2011 Akron Preview – Offense
Akron QB Patrick Nicely
Akron QB Patrick Nicely
Posted Jun 11, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Akron Zip Offense

Akron Zips

Preview 2011 - Offense

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What You Need To Know: Offensive coordinator John Latina and head coach Rob Ianello, who came to Akron after heading up the Notre Dame attack under Charlie Weis, tried to get the pro-style passing game to work and trying to convert the former spread offense. It didn't work. Akron finished second-to-last in the nation in total offense averaging just 269 yards per game – just a few ahead of New Mexico – and was 118th in the country in scoring averaging a mere 15.58 points per outing. The line play has to be far better, and while the potential is there if the starting five can stay healthy. The running game is a question mark with no experience whatsoever, and the receiving corps has to find a few new targets to replace Jeremy LaFrance and Jalil Carter. Ole Miss transfer Clayton Moore will battle with incumbent starter Patrick Nicely for the quarterback gig, and both of them have to improve one of the nation's most inefficient passing games.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Patrick Nicely
166-336, 1,753 yds, 10 TD, 13 INT
Rushing: Gary Pride (WR)
7 carries, 44 yds, 0 TD
Receiving: Gary Pride
22 catches, 182 yds, 1 TD

Star of the offense: Junior QB Patrick Nicely or Sophomore QB Clayton Moore
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore RB Jawon Chisolm
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore TE Richard Hall
Best pro prospect: Senior OT Mitch Straight
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Hall, 2) OT Jake Anderson, 3) OG Zac Kasparek
Strength of the offense: Line Experience, Quarterback Options
Weakness of the offense: Scoring, Running Back Experience


State of the Unit: The passing game was supposed to shine with the new coaching staff taking over, but most of the production and most of the bombing away came when the team was trying to mount comebacks. The passing attack finished 12th in the MAC and 108th in the nation averaging just 155 yards per game and was 115th in the nation in efficiency. Basically, it didn't work.

Junior Patrick Nicely has been a key part of the offense over the last few years, and this is when he's supposed to be ready to fly. The 6-4, 215-pounder saw time as a true freshman and got the starting nod last year, but he completed just 49% of his passes for 1,753 yards and ten scores and 13 picks with one rushing score. The key, though, is that he got better as last season went on, finishing up with a three-score day in the win over Buffalo. Good on the short to midrange throws, he has to be more consistent to stay as the main man.

Ready to shine and possibly ready to take over the starting job is Clayton Moore, a transfer from Ole Miss who went the JUCO route to Akron and now will get every shot at the starting job. He's not big at 6-1 and 210 pounds, but he has a live arm and is a terrific runner. He brings more to the job than Nicely, but he doesn't have the experience with the team.

Getting time in the system is Zach D'Orazio, a mobile option with the athleticism and quickness to have been on Air Force's radar as a dual-threat option type of quarterback. He's only 6-0 and 170 pounds, but he can move and could move to defensive back if needed.

Watch Out For … Moore. Nicely looks the part and he improved over the final month of the season, but Moore completing 60% of his throws and was terrific in the JUCO ranks and will fight for the job.
Strength: A good twosome. Nicely has his time in the system and he has the potential to break out and become a solid, decent passer, while Moore brings the mobility and can throw a little, too. Between the two of them there should be more production.
Weakness: The passing game. It was supposed to work last season and didn't. Now the Zips have to hope for a night-and-day improvement without some of the top receivers from last season.
Outlook: The Akron passing game can't be any worse. The interceptions have to be kept to a minimum and more big plays are a must. This coaching staff is supposed to know how to get a passing game going, and it might have the quarterbacks to make it happen.
Unit Rating: 5

Running Backs

State of the Unit: The running game didn't help the cause for the struggling offense finishing with just 1,361 yards and ten touchdowns with top two backs, Alex Allen and Nate Burney, out of the mix. The No. 3 rusher, Gary Pride, is a receiver and finished with just 44 yards. On the year, Akron scored four of its rushing touchdowns and gained 224 of the yards against Gardner-Webb in the only 200+ yard game of the season. There's work to be done.

Sophomore Jawon Chisholm will get his shot to take over and be the main man for the attack, but he has yet to get a carry. The 6-0, 193-pounder has good speed and is a slippery runner with nice hands, but he's not necessarily a workhorse. Sure to be used in a variety of ways, he'll get every chance to handle the workload.

6-1, 205-pound junior Broderick Alexander was a big part of the running game over the final five games of his true freshman season, but he was hurt with an Achilles injury and didn't get any work. When healthy, he has the burst and the toughness to be exactly what the offense and running game needs, but he has to prove he can stay on the field.

When the offense uses a fullback, 5-11, 248-pound sophomore Austin Bailey and true freshman Nick Rossi, who's also a linebacker, will be used. The 230-pound Rossi is a tough pounder who can handle the ball if needed, but he'll mostly work on the defensive side. Bailey ran twice for four yards but will almost only be used as a blocker.

Watch Out For … Chisolm. With his athleticism and quickness, he'll get the ball in space in several ways. He'll be the running game early on.
Strength: Athleticism. The Zips' main backs are built like receivers, and that's how they'll be used. The idea will be to get them the ball in space as much as possible to see what they can do.
Weakness: Experience. All the top runners from last year are gone. Chisolm and Alexander haven't done much, and true freshman Karl Bostic isn't going to be a workhorse in any way.
Outlook: The running backs weren't bad last year when they got their chances, and while there are a ton of unknowns without Alex Allen and Nate Burney to count on, the backs should be able to average around 4.5 yards per carry. However, this is the team's biggest X factor without any returning experience.
Unit Rating: 4


State of the Unit: Gone are Jeremy LaFrance and Jalil Carter, who combined to catch 73 of the team's 174 passes. The passing game likes to spread the ball around, but there aren't a lot of proven targets to work with. The offense will make the receiver, but it has to be the other way around for the attack to improve.

Sophomore Antoine Russell should be the team's top returning starter after catching 13 passes for 221 yards and a score. While he didn't make that many plays, he came up with a 56-yarder against Western Michigan to help him finish with a 17-yard average. At 5-11 and 185 pounds he has decent size and the speed to get deep. He'll work in combination with sophomore Jerrod Dillard, a great-sized 6-4, 190-pound prospect who made an 18-yard catch in his first season.

Senior Marquelo Suel came over from Allan Hancock CC but redshirted last season. At 6-3 and 195 pounds he's a big, strong target with a little experience at the lower level. He'll combine with Gary Pride, a scooter of an all-around playmaker who finished third on the team with 22 catches for 182 yards and a score and ran seven times for 44 yards.

6-3, 190-pound sophomore Keith Sconiers got in a little bit of work as a true freshman making nine catches for 75 yards with most of his work coming in garbage time. He'll get the starting nod, but JUCO transfer A.J. Price will push hard for time. The former Penn State Nittany Lion came to Akron through Dean College where he was a dangerous deep threat. At 6-4 and 190 pounds he has the size and he has the athleticism to be a breakout target.

Sophomore tight end Richard Hall got four starters as a true freshman and saw time in eight games, but he still finished fifth on the team with 16 catches for 149 yards and a score. Dinged up at times, he missed the last few games of the year, but the 6-3, 230-pounder is physical and is a nice midrange target. 6-4, 240-pound junior Rhyne Ladrach made three catches for 31 yards as a backup, but he has the talent to do far more. He has the athleticism and the hands to be a regular in the passing game, but it hasn't happened over his first two years.

Watch Out For … Price. He was supposed to be a major factor for Penn State, but academic issues ended his career before it really began. It might take a game or two, but he has No. 1 target, MAC all-star potential.
Strength: Size. Akron receivers always run bid, and this group doesn't disappoint with a slew of 6-3, 190ish players across the board. Pushing the Zip receivers around won't be easy.
Weakness: LaFrance and Carter. They had size, speed, and the playmaking ability to stretch the field. What they didn't have was steady quarterback play, and now they'll be missed. Akron doesn't have a true go-to star to rely on.
Outlook: The receivers should be fine in time. It'll take a few games for everyone to get their feet wet, but Price, Suel, Sconiers, Russell, and Dillard are big, young, promising prospects who should quickly grow into one of the team's biggest strengths – next year.
Unit Rating: 5

Offensive Line

State of the Unit: The Zip line was one of the major reasons the season went into the tank. The pass protection was miserable, the run blocking was spotty, and there was little consistency. Three starters return, and while there will be some movement and lots of hope for some of the new prospects to shine right away, this could be a big area of improvement if the veterans improve.

Is Mitch Straight ready to step in and shine at left tackle? It's been a relative bright spot over the last few years, and the 6-5, 310-pound junior will get his shot after spending most of his time as a left guard and a right tackle. Big and good for the running game, he has to prove he can hold up as a consistent pass protector. If not, 6-6, 285-pound sophomore Joe Pachuta will see time after getting a little bit of work at left tackle. He's quick, but he needs time.

6-5, 310-pound senior Jake Anderson started all 12 games at right tackle and has been a regular for the ground game for the last few years. A big blocker who buries people in the ground game, he needs to be an anchor with all his experience and skills. A great recruit who received offers from several bigger name schools, he has the ability to be the one to revolve the ground game around. 6-4, 300-pound Jarrod Pughsley is a good, versatile prospect who saw time at both tackle spots and can work as a key backup on both sides.

Juniors Adam Bice and Vinny Rizzo will fight it out for the open center job. The 6-4, 297-pound Bice only saw a little time of work after being a key reserve as a freshman. With his size he has the potential to be a decent run blocker, but he has to prove he can handle the workload. Rizzo is smaller and quicker at 6-3, and 275 pounds, but the JUCO transfer is ready to step in and produce right away.

Senior Paul Simkovich has the skills and the potential to work anywhere on the inside. A center by nature, he'll get a look at left guard to use his 6-3, 295-pound size more on the move. A great scout teamer over the years, he was out all of last year with an undisclosed injury. A strong veteran, he appears to be ready to live up to his potential, while 6-4, 290-pound senior Patrick McCloskey should be able to shine right away after an All-America JUCO career. A former tight end, he moves well.

Senior Zac Kasparek waited in the wings for a few years before finally getting his chance. The 6-5, 300-pounder started most of the year at right guard but saw a few games of starting time on the left side. He has taken on a bigger leadership role, and this year he'll serve as a mentor to Andrew Bohan, a 6-3, 260-pound freshman who needs to hit the weights and needs to get bigger, but will likely be the starting right guard next season.

Watch Out For … Simkovich. The talent has always been there, but he hasn't been able to stay healthy. He'll get the starting job at left guard, and if Straight can come through in his new spot, the left side should be decent.
Strength: Size. The Zip line has the look, and while there isn't a behemoth who'll blast away for the ground game, there are enough 300 pounders to generate a push.
Weakness: Consistent production. Pass protection has been a problem over the last few seasons with way too many big hits allowed. The offense hasn't had any time to get the timing down, and if the front five isn't stronger and isn't jelled, the improvement won't come.
Outlook: The line never came together last year, but the potential is there to do more with Anderson and Kasparek taking on a bigger leadership role. If Straight can handle himself at left tackle and if Simkovich can stay healthy, the starting five should be decent.
Unit Rating: 5

- 2011 Akron Preview | 2011 Akron Offense
- 2011 Akron Defense | 2011 Akron Depth Chart
- Akron Previews  2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006