Pittsburgh transfer Luke Getsy set school records last year for TDs (23) and passing yards (3,455). Getsy looks to be the next great MAC QB headed into the NFL. Getsy also set a school record 455 yards in Akronís Motor City Bowl loss to Memphis (38-31) last season. With another year of playbook knowledge under his belt, look for Getsy to be even better this fall. Athletic Carlton Jackson along with Chris Jacquemain are the backups. Toss in highly regarded true freshman Sean Hakes and Akron has one of the deepest QB units of any school, in any conference, anywhere.
Brett Biggs, a 1,000 yard rusher last year, has graduated, but the Zips have a lot of talent in the backfield. Dennis Kennedy originally signed with Ohio State out of high school, looks to be the starter this year. Kennedy (5-11, 209) has good speed, vision and power. If given the same amount of carries as Biggs received last year, Kennedy will top that 1,000-yard plateau as well. Alex Allen is a very capable backup while true freshmen Aris Reed and Andre Boone may figure into the mix this fall. Joe McDaniel is a very physical lead blocker. As a team last season Akron averaged only 107-yards per game on the ground - look for that number to increase this fall given the talent and depth.
Receivers/Tight Ends Akron loses Domenik Hixon, a 4th round draft choice of the Denver Broncos. Former quarterback prospect Jabari Arthur (6-4, 226) will be the feature receiver this year after hauling in 180-yards during last year Motor City Bowl. Arthur has tremendous size, good speed, and terrific hands. Jermaine Lindsay, Stephon Fequa, Johnny Long, David Harvey and DJ Henderson will become solid targets for Getsy this year. The TE position is very sound with Kris Kasparek, Jose Cruz, Doug Fife and Merce Poindexter. Each player is in the 6-5 255-pound range with superb blocking and good receiving skills. While nearly two-thirds of Akronís receiving yards graduated, the returning group of players should step up and continue Akronís potent passing attack which ranked 21st in the country last season.
Offensive Linemen The trench is loaded with veterans with the top six linemen returning. The five returning starters are Tim Crouch, Mike Donaldson, Andy Wills, Andy Alleman and Chris Kemme. Mike Schepp, Garrett Brewster and Jim Holley also return to a unit that gave up 21 sacks but did pave the way for the offense to average 385-yards per game. Akronís rushing attack of 107-yards per game should rise significantly. Four of the starters are seniors while the entire starting lineup averages 6-4 296 per man and has become more athletic during the offseason. Any of the starting five could earn all-conference honors this season as the offensive line has become one of the teamís strength.
Defensive Linemen Akron plays a unique 3-3-5 defense and two of the three defensive line starters return along with nine overall defensive starters. Kiki Gonzalez earned 2nd team all conference honors last year and has good size at 6-2 300-pounds. He will once again be a force at DT. Jermaine Reid was drafted in the second round of the CFL (he is a native of Canada) draft but opted to return to the Zips. The 6-4 280-pounder had seven QB sacks last season. Nate Robinson, a highly recruited player from New Jersey and a Rutgers transfer, looks to be the other defensive line starter. Robinson was a high school All-American who earned a scholarship offer from Miami (Fl). If the 6-5 320-pound junior can keep his head on straight, he will be a substantial addition to the Zip program. Akron was 71st in the nation against the run but 32nd in overall defense. Those rankings should be better this year with more experience and depth throughout this unit.
Linebackers Gone is seasoned veteran Jay Rohr but Akronís LB corps should be quite solid. Kevin Grant earned freshman All-American honors last year and brings terrific size (6-2, 245) to the position while Brion Stokes earned second team all-conference honors last year. Stokes (5-11, 225) and Brian Howe (6-1, 242) bring size and tackling skills to this unit. Mark Groza and JUCO Mickey Baker may figure into the mix. Overall there are eight LBs who could play this fall as this group has become very deep during the JD Brookhart era. Akronís LB unit will be one of the MACís very best this year.
Defensive Backs John Mackey is listed as a DB but his rover position makes him a SS/OLB hybrid, recorded 95 tackles last year. Reggie Corner and Davanzo Tate are the corners with Chevin Pave and Chris Brown as safeties. While none of these players are 6-foot, all have good coverage skills, evident by ranking 16th in the country in passing defense (181-yards per game). Senior Dionte Henry has been a part-time starter through the years. With a solid defensive line that will put pressure on opposing QBs and proven experience throughout this area, look for Akron to be one of the better DB units in the MAC this year.
Special Teams Domenik Hixon was a splendid return specialist for both kickoffs and punts - he will be sorely missed. Dennis Kennedy and Jermaine Lindsey are penciled in as return specialists to begin the fall campaign. A new punter and place kicker need to be found. Neither Andy Hildreth (P) nor Matt Domonkos (PK) have played and will be tested by true freshmen John Stec (P) and Igor Iveljic (PK). Entering the season, there are several unknowns in the UA special teams units.
Final Thoughts Many preseason magazines and other publications are going to pick Akron to return to the MAC Championship game. They have eight starters back on offense and ten on defense, and have the leagueís premier returning QB. The downside to Akronís success this year is their brutal schedule. Playing five of your first six games is a terrible way to open your season and drawing crossover games against Toledo and Central Michigan on the road is a major raw deal. Akron has had two straight terrific recruiting classes and from a raw talent standpoint is probably a top three or four team in the league right now. But the schedule will take its toll and Akron will have a very difficult time returning to the MAC Championship and/or getting a bowl bid. The Zips could finish anywhere from 5-7 to 8-4.
Mark it down! Akron will not beat NC State but they will give the Wolfpack a serious scare. Akron returns ten starters on defense while NC State is not a juggernaut on offense. Defensively, NC State graduated three linemen who all went into the NFL so UA should be able to score some points. The Zips should come within one touchdown of NC State on September 9.
Schedule Analysis Cruel! The Zips begin the season with three straight road games along with five of their first six away from the Rubber Bowl. Akronís first conference home game is not until October 21. Crossover games are visiting Toledo and upstart Central Michigan while hosting an improved Western Michigan squad. Non-conference games are visiting Penn State, NC State and Cincinnati while hosting North Texas. The defending MAC champs will be facing the leagueís most challenging schedule.
Most Important Game September 16 at Central Michigan. The Chippewas beat Akron 31-17 last year in Akron so this game has some payback implications. What makes this game so important is that Akron must win their first two conference games, both away (CMU & Kent St) so that their October 21st home encounter with Miami means something. After the RedHawks game, Akron will visit Toledo the following week. Losing at CMU so early in the season just may knock the Zips out of divisional contention right off the bat.