2009 CFN Akron Preview
Akron LB/S Mike Thomas
Akron LB/S Mike Thomas
Posted May 15, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Akron Zips

Akron Zips

Preview 2009

By Pete Fiutak

- 2009 CFN Akron Preview | 2009 Akron Offense
- 2009 Akron Defense
| 2009 Akron Depth Chart
- 2008 Akron Preview | 2007 Akron Preview
| 2006 Akron Preview

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Akron has been stuck in a MAC lost zone over the last few seasons, and now it needs to either come up with a big season, or there will likely be big changes to make the program more than mediocore.

With the 2005 MAC title, head coach J.D. Brookhart showed just how strong Akron football could be when all the pieces when everything could go right. The championship also bought him time, but now he has the team, the coaching staff, and the potential to be in the conference title again after three straight losing seasons.  

Head coach: J.D. Brookhart
6th year: 27-33
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 21, Def. 21, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 22
Ten Best Zip Players
1. LB/S Mike Thomas, Jr.
2. DT Almondo Sewell, Jr.
3. QB Chris Jacquemain, Sr.
4. CB Miguel Graham, Sr.
5. LB Aaron Williams, So.
6. OT Corey Woods, Jr.
7. RB Alex Allen, Sr.
8. WR Deryn Bowser, Sr.
9. WR Andre Jones, Sr.
10. DT Ryan Bain, Sr.

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction
: 5-7
2009 Record: 0-0

9/5 at Penn State
9/12 Morgan State
9/19 Indiana
9/26 at Central Mich
10/10 Ohio
10/17 at Buffalo
10/24 at Syracuse
10/31 at No. Illinois
11/7 Kent
11/13 Temple
11/20 at Bowling Green
11/27 Eastern Mich

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record:

8/30 at Wisconsin L 38-17
9/6 at Syracuse W 42-28
9/13 Ball St L 41-24
9/20 at Army W 22-3
9/27 Cincinnati L 17-15
10/4 at Kent St W 30-27 2OT
10/11 Bo Green L 37-33
10/18 at East Mich W 42-35
11/5 Toledo W 47-30
11/13 Buffalo L 43-40 4OT
11/22 at Ohio L 49-42
11/28 at Temple L 27-6

Brookhart has one of the quirkiest teams in the conference, with its dink and dunk spread offense and its 3-3-5 defensive alignment, but if you're going to go rogue, you need to have consistent success. It's not that Akron has been awful, it's that it hasn't been able to come up with all the close wins needed to go from being an also-ran to a true contender on a yearly basis. While the problems closing have led to too many losses, there is a silver lining.

Akron was 90th in the nation in defense, 95th in scoring defense, 115th in sacks, 100th in tackles for loss, 100th against the run, and in the bottom half of the conference stats in several other places like punting (101st in the nation and 11th in the MAC), but it was still in the hunt for the East title in mid-October and had a shot at a winning season and a bowl game before collapsing late. Even with all the problems and all the issues, the Zips still went 5-7 and could've and should've finished with a better record after losing to Buffalo in four overtimes, Ohio in a 49-42 shootout, at home to Bowling Green by four, and to Cincinnati by two. Had two of those losses been wins, and it would be a very different tone going into the season.

This year's team has no excuse to not be a major player, and it should be able to realistically set its sights on the MAC title. The offensive line might be the best in the MAC, the four top wide receivers return, the defense is loaded with speed, athleticism, and experience, both kickers are back, and Chris Jacquemain is going into his third year as the starting quarterback.

While the team is better, the coaching has gotten a lot better in a big hurry with Walt Harris, the former head man at Pitt and Stanford, serving as the quarterbacks coach and in an assistant head coaching role, and former Miami University head coach Shane Montgomery taking over the offense. For a team that needed just a little bit of tweaking, the top-shelf coaching might be enough to put it over the top.

If things weren't point upwards enough, the program gets to kickoff a new era in some shiny new digs, ditching the Rubber Bowl and playing in InfoCision Stadium, a 30,000-seat jewel that should be the best in the MAC. It's all there for Akron to get to the fourth bowl game in its history, and it's all there to represent the East for the title.

What to watch for on offense: The line. This was one of the MAC's best lines last year, if not the best, and even though it lost veteran all-star Chris Kemme at left tackle, it should be even better with four of the starters who played in every game last year returning, talented junior Corey Woods moving from the right side into Kemme's spot, and rising sophomore Jake Anderson about to become great at right tackle. The skill players will get all the time they need.

What to watch for on defense: The playing around with the alignment. Technically in thee 3-3-5, the Bandit serves as a third linebacker, but the Rover, the fifth defensive back, also handles many of the same roles. These are the two playmaking positions in the defense, with Mike Thomas, the team's second-leading tackler, handling the Bandit and either Troy Gilmer or Shawn Lemon at the Rover. More often than not, Akron has a sort of 3-5-3 alignment that's supposed to take advantage of the D's speed and athleticism, but it didn't happen last year. The coaching staff won't allow for another disaster.

The team will be far better if … it can find one thing defensively it can do well. Last year, the defense didn't stop the run, and when it did, teams bombed away. When the D slowed down the pass, it didn't do anything against the run. Wisconsin plowed away for 404 yards, Ball State threw for 300, Buffalo ran for 224 yards, and Toledo threw for 277. The defense was doing something new wrong on a weekly basis, and now it has to start coming up with more big plays and it has to give the offense more of a chance.

The Schedule:
The team might be good and the coaching staff might be great, but the Zips don't get many favors from the schedule in MAC play, not only do they have to play Central Michigan and Northern Illinois, arguably the West's two best teams, but both games are on the road. In division play, they have to go to Buffalo to face the defending MAC champion. The non-conference slate, outside of the paycheck loss at Penn State on opening day, isn't that bad with Morgan State opening up the new stadium, Indiana at home to follow, and a midseason road trip to Syracuse. The key will be the October three-game road stretch of at Buffalo, at Syracuse, and at Northern Illinois. If they can get through that, they get three home games in the final four including the final three on Friday nights.

Best Offensive Player: Senior QB Chris Jacquemain. He throws too many interceptions, he hasn't pulled out enough tight wins, and he's not much of a runner, but he has a good command of the offense, is a steady producer, and he should put together a monster of a senior campaign. He has a great line in front of him, a loaded receiving corps, and Walt Harris tutoring him. Don't be stunned if he makes a sleeper push for All-MAC honors even with Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour and Western Michigan's Tim Hiller still in the league.

Best Defensive Player: Junior LB Mike Thomas. In the Bandit, Thomas is able to roam around and to a little bit of everything. He might only be 5-10 and 215 pounds, but he's a huge hitter making 81 tackles, and he's solid at getting into the backfield with 8.5 tackles for loss.

Key player to a successful season: Senior DT Ryan Bain. The transfer from Iowa crushed and killed everything in his path in offseason practices last year, but he was knocked out for the year. Now he's trying to recover from a back injury to be the run stuffing anchor the defense so desperately needs. If he's not right, there might be some major scrambling for the second year in a row to generate consistent production against the run.

The season will be a success if ... the Zips win the MAC East. They aren't better than the top teams in the West, but they're strong enough to get to the title game out of the weaker division. The key might be simply staying healthy after 16 key players missed time this spring. If they're not crushed by the injury bug, this could be a special season.

Key game: Sept. 26 at Central Michigan. It's the MAC opener and it's against the league's best team. This is a huge statement game that would set the tone for the year, and it send the team's confidence sky high with an off week to follow and a homecoming date with Ohio after. If they're good enough to beat the Chippewas in Mount Pleasant, they'll be good enough to beat anyone left on the slate.

2008 Fun Stats: 
- Fumbles: Opponents 26 (lost 17) - Akron 12 (lost 6)
- Sacks: Opponents 17 for 106 yards - Akron 11 for 57 yards
- Akron 3rd quarter scoring: 42 - Akron 4th quarter scoring: 120.