2013 CFN Preview - Akron Zips
Akron WR Dee Frieson
Akron WR Dee Frieson
Posted Jul 20, 2013

CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview & Analysis - Akron Zips

Akron Zips

Preview 2013

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Terry Bowden
2nd year: 1-11
20th year overall: 141-73-2 Returning Lettermen: 45
Off. 21, Def. 22, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 14
Ten Best Akron Players
1. RB Jawon Chisolm, Jr.
2. WR L.T. Smith, Jr.
3. WR Jerrod Dillard, Sr.
4. LB Justin March, Jr.
5. S Johnny Robinson, Jr.
6. QB Kyle Polh, Soph.
7. OT Quaison Osborne, Soph.
8. WR Dee Frieson, Sr.
9. DT Nico Caponi, Sr.
10. PK Robert Stein, Soph.
2013 Schedule
8/29 at UCF
9/7 James Madison
9/14 at Michigan
9/21 Louisiana
9/28 at Bowling Green
10/5 Ohio
10/12 at Northern Illinois
10/19 at Miami Univ.
10/26 Ball State
11/2 Kent State
11/9 at UMass
11/29 Toledo
Akron 22, Buffalo 14 on November 26th, 2010. That's the last time the Zips beat an FBS team, and that's the only win over a non-FCSer in the last 36 games.

How far have things fallen off the map for the team that won the 2005 MAC championship? That title game upset over Northern Illinois seven seasons ago was the last victory over an FCS team that finished with a winning record, and while there were a few mediocre five-win seasons along the way, everything has completely fallen apart over the last three seasons. However, there really is hope.

The defense might not have improved too much in Terry Bowden's first season, but the offense got a jump start with a passing game, points and more pop. But none of the improvements led to wins, coming up with an evil 66-6 victory over Morgan State, and nothing else. Worse yet, it's not like there were any close calls, with the 41-38 early season loss to FIU the only defeat by a touchdown or less. Making matters worse was the late-season loss to a UMass team that didn't come up with another victory.

So, really, why are things about to get any better?

Terry Bowden.

Really and truly a strong football coach, Bowden has something to prove, and he's got the talent and potential to make quick changes and improvements once he starts getting the right guys in place. This is still a young team with 16 returning starters, lots of depth ready to be developed, and just enough athleticism and quickness on both sides of the ball to at least start beating the mediocre MAC teams.

Unfortunately, there aren't that many sure-thing wins on the schedule this year – actually, there aren't any – and success might be measured in baby steps, but there are enough good pieces in place to think this might not be another total disaster.

Unfortunately, that's the state of Akron football at the moment. There's nowhere to go but up.

What to watch for on offense: More from the ground attack. The offensive line might not have too much talent, but it has decent size and enough experience to be better. With Jawon Chisolm and Conor Hundley a solid 1-2 rushing punch to work around, the offense that threw for 3,753 yards and ran for just 1,373 should be far more balanced and far more effective. One key will be to keep from getting behind so the running game can go to work, but the offense has to do its part by scoring early and staying in games.

What to watch for on defense: The pass rush. After generating just 16 sacks last season and with top pass rusher J.D. Griggs gone, the coaching staff has to manufacture production from somewhere. There isn't a sure-thing end who can hit the quarterback on a regular basis, but there's plenty of speed and athleticism in the front seven to start getting behind the line once in a while. The secondary could use the help.

The team will be far better if … the defense can start taking the ball away. The run defense might be too soft and the secondary too leaky, but there could be a big improvement if the takeaways start to come. Last season the secondary came up with just three picks until the final two games and just five interceptions on the year, while five of the eight fumble recoveries came in the first four games. The D needs to start giving the O a few breaks.

The schedule: Even though the Zips should be better, the record might not reflect it with no sure wins. James Madison won't be a typical FCS layup, and the easiest FBS game against UMass is on the road. However, the game against the Minutemen comes in November with two weeks to prepare. Five of the first seven games are on the road including dates at USC, Michigan, Bowling Green and Northern Illinois that could all get extremely ugly. Three of the last four games are at home, but Ball State, Kent State and Toledo will be strong.

Best offensive player: Junior RB Jawon Chisolm. The passing game might take a little while to come around, but Chisolm should be able to carry the ground attack and the offense if he can stay 100%. He ran for 953 yards and five scores despite missing a game and most of another, but when he got his chances, he was a 100-yard machine. With good size, nice hands and nice interior moves between the tackles, he can do a little of everything.

Best defensive player: Junior LB Justin March. Safety Johnny Robinson is a great all-around playmaker who could be an All-MAC performer if he can come up with a few more big plays when the ball is in the air, and tackle Nico Caponi earned academic All-MAC honors and could crank his game up a notch and become a key interior defender to build around, but March should be the star of a linebacking corps that needs a little bit of help. At 6-0 and 203 pounds he's not all that big, but he's fast and could be turned loose from the outside.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Kyle Pohl. The one thing that worked right last season was Dalton Williams, who averaged 272 passing yards per game and gave the offense a wee bit of an identity. While the running game should carry the attack early on, it'll be up to Pohl, or any one of several untested options, to make the passing game more efficient and dangerous. The receiving corps is in place to be better overall, and the running game will help, but if Pohl can hang on to the job the offense should be fine.

The season will be a success if … the Zips come up with four wins. It's a nasty schedule with just about every bad conference break possible – playing both Northern Illinois and Toledo from the West. The team has to be more consistent and much more explosive on both sides of the ball, but more than anything else, the wins have to come and there has to be a huge step forward after so many problems last year. Basically, the team has to play better.

Key game: Sept. 21 vs. Louisiana. After not winning an FBS game last season, and with road games against UCF and Michigan early on, the Zips have to show an improvement by coming up with a winnable home game against a decent Ragin' Cajun team. James Madison isn't a sure-thing, and starting off the MAC season with road games at Bowling Green and Northern Illinois along with a home game against Ohio is a nightmare, so coming up with a win early on is a must to start changing around the team's momentum.

2012 Fun Stats:
- Interceptions Gained: Opponents 18 – Akron 5
- Time of Possession: Opponents 33:04 – Akron 27:54
- Penalties: Akron 101 – Opponents 71
- 2013 Akron Preview | 2013 Akron Offense
- 2013 Akron Defense | 2013 Akron Depth Chart