2005 Akron Recap/2006 Outlook
The Zips had a good season in 2005. They won seven games and claimed their first MAC title after winning a three way tie breaker. The Zips were invited to play Memphis in the Motor City Bowl. This was their first Bowl game since 1976. Akron lost a shootout Memphis Tigers 38-31.
This season expectations are high. They return 17 starters on offense and defense and 39 letter winners from a year ago. Pundits list Akron as one of the favorites to win the MAC this year. Anything less than nine wins and a bowl game will be a disappointment.
Head coach J.D. Brookhart is in his third year at Akron with an overall record of 13-11. Brookhart was an assistant coach for the Denver Broncos from 1995-'96. He spent four years as the offensive coordinator for Pitt before joining the Zips. Akron utilizes the West Coast Offense. On defense they utilize an unusual 3-3-5 defense.
Akron returns eight starters on offense this year from a team that averaged 23.6 points per game last season. Leading the charge for the Zips is quarterback Luke Getsy. Getsy rolled up 3455 yards last season with 23 TD and 12 INT in 2005. He may be one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the nation this year, and there's a good chance we'll see him playing on Sundays after his college career is over.
Unfortunately for the Zips, their top three receivers from last season are gone. Domenik Hixon, Jason Montgomery, and Brett Biggs accounted for 188 catches, 19 touchdowns, and 2447 yards. Jabari Arthur returns which should help (30 rec, 482 yds, 3 TD in 2005). Also returning is TE Kris Kasparek who had 27 catches for 312 yards last year. Johnny Long is the only other WR to have a catch. Young players like Jermaine Lindsay, Brandon Williams, and Stephon Fuqua will also push for playing time.
Brett Biggs led the team in rushing last season with 1339 yards and 10 touchdowns. Replacing him is Dennis Kennedy who had 45 carries for 150 yards last year. Kennedy is a capable back, but the Zips are going to miss Biggs dearly.
All five starters from last years offensive line return this season led by senior Tim Crouch. They are an agile and experienced group. They should provide Getsy with time to throw and be a strength for this offense.
The Zips return nine players from a defense that gave up 24.5 points per game last year. Their pass defense was excellent giving up only 181 ypg, but teams ran them over rolling up 159 rushing ypg. Part of that may be a result of their base defensive scheme. Akron utilizes a 3-3-5 defense with two unique positions called the "Bandit" and the "Rover". The bandit acts as a DE/LB hybrid and the Rover acts as a LB/Safety hybrid. Akron ranked #34 in defense for the NCAA last season.
The defensive line features DE Jermaine Reid and DT Kiki Gonzalez. Reid led the team in sacks last season with seven. Gonzalez has a big 300 lb frame for plugging up the middle of the field. Another member of the defensive line is Nate Robinson. Robinson was highly touted coming out of high school. He committed to Miami before transferring to Rutgers and then Akron due to academic problems. The Akron coaches also feel they have a lot of young talent that gives them a lot of depth on the defensive line.
The linebackers are going to miss Jay Rohr who led the team with 121 tackles last season. But they return five of their top six linebackers including Rover John Mackey who led all returners with 95 tackles last year. Stokes and Grant had 89 and 73 tackles respectively. Their linebackers are experienced and should be pretty good.
The secondary is considered the strength of the defense. They were stingy in yards, but gave up 17 touchdowns last year. The cornerbacks are Davanzo Tate and Reggie Corner, who wins the Most Fitting Name for a Football Player award. The safeties are Yamari Dixon and Chris Brown.
Special teams are a major concern for the Zips. They have to replace their punter, kicker, punt returner, and leading kick returner from last year. They will most likely be playing a freshman kicker and sophomore punter.
When Akron Has the Ball
The offensive line should give Getsy time to throw. If the new wide receivers can get open, the inexperienced Lion secondary could spend a lot of time on the field chasing them down. I don't expect the Zips to be able to run the ball well against the talented front seven of the Nittany Lions. If the front four for the Lions can't penetrate the Zips offensive line, I look for Bradley to blitz the linebackers to get some pressure on Getsy. I expect the Zips to move the ball well, but stall in the redzone when the defense tightens up and a good rushing game is needed to punch it in the endzone.
When Penn State Has the Ball
Penn State is going to run a plain vanilla offense so not to show too much on film for Notre Dame. The 3-3-5 defense begs teams to run against them. I look for Tony Hunt to have a big day with at least twenty carries and 150 yards. The coaches will probably rest Austin Scott and Rodney Kinlaw since they were both banged up in practice this month.
The Nittany Lion wide receivers have more talent than the Akron DB's, but having five DB's in the game may clog things up a bit. New quarterback with a new offensive line points to the major possibility the Lions will struggle on offense. I expect they will make some unforced errors like miscommunication and delay of game penalties.
Black Shoe Diaries Prediction
The Nittany Lion offense is going to struggle to sustain long drives. They will either score quickly on a big play or go three and out all day. Tony Hunt will get a lot of carries. On defense, the Lions will exercise the "bend but don't break" defense. They will keep everything in front of them, but Getsy and his experienced offensive line will have time to pick the Lions apart. The Zips will move the ball well through the air, but they will struggle to score touchdowns once they get in the redzone. They will try a lot of field goals, but their freshman kicker will miss at least two of them. In the end, the talent of the Nittany Lions is too much for the Zips to overcome.