.

More good news, as it were: The bar isn't high. The line protected Woodson pretty well but was a sieve in run blocking and didn't get much of a push in short-yardage situations. Plus, experience up front doesn't necessarily mean what we thought it meant. So there's that!

Spot starters Kyle Ritz and Stephen Ericksen are back, likely joined by two junior guards (part-time tight end LaVonne Gauthney and Ryan Kortokrax) and a sophomore tackle (Undrea Bullard). There is not a single former three-star recruit among the 13 returning/arriving linemen I listed above. The line will likely regress in terms of pass protection, but the run blocking can only get so much worse. It will probably hold steady.

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Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.13 11 IsoPPP+ 117.9 17
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 36.6% 21 Succ. Rt. + 101.8 59
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 31.6 34 Off. FP+ 29.6 76
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 4.2 44 Redzone S&P+ 95.6 84
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 26.8 ACTUAL 28.0 +1.2
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 15 29 59 17
RUSHING 3 21 52 7
PASSING 84 40 63 31
Standard Downs 27 50 19
Passing Downs 30 74 23
Q1 Rk 31 1st Down Rk 38
Q2 Rk 50 2nd Down Rk 42
Q3 Rk 97 3rd Down Rk 60
Q4 Rk 40

6. Opponents didn't even try to run

Obviously your defensive run-pass rates are going to be dictated by who you're playing, and in Bowling Green and UMass, among others, Akron played at least a few teams that liked to pass. But these rates still tell a remarkable story: No team in the country faced fewer rushes on standard downs than Akron. MAC opponents especially didn't even try to pretend they had the horses to beat the Zips' front seven and just moved straight into trying to throw.

Akron ranked 21st in Rushing S&P+ and eighth in Adj. Line Yards -- that's not MAC good, that's just good. The Zips swarmed to the ball, allowing only seven rushes of 20-plus yards in 13 games (only Washington allowed fewer, with six). And the linebacking corps not only prevented big plays but also made them: The three starters combined for 37 tackles for loss, 16.5 sacks, nine passes defensed, and six forced fumbles.

Combined with a line full of former power conference recruits and a coaching duo that knows how to develop linemen -- Amato and line coach Todd Stroud have been doing this a long time now -- Akron had a defensive front most power conference teams couldn't match. And when you can render your opponent one-dimensional on first down, you have created a devastating advantage.

Again, it's a good news, bad news situation here. Ends Jamal Marcus and Se'Von Pittman are back, and they're awesome. Sophomore tackle Brock Boxen showed glimpses of potential in a backup role last year. And at the least, the linebacking corps has three former three-star recruits to lean on despite the loss of three starters.

Still, the bad news is obvious: Akron played its starters almost exclusively, and five starters from last year's front seven are gone. We don't really know what the Zips have in reserve because they didn't show us last year.

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 118.1 2.20 2.73 36.4% 62.5% 23.2% 106.8 5.6% 8.2%
Rank 8 4 23 46 44 24 50 46 49
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Rodney Coe DT 12 32.5 4.9% 8.5 2.0 0 3 1 1
Se'Von Pittman DE 6'3, 269 Sr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9565 13 26.5 4.0% 7.0 3.0 0 2 2 0
Jamal Marcus DE 6'2, 240 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8962 11 24.0 3.6% 12.5 5.5 0 1 1 0
Cody Grice NT 13 19.0 2.9% 5.5 3.0 0 0 0 1
Daumantas Venckus-Cucchiara DE 6'5, 230 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8071 13 9.5 1.4% 2.0 1.5 0 0 0 0
Alfonso Horner DE 11 6.0 0.9% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Brock Boxen DT 6'3, 272 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8225 11 5.5 0.8% 2.5 0.5 0 0 1 0
Richard Dorvilus DE NR 12 4.5 0.7% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Brennan Williams DT 6'1, 264 So. NR NR 3 2.5 0.4% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Darius Copeland NT 6'1, 280 Jr. NR NR 9 1.5 0.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Christopher Spruill NT 6'2, 270 Jr. NR NR
Deon-Tae Moore DE 6'2, 240 Jr. NR NR
JoVohn Morrow DT 6'1, 268 So. NR NR
Tyler Shipman NT 6'1, 240 RSFr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7578
Josh Ward DE 6'2, 214 RSFr. NR NR








Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Jatavis Brown WILL 13 89.0 13.4% 20.0 12.0 1 1 4 0
Dylan Evans SAM 13 86.0 13.0% 12.0 2.5 1 6 1 0
Darryl Monroe MIKE 13 63.5 9.6% 5.0 2.0 0 0 1 0
Ulysees Gilbert III WILL 6'1, 225 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8041 13 9.0 1.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
John Rachal MIKE 5'11, 225 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7000 13 8.5 1.3% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Andrew Hauser MIKE 6'1, 219 Sr. NR NR 13 8.0 1.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Brian Bell SAM 6'3, 218 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8650 12 3.0 0.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Newman Williams LB 6'2, 250 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7856
Travonte Junius SAM 6'3, 210 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7794
DeMarcus Lloyd LB 6'0, 225 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8000
Alvin Davis Jr. SAM 6'0, 175 Fr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8199








7. A void in the middle

In Pittman, Marcus, and lanky senior Daumantas Venckus-Cucchiara, Akron's got all the ends you could want. And I'm willing to bet that sophomore Ulysees Gilbert III turns out just fine in the WLB spot. But Akron's defensive backbone has atrophied. Gone are two active starting tackles (Rodney Coe, Cody Grice) and middle linebacker/traffic director Darryl Monroe.

Boxen, seldom-used nose tackle Darius Copeland and senior reserve John Rachal have an almost impossible bar to clear, and they probably will not clear it. A lot of the play-making potential remains, but one wonders if the Zips will be able to prevent plays quite as well.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Zach Guiser FS 6'1, 195 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7717 13 49.5 7.5% 0.5 0 2 5 0 0
Kris Givens CB 13 49.0 7.4% 1.5 0 1 7 0 0
Bryce Cheek ROV 13 41.5 6.3% 1 0 1 6 1 0
Jordan George ROV 5'11, 193 So. NR NR 13 34.5 5.2% 2 0 1 3 0 0
DeAndre Scott CB 5'11, 185 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) NR 13 29.0 4.4% 1.5 0 6 11 1 0
John Senter CB 13 16.0 2.4% 0 0 0 4 0 0
Larry Hope CB 6'0, 183 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8378 11 7.5 1.1% 0 0 1 2 0 0
Kyron Brown CB 6'1, 186 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7583 13 7.0 1.1% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Cory Morrow ROV 6'0, 204 Sr. NR NR 13 7.0 1.1% 0 0 0 0 1 0
James Turner FS 5'11, 201 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 11 3.0 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Bryce Jones CB 6'0, 178 Sr. NR 0.7759
Jerome Lane ROV 6'3, 220 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8314
A.J. Coney CB 5'8, 180 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) NR
Mikee Hayes CB 5'9, 166 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7900
Jamal Baggett FS 5'11, 190 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8006
Jason Williams CB 6'3, 185 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7967








8. Fewer concerns in the back

One of the more interesting pieces of Bowden's phiolosophy appears to be his willingness to allow guys to play both ways. Nose tackle Cody Grice was Akron's short-yardage back last season, while receivers Jerome Lane and A.J. Coney were both listed on the defensive two-deep at the end of the year. Part of that could have been via necessity, but Lane is listed as a "WR/LB" on the Akron roster after playing rover last year.

When you've got athletes, use them. And it appears that despite losing three of its top six, the secondary still has some solid athletes, Lane and Coney aside. DeAndre Scott was one of the nation's more active corners a year ago, and while Kris Givens and John Senter are gone, senior Larry Hope and sophomore Kyron Brown each showed that they could get hands on passes in limited opportunities. Meanwhile, the return of safeties Zach Guiser and Jordan George alleviates the loss of Bryce Cheek to some degree.

Akron's pass defense was strong as well last year -- 40th in Passing S&P+ -- though some of that could have been because opponents were so quickly rendered one-dimensional. Still, if the front seven can avoid too much regression, it does appear that the Zips have the potential to still do damage in the back, and without having to utilize offensive players to do so.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Zach Paul 79 41.5 8 20 26 58.2%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Robert Stein 66 56.5 16 3 24.2%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Robert Stein 36-38 10-13 76.9% 5-9 55.6%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Van Edwards, Jr. KR 5'9, 185 So. 20 20.7 0
Tyrell Goodman KR 6'2, 215 Sr. 4 9.0 0
A.J. Coney PR 5'8, 180 Jr. 17 4.3 0
Category Rk
Special Teams S&P+ 92
Field Goal Efficiency 87
Punt Return Success Rate 68
Kick Return Success Rate 30
Punt Success Rate 75
Kickoff Success Rate 105

9. Wanted: legs

Van Edwards proved consistent in kick returns, and while A.J. Coney wasn't incredibly explosive in punt returns, he was able to field the ball and prevent long punts. That's an underrated skill. Still, the special teams unit as a whole was a bit of a weakness thanks to kicks ... and now the Zips must replace their legs. Zach Paul and Robert Stein are both gone, and as is the case with the offense, while neither was replaceable, it doesn't mean the replacements will be any better.

2016 Schedule & Projection Factors

2016 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk Proj. Margin Win Probability
3-Sep VMI NR 26.9 94%
10-Sep at Wisconsin 37 -18.2 15%
17-Sep at Marshall 75 -10.3 28%
24-Sep Appalachian State 59 -6.6 35%
1-Oct at Kent State 104 -1.4 47%
8-Oct Miami (Ohio) 107 7.9 68%
15-Oct Western Michigan 65 -5.4 38%
22-Oct at Ball State 101 -1.8 46%
27-Oct at Buffalo 109 1.3 53%
2-Nov Toledo 58 -6.6 35%
9-Nov Bowling Green 60 -6.3 36%
22-Nov at Ohio 95 -4.8 39%
Projected wins: 5.3
Five-Year F/+ Rk -29.9% (111)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 124 / 115
2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* 10 / 9.7
2015 TO Luck/Game +0.1
Returning Production (Off. / Def.) 63% (72%, 53%)
2015 Second-order wins (difference) 7.8 (0.2)

10. Honestly? I have no idea

Scenario 1: Woodson and Natson are as versatile and exciting as advertised, and Van Edwards provides stability at running back. The new line is about the same as the old line.A depleted Akron defense is still too strong for most of its MAC foes, and with WMU, Toledo, and Bowling Green all visiting Akron, the Zips are able to pull off a couple of solid wins, beat the bad teams, and return to a bowl.

Scenario 2: An already shaky offense falls apart with so many new pieces, and thanks to turnover at defensive tackle and linebacker, opponents are suddenly able to run. This means doom in a home game against Appalachian State, and a loss at Kent State drops the Zips to 1-4. They lose to good MAC opponents at home, lose on the road to Ohio and perhaps Ball State or Buffalo, and finish in the neighborhood of 3-9.

Honestly, both would feel unsurprising to me.

So much of Akron's fate will be determined by 2015 backups that played sparingly -- Edwards, John Rachal, Brock Boxen, the entire offensive line -- and it's so hard to read.

I love the job that Bowden has done, and I'm inclined to give him and his seasoned staff the benefit of the doubt. But it's easy to see how this could fall apart quickly. After all, we just saw a similar story in Denton, Texas: With transfers and seniors, Dan McCarney's North Texas went 9-4 and won a bowl in 2013. But when that group of breakthrough guys cycled out, the replacements couldn't keep things going, and the Mean Green went 5-19 in 2014-15.