2013 Akron Preview – Defense

Posted Jul 20, 2013

CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Akron Zip Defense

Akron Zips

Preview 2013 - Defense

- 2013 Akron Preview | 2013 Akron Offense
- 2013 Akron Defense | 2013 Akron Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: The defense welcomes back seven starters, but not enough playmakers after struggling way too much to come up with big plays and takeaways. The secondary came up with a mere five picks while the D fell on just eight fumbles. The lack of a steady pass rush resulted in way too many deep passes, and the defensive line didn't do enough to hold up against the run. Finding a pass rusher to replace J.D. Griggs – who came up with six of the team's 16 sacks – is Job One, while the linebacking corps needs tough run stoppers to replace the team's top tacklers, Kurt Mangum and Troy Gilmer. Fortunately, there are plenty of options to play around with and depth shouldn't be a problem – now the coaching staff has to find a solid starting 11.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Justin March, 62
Sacks: Nico Caponi, Albert Presley, 2
Interceptions: None

Star of the defense: Junior LB Justin March
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore DT Cody Grice
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Alfonso Horner
Best pro prospect: Senior DT Nico Caponi
Top three all-star candidates: 1) March, 2) S Johnny Robinson, 3) Caponi
Strength of the defense: Defensive Back Options, Quick Linebackers
Weakness of the defense: Pass Rush, Takeaways

Defensive Line

The defensive line that couldn't get into anyone's backfield and struggled so much against the run has to find a replacement on one end for J.D. Griggs, but sophomore Alfonso Horner returns on the other side after getting seven starts and showing nice promise with 28 tackles with 1.5 sacks and two tackles for loss. The 6-3, 200-pounder is built like a safety, but he has a quick burst off the line and can fly; he could become a dangerous situational pass rusher. He'll work with 6-2, 235-pound senior Albert Presley, a decent veteran who made 27 tackles with two sacks and eight tackles for loss despite missing a chunk of the season banged up. The former JUCO transfer could take over the starting spot on the other side; he's a good athlete and excellent tackler. 5-11, 273-pound senior Austin Bailey got bigger to work possibly as a tackle if he's not staying at end after making just one tackle.

Bailey could work in the interior, but it'll be up to 5-11, 293-pound sophomore Cody Grice to do most of the dirty work on the nose after a strong first year making 47 tackles with 7.5 tackles for loss. A strong runner in high school, he's a good athlete with a nice burst into the backfield. Next to him will be veteran Nick Caponi, a versatile defender with 6-3, 273-pound size working on the end early on but saw ten starts last season at tackle making 29 tackles with two sacks. Very smart and experienced, he needs to be the leader up front. He'll work with junior Isaiah Williams, a 6-3, 284-pound good-sized run stopper who made 13 tackles, but isn't an interior pass rusher.

Watch Out For … JUCO transfer Keontae Hollis. The line gets just about everyone back, but it needs more playmakers inside. The 6-2, 285-pounder isn't going to get to the quarterback, but he's quick and agile with good lateral movement.
Strength: Experience and options. Griggs is gone, but everyone else returns from the two-deep. This is a young group with good size and upside, but it might take a little while. Fortunately, there are several players to work into the rotation.
Weakness: Griggs. The Zips came up with just 16 sacks on the season with the linebackers helping the cause – Griggs made six of the sacks.
Outlook: Any improvement has to start here. There's bulk for the interior and a few good athletes on the outside, but the production has to come. A pass rush has to come on a regular basis and there have to be a few stops now and then against the run. With so many key parts returning, thre's potential.
Unit Rating: 4.5


The defense loses leading tackler and top playmaker, Kurt Mangum, and now it'll be a fight to try to find someone for the middle. 6-3, 237-pound senior Connor Seeman spent last year as the key backup inside making four tackles, but he's probably going to work at defensive end. Junior Justin March is a 6-0, 226-pound veteran who finished third on the team with 62 tackles with an interception and two tackles for loss. He's not used much as a pass rusher on the strongside, but he can hit.

Second-leading tackler Troy Gilmer is gone on the weakside after making 74 tackles, but 5-11, 217-pound sophomore Jatavius Brown is a good-looking young option with good straight-line speed and nice quickness to the ball making 23 tackles in a reserve role. He got one start, but he was mostly a key part of the rotation. Now he has to start doing more against the pass. Also back is sophomore Dylan Evans, a 6-2, 206-pound undersized option for either outside position. Even though he has a great burst, he didn't get into the backfield but made 23 stops.

Watch Out For … the new guys. Jerome Lane was one of the team's top recruits with 6-4, 210-pound size and tremendous athleticism. The son of the famous basketball playing father for Pitt can move. Deon'Tae Moore is a 6-4, 205-pound local product with pass rushing potential on the outside and sure-tackling ability – he's a playmaker, while JUCO transfer Jon Shelby started out his career at Kansas but ended up at Nassau Community College where he was one of the team's top tacklers.
Strength: Quickness and athleticism. The linebacking corps is built on tall, thin players who can move. The idea is to get them around the ball as much as possible to make big plays, but they need …
Weakness: Experience. Losing Mangum and Gilmer is a big problem. The Zips have to find a steady option in the middle and will rotate around several players where needed.
Outlook: It might take a little while to find the right combination with several interchangeable parts. The new guys will play a huge role and Brown and Evans need to expand and shine after their true freshmen seasons.
Unit Rating: 4

Defensive Backs

The secondary was a problem last season when it came to giving up big plays, but with three starters returning there's hope for an overall improvement led by veteran Anthony Holmes, a 6-0, 192-pound senior who works at safety but could easily shift over to is natural corner spot. Last year he came up with 50 tackles, but he didn't break up any passes and only came up with two break ups. He made three picks as a freshman and is proven, but he has to be more of a playmaker. Back at the other safety spot is 5-9, 188-pound junior Johnny Robinson, who came up with a nice first season finishing fourth on the team with 61 tackles with two tackles for loss, but like Holmes, he didn't do enough when the ball was in the air with just one broken up pass. Fast, he has the range, hitting ability and athleticism to come up with a big year.

Malachi Freeman should be set at one corner after stepping in from Nassau CC and making 54 tackles with a team-leading seven broken up passes. He's not all that big at 5-9 and 178 pounds, but he's tough for his size and he can move as the team's main No. 1 cover-corner. He bites a bit too much on deep plays, but he's steady. Now he needs some help on the other side with sophomore Bryce Cheek getting the first look after making eight tackles in a reserve role. At 6-0 and 184 pounds he has good size and nice upside, but he needs time – he'll get picked on early. JUCO transfer Donte Williams is coming in from ASA Community College, but he didn't do too much for the Brooklyn school. Even so, he's a speedster with 5-10, 175-pound size and excellent upside.

Watch Out For … juniors Bre' Ford and Devonte Morgan. Ford was a former star high school running back who came on last season to make 32 tackles with a forced fumble in a reserve role, and he's just now starting to become a dangerous nickel and dime option. Morgan came up with 22 tackles with the versatility to play just about anywhere.
Strength: Young players. Avis Commack was a decent corner, but he's not irreplaceable. Everyone else is back in an emerging secondary that should be better with a little more seasoning.
Weakness: Picks. The Zips came up with a mere five interceptions on the season and gave up 30 touchdown passes including five to Toledo in the season finale. The defensive backs have to come up with more big plays.
Outlook: The secondary was torched by everyone who wanted to get the passing game moving. Fortunately, there are eight decent quick options to play around with to find the right combination, but the pass rush has to be better and the rest of the D has to do its part.
Unit Rating: 4.5

Special Teams

Sophomore Robert Stein did a nice job after being thrown to the wolves. He missed three of his first four field goals, and then nailed everything else including four against Tennessee. While he only attempted two kicks over the final seven games, he finished a solid 9-of-12 while showing off decent range inside the 50. The punting wasn't bad with sophomore Zach Paul forcing 18 inside the 20 and averaging 40.9 yards per kick. He doesn't have a cannon, but he was solid and consistent.

The kickoff return game was the worst in America averaging 16.2 yards per try, but receiver Imani Davis wasn't miserable averaging 19.3 yards per attempt. However, Tyler Williams didn't go anywhere averaging just 15 yards a shot. Davis was a bit better on punt returns averaging 8.8 yards per try.

Watch Out For … the return game to get a bit of a shakeup. The offense was good, but it could use far better field position after getting next to no help.
Strength: Stein. He turned into an ultra-reliable option who hit everything after a shaky start. Now he has to be used more.
Weakness: Kickoff returns. In today's day and age it's hard to average less than 20 yards per try and impossible to average under 18. Only two averaged fewer than 17 – Wake Forest and Akron.
Outlook: The kickoff coverage team was amazing and Stein should be a star, but the return game has to turn around into a plus for the Zips to start winning close games.
Unit Rating: 5

- 2013 Akron Preview | 2013 Akron Offense
- 2013 Akron Defense | 2013 Akron Depth Chart