Akron Preview 2006 - Defense
Preview 2006 - Akron Zip Defense
What you need to know ...
The 3-3-5 defense of Jim Fleming should be even better
with eight starters returning including several All-MAC candidates. Kiki
Gonzalez will get more respect this season as one of the league's best
linemen, while end Jermaine Reid will be a terror of a pass rusher.
Linebackers Kevin Grant and Brion Stokes will more than make up for the
loss of leading tackler Jay Rohr, while Rover John Mackey will be the
tone-setting leader of what should be the MAC's best secondary.
John Mackey, 95
Jermaine Reid, 7
Interceptions: Reggie Corner, 2
Star of the defense: Senior DE Jermaine Reid
More turnovers need to be forced
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior DT
Unsung star on the rise: Junior CB Davanzo Tate
Best pro prospect: Reid
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Reid, 2) NG Kiki
Gonzalez, 3) LB Kevin Grant
Strength of the defense: Experience, secondary
Weakness of the defense:
The front three should be outstanding thanks to All-MAC
performers Kiki Gonzalez in the middle and Jermaine Reid at end. Reid is
a huge pass rusher who should be in for a big season, while Gonzalez is
a true anchor to revolve the offense around. The depth is good with big
Nate Robinson and Eric Lively combining at tackle, and Clarence
McPherson a rising star at end.
The key to the unit: Get more of an interior pass rush and
continue to get steady production from Kiki Gonzalez and Jermaine Reid.
Defensive Line Rating: 5.5
- DT Nate Robinson, Jr. - 15 tackles
At 315 pounds he's the biggest player on the line and needs to play like
it. While the former Rutgers tranfer doesn't have the upside of Eric
Lively, he's a surprisingly quick defender for his size.
- NG Kiki Gonzalez, Sr. - 35 tackles, 1 sack, 7 TFL
One of the MAC's best linemen and the anchor of the defense, the
300-pund senior is the fantastic run stopper. He's not great at getting
into the backfield, but that's not his job. He's supposed to be a run-clogger
who ties everything up on the inside, and he does that extremely well.
- DE Jermaine Reid, Sr. - 59 tackles, 7 sacks, 13.5 TFL
The 275-pound senior is the team's best pass rusher and is tackle-big
against the run. He stepped up his game in a big way after being a pure
run stopper a few seasons ago. He grew into a top sack man and should be
a threat for double digits.
- DT Eric Lively, Soph. - 3 tackles
Lively played a little bit as a true freshman and now will push Nate
Robinson for starting time at tackle. Up to 270 pounds after playing
around a light 250, he should be better suited to handling the work on
- NG Jared Cecchetti, Jr. - 14 tackles, 2 TFL
At 264 pounds, the athletic Cecchetti is a much smaller option on the
nose than Kiki Gonzalez. He can play tackle if needed with enough
experience on the inside to start.
- DE Clarence McPherson, Soph.
The 6-3, 255-pound sophomore has the size and the speed to grow into a
top pass rusher. He'll start out behind Jermaine Reid, but he might be
too good to keep off the field and could be used as a second end.
The corps has two good players to build around in certain
All-MAC performer Kevin Grant on the outside and Brion Stokes on the
strongside. Bryan Howe sill take over for leading tackler Jay Rohr, but
he has to stay healthy. There's depth, size, and a little bit of speed,
and now the group has to make more plays against the run at the line and
needs to force more turnovers.
The key to the unit: Kevin Grant and Brion Stokes
have to build on their great 2005s and Bryan Howe has to last the full
season in the middle.
Linebacker Rating: 5.5
- Kevin Grant, Soph. - 73 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 11.5 TFL
The 245-pound Grant is part linebacker, part defensive end with a
fantastic burst into the backfield and good toughness against the run.
He was the team's fourth leading tackler as a freshman and should be an
All-MAC star with his athleticism and growing playmaking ability.
- Brion Stokes, Jr. - 89 tackles, 2.5 sacks
Stokes went from being a good reserve to the team's third leading
tackler after taking over the starting spot on the right side earning
second team All-MAC honors. He's a very athletic, fast 220 pounds who
hits like a ton of bricks on the strongside.
- Bryan Howe, Jr. - 10 tackles, 2 TFL
Limited by a shoulder problem, Howe wasn't able to do much in the middle
behind leading tackler Jay Rohr. He's a strong 242 pounds with the
talent to be among the team's top hitters, but he has to stay healthy.
- Parris McNeal, Sr. - 19 tackles
A safety-sized 206 pounds, McNeal moves from the secondary to strongside
linebacker to add better pass coverage and more speed to the linebacking
- Kevin Jackson, Jr.
Jackson will combine with Parris McNeal on the strongside. At 220 pounds
he's a bigger defender than McNeal, but he isn't as fast. He'll also see
time on special teams.
- Doug Williams, Soph. - 5 tackles
Williams started out as an undersized end and now will move to a more
natural outside linebacker spot behind Kevin Grant. He's extremely
strong for his size.
Akron finished second in the MAC in pass
defense after allowing 181 yards per game and 18 touchdowns, but there's
still room for improvement after giving up too many short to midrange
passes and only coming up with seven interceptions. Four starters return
led by playmaking Rover John Mackey and longtime starting corner Reggie
Corner. There's hope for a bigger all-around season with the healthy
return of safeties Chris Brown and Chevin Pace after each was banged up
throughout last season. The group is so deep that Dionte Henry, a
21-game starter, will likely start the season as a reserve.
The key to the unit: Continue to not give up the deep
passes while picking off more passes while being stronger against
Secondary Rating: 6.5
- CB Reggie Corner, Sr. - 46 tackles, 2 interceptions, 9
broken up passes
Corner is back for his third season at starter and will be the team's
number one cover corner. He's not big at 5-9 and 175 pounds, but he can
be physical with 101 career tackles and is very, very fast.
- FS Chris Brown, Jr. - 26 tackles, 1 interception
Brown was never right last year having problems with a shoulder injury
and ended up making his biggest impact on special teams before making
seven tackles against Northern Illinois in the MAC title game. He's a
short 5-9, but he's 200 pounds with good potential to be a top playmaker
at free safety.
- SS Chevin Pace, Jr. - 26 tackles, 2 sacks
Pace was one of the team's top players in 2004 and was off to a good
start last season before getting knocked out with a knee injury. He's
not all that big, but he's a good tackler with good range.
- Rover John Mackey, Jr. - 95 tackles, 1 sack, 8.5 TFL, 1 broken
Mackey was one of the team's biggest surprises going from being a good
special teamer to the team's second leading tackler. The 213-pound
junior doesn't make enough plays against the pass, but he's a sure run
stopper and can get into the backfield.
- CB Davanzo Tate, Jr. - 41 tackles, 6 broken up passes
Tate is one of the team's faster players and has grown into a steady
corner. The former West Virginia transfer is a good hitter with the
athleticism to become a shutdown defender when tested on the other side
of Reggie Corner.
- CB Dionte Henry, Sr. - 46 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 sack, 3.5
Henry has been a 21-game starter in the secondary starting at corner
last season before stepping in at safety when injuries hit. Davanzo Tate
emerged as a top corner and the safeties are healthy, so Henry has
become a bit of an odd man out. He's one of hte team's biggest corners
at 5-11 and 196 pounds and is sure to find is way on the field
- FS Jason Nedd, Sr. - 20 tackles, 3 TFL
Nedd can do a little of everything able to play any of the safety spots
and is a key special teamer. He's a top athlete with enough experience
to step in for Chris Brown at free safety if needed.
- CB Brandon Anderson, Soph. - 22 tackles, 1 interception, 2
broken up passes
Anderson is a great athlete with even more speed than starter Reggie
Corner. He has great leaping ability and has the talent to grow into a
nickel back and a possible starter.
This is a major area of flux for the Zips losing both kickers
along with top all-around kick returner Domenik Hixon. Dennis Kennedy
will try to replace Hixon's 23.5-yard kickoff return average, while
Jermaine Lindsey will try to replace Hixon's 7.7-yard punt return
average. Matt Domonkos will get the first look as the new placekicker,
but he'll have to battle with incoming freshman Igor Iveljic. The
coverage units have to be better.
The key to the unit: Reliable replacements in every
area are needed with the hope for a bit more production
Special Teams Rating: 5
- PK Matt Domonkos, Jr.
It'll be up to the junior to replace the steady Jason Swiger, who hit 14
of 20 field goals. He has to show good range early and has to be
consistent or else he could quickly lose his job to top recruit Igor
- P Andy Hildreth, Soph.
Punting wasn't a strong point last year for
Akron with Billy Sullivan only averaging 39.4 yards per kick, but he put
15 inside the 20. Hildreth will be pushed by PK Matt Domonkos.