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2008 Akron Preview - Defense
Akron LB Kevin Grant
Akron LB Kevin Grant
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Apr 11, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Akron Zip Defense

Akron Zips

Preview 2008 - Defense


- 2008 CFN Akron Preview | 2008 Akron Offense
- 2008 Akron Defense
| 2008 Akron Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Akron Preview
| 2006 CFN Akron Preview

What you need to know: The 3-3-5 defense struggled at coming up with big stops and should be a problem this year with the emphasis on the team's biggest question mark: the secondary. Bryan Williams, the team's top rusher last year, moves to strong safety where he should be fine, but the corners will be an issue and there's no depth whatsoever. The backups are an issue all across the board. The line, thanks to the addition of former Iowa Hawkeye Ryan Bain in the middle, will be fine, and Kevin Grant and Doug Williams will make the linebacking corps solid. This will be a decent D in time, but it's hardly going to be great.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Andre Jones, 79
Sacks: Almondo Sewell, 3
Interceptions: Andre Jones, 3

Star of the defense: Senior LB Kevin Grant
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior CB Brandon Anderson
Unsung star on the rise: Junior DT Ryan Bain
Best pro prospect: Grant
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Grant, 2) Bain, 3) SS Bryan Williams
Strength of the defense: Linebacker, secondary speed
Weakness of the defense:
Secondary experience, depth

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: The line wasn't bad last season, and even after some big losses it could be better with the addition of 6-2, 305-pound junior Ryan Bain on the nose. The spot was a revolving door last year thanks to a variety of problems, but the Iowa transfer will take over for Nate Robinson and should be a star. He played in every game for two years for the Hawkeyes and was fine, but he got lost in the shuffle. This off-season, he played like a defender ready to earn all-star honors; it's possible he could be the best player on the D from day one.

While Bain should be an all-around playmaker on the inside, 6-2, 260-pound sophomore Almondo Sewell should become special on the end. An all star as a true freshman, making 65 tackles with three sacks and 14 tackles for loss, he showed tremendous quickness into the backfield and surprising toughness against the run. Originally a linebacker, he has what it takes to be a superstar on the end for the next three years.

Senior Eric Lively started the first three games of last year at tackle, was moved to the nose, and now will move back to tackle after making 18 tackles and a tackle for loss. At 6-2 and 275 pounds, he has decent size and better pass rushing ability than he showed. His key will be his ability to hold up against the run.

Projected Top Reserves: 6-3 275-pound redshirt freshman Dan Marcoux should be a strong inside prescence with the quickness to be a factor in the backfield. He's a winner, leading his New Jersey high school to the state title two years ago, and now he'll play on the nose behind Bain.

The combination of true freshman Hasan Hazime and redshirt freshman Joe Rash will play behind Lively on the inside. The 265-pound Rash isn't that big, but he's active, while the 250-pound Hazime, a Canadian, got to school early and established himself as a potential inside pass rusher. Extremely strong and very, very fast, timing 4.5 in the 40, he's an interesting prospect.

6-1, 230-pound Shawn Lemon will back up Sewell on the end after making five tackles in limited action. While he's not all that big, he's extremely quick and could work on the other side of Sewell if the defense switches to a 4-3 for any stretch of time. He has good pass rushing potential.

Watch Out For ... Bain. He wasn't bad at Iowa making 56 tackles in his first two seasons, and he should flourish as a Zip. The coaching staff raved about him this spring.
Strength
:
Quickness. There's decent size, by MAC standards, to toy around with the lineup and beef up from time to time, but for the most part the line is made up with puffed up linebackers.
Weakness
:
Sure-thing pass rusher outside of Sewell. Most of the pressure came from the linebackers last year, and while this year's front three should be able to pressure the quarterback, Sewell could use some help. Bain needs to provide it.
Outlook: The job of the Akron front three is to hold its own and allow the linebackers to star, but this group could make some noise of its own if Bain is as good as he was this spring. Sewell is an all-star, Bain should be one, and the rest of the line has promise. It's a really, really young group; Sewell and Bain have to stay healthy.
Rating: 5.5


Linebackers

Projected Starters: The biggest question on the defense is whether or not Sean Fobbs can adequately replace leading tackler and pass rushing star, Brion Stokes. Fobbs, a 6-1, 215-pound sophomore, got a little bit of work in eight games making ten tackles, is a safety playing strongside linebacker, and while he has the speed to be a pass rusher, he has to prove he can hold up against the run.

Back in the middle for a third straight year is All-MAC star Kevin Grant after finishing third on the team with 74 tackles with nine tackles for loss. At 6-2 and 245 pounds, he's the team's biggest presence and is a sure tackler. Not only does he have 238 career tackles, but he's also a fantastic pass rusher. The key is staying healthy, which he wasn't able to do last year. He's a physical player who'll make plenty of big stops.

Returning to the Bandit position is 6-2, 235-pound senior Doug Williams, a former defensive end who made 64 tackles, two sacks, and six tackles for loss. With great range and excellent athleticism, he has the ability to make plays all over the field and could do far more to generate pressure in the backfield. He's one of the team's captains.

Projected Top Reserves: 6-0, 205-pound true freshman Aaron Williams might be undersized, but he was still a big recruit for the Zips last year. He didn't enroll until this off-season and turned into a promising player in spring ball behind Fobbs on the strongside. With fantastic quickness, the former high school running back, as well as a linebacker, should grow into a role.

Working behind Grant in the middle will be 6-1, 240-pound senior Ray Siler, a big body who has yet to see much of the field. While he has the size, and he's been around the system long enough to know what he's doing, there's a huge, huge drop off if he has to become a starter.

Able to play any of the three positions is 6-1, 235-pound junior Al-Teric Balaam, a good-looking defender who missed last year but should be a key reserve behind Williams, or wherever he's needed. With his size, he should be a nice option against the run, while he has good enough quickness to handle himself in pass coverage.

Watch Out For ... Williams. He had a nice season after taking over the starting role, but he wasn't special and he didn't make enough big plays in the backfield. He has the talent to do far, far more and become a dangerous all-around force.
Strength
:
Grant. He gets lost in the shuffle with so many good middle linebackers in the MAC, but he's as good against the run as anyone in the league. There are few veterans better to revolve a defense around.
Weakness
:
Depth. There's promise among several of the prospect like Williams and Matt Little, but going into the fall there's a massive drop-off from the ones to the twos. That's always the case on every team, but it's a bit more pronounced on the Zips.
Outlook: Grant and Williams are excellent playmakers who'll clean up everything the line doesn't get to. The key will be Fobbs, who has good potential but has some major shoes to fill. It would be nice if  there was more done in pass coverage, but that's not really this group's job.
Rating: 5.5

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters: In one of the most interesting moves of the off-season, leading rusher and All-MAC kick returner Bryan Williams moved from running back to strong safety to replace Chevin Pace. The 6-0, 200-pounder has the speed and athleticism, but he'll have to prove he can become a big hitter. If the spring game was any indication, he'll be a star.

With Andre Jones moving from free safety to receiver, it'll be up to 6-1, 190-pound sophomore Jalil Carter to grow into a role after making six tackles, mostly on special teams. Speed is hardly a problem for the former Ohio high school track star, and if he can be consistent and can be nearly as good as Jones was against the pass, the pass defense will be fine.

6-2, 195-pound junior Wayne Cobham was a part-time starter last season making 48 stops with a broken up pass at the Rover position. Far better against the run than he is against the pass, even at his smallish size, he should be a good hitter who'll grow into more of a role now that he has the full-time job.

Corners Reggie Corner and Davanzo Tate have to be replaced after great senior seasons. Getting the first look at Corner's spot will be senior Miguel Graham after making just six tackles as a reserve. Not all that big at 5-9 and 160 pounds, he'll have to rely on his tremendous speed and quickness, along with his experience as a top JUCO player.

Stepping in for Tate will be 5-11, 175-pound senior Brandon Anderson, a versatile all-around playmaker who has seen time at both safety spots and might have finally found a home at corner. Staying healthy has been a problem, but he's productive when he's on the field making 17 stops with a sack last season. A phenomenal athlete, he's at his natural position.

Projected Top Reserves: 6-1, 196-pound junior Amin Kabir was originally considered a smallish linebacker prospect, but now he'll have to star as one of the team's most experienced backups in the secondary. It's not like he has seen a ton of time, making just five tackles in eight appearances, but he's a hard-hitting, physical player who's great on special teams.

With so many gaping holes in the secondary, the chances will be there for several of the new recruits to shine right away. Akron signed eight possible defensive backs this off-season with JUCO transfer Kevin Funches, a lightning fast corner option, able to see time right away. He's one of the team's fastest players, while 6-4, 196-pound Will Fleming, the son of defensive coordinator, Jim Fleming, could see immediate action at safety.

Watch Out For ... Williams. The experiment appeared to work as the star running back is a natural defensive back. He showed off the speed, hitting ability and instincts this off-season to become an all-star.
Strength
:
Speed. There's plenty of quickness with all five projected starters able to move well. Plenty of mistakes should be made up for by speed and athleticism.
Weakness
:
Experience. There isn't much. With Andre Jones moving to receiver, the secondary is all but starting from scratch. Forget about any developed depth.
Outlook: The coaching staff knows how to train a secondary, it's been fantastic over the last few years at putting together excellent pass defenses, but it'll have to do some serious work on this group. The secondary isn't exactly starting from scratch, but it's close, and there will be big, big problems if there are any major injuries. The safeties should be fine, but it's asking a lot for Graham and Anderson to be Tate and Corner. 
Rating: 5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: The placekicking was supposed to be a problem, and then sophomore Igor Iveljic solved it by nailing 15 of 18 field goals including a 51-yard bomb against Connecticut. He was consistent, showed excellent range, and got better as the season went on. He should be a major weapon as the coaching staff will allow him to use his big leg more.

The punting game needs more out of junior John Stec, who struggled over his first two years and averaged just 37.5 yards per boot last year. On the plus side, he put it inside the 20 16 times and forced 19 fair catches.

Bryan Williams is one of the nation's elite kick returners averaging 31.9 yards per try last year, while Andre Jones averaged a whopping 14.5 yards per punt return.

Watch Out For ... Iveljic to get more opportunities from deep. It wasn't until he nailed the 51-yarder against UConn that he started getting more regular work from longer distances. Now there won't be any fear of bombing away from 40 yards and more.
Strength
:
The return game. A major weakness turned into a major strength in one year. Jones and Williams could be the best return tandem in the country.
Weakness
:
Punting and kickoff coverage. Stec needs to get more blast on his kicks, while the coverage team has to allow far less than 22.4 yards per kickoff.
Outlook: The Zip special teams were a nightmare in 2006 and wasn't expected to do anything last year, and then it turned into something special. If the punting game can be a bit more prolific, and if the coverage teams can tighten up, Akron will have a big strength against just about everyone.
Rating: 8