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2010 Akron Preview - Defense
Akron LB Brian Wagner
Akron LB Brian Wagner
Posted Jun 25, 2010 2010 Preview - Akron Zip Defense

Akron Zips

Preview 2010 - Defense

- 2010 Akron Preview | 2010 Akron Offense
- 2010 Akron Defense | 2010 Akron Depth Chart
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What You Need To Know: With the change in alignment from a 3-3-5 that was quirky, but rarely clutch on big drives, the defense should be stronger at getting into the backfield and should be more consistent. New defensive coordinator Curt Mallory has a nice front seven to work with led by the linebacking duo of Brian Wagner and Mike Thomas, who combined for 203 tackles last season. Three-time all-star Almondo Sewell will move from a 3-4 end to a true defensive tackle, while junior Hasan Hazime could be a breakout star as a big end. The secondary has a strange mix of inexperienced seniors and good young prospects, and it’ll take its lumps early on. Very quick, the defensive backs will get to the ball in a hurry, but there’s little size.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Brian Wagner, 132
Sacks: Hasan Hazime, Shawn Lemon, 3
Interceptions: Manley Waller, 3

Star of the defense: Sophomore LB Brian Wagner
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior CB Diamond Weaver
Unsung star on the rise: Junior DE Hasan Hazime
Best pro prospect: Senior DT Almondo Sewell
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Wagner, 2) Sewell, 3) LB Mike Thomas
Strength of the defense: Linebacker, Defensive Line
Weakness of the defense: Safety, Proven Pass Rush

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: In the move from the 3-3-5 to the 4-3, senior Almondo Sewell will go from being a a big end to a true tackle. The 6-1, 285-pound veteran failed to generate much of a pass rush, but he has been a top tackler finishing fourth on the team with 53 stops with 5.5 tackles for loss … and no sacks. An All-MAC star, the former linebacker is very quick and very active, making 11 stops against Northern Illinois, but he has to be far better at getting to the quarterback. A third-team All-MAC honoree, he became just the second Akron player (former OT Chris Kemme being the other) to earn all-conference honors three times.

Pushing for time at the other tackle spot will be junior Dan Marcoux , a 6-2, 275-pound nose tackle who’ll move over a little bit. He started the first five games of last year before moving to a backup spot, but he should be better as a pure one gap tackle with his quickness. He made 15 tackles and a sack last year, and he should at least double those numbers this season.

6-4, 270-pound junior Hasan Hazime is a 3-4 end being moved to the outside to become more of a true end. With shocking 4.5 speed and quickness for his bulked up size, he has the potential to grow into a star as the coaching staff plans on turning him loose. He came up with 49 tackles with a team leading three sacks and eight tackles for loss, and now that he knows what he’s doing, he should do far more. The Canadian is still learning a bit, but the skills and tools are all there to be phenomenal.

With a four man front, senior Deni Odofin will get to play a bigger role after serving as a backup over the course of his career. The 6-3, 235-pounder hasn’t been able to stay healthy suffering a variety of injuries, but he was able to play in every game last year making 15 tackles with 1.5 sacks and six tackles for loss. When he’s right, he has excellent pass rushing ability.

Projected Top Reserves: While Dan Marcoux started the first part of the year, junior James Harvey took over on the nose midway through after starting out on the end. At 6-4 and 290 pounds, he’s a true tackle who’ll be in a far more natural spot in the rotation on the inside. While he made 23 tackles and four tackles for loss, he didn’t come up with a sack. With his size and quickness, he should be able to swallow up the run with a bit more room to move.

6-1, 240-pound senior Shawn Lemon has always been a bit of a safety/linebacker hybrid, and now he’ll be a key pass rushing defensive end. Versatile enough to have lined up as a woefully undersized defensive tackle at times. He’s extremely tough and is able to move around wherever needed making 24 tackles with three sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss.

Junior Marquinn Davis is a smart 6-4, 275-pound veteran who’s overdue to see the field. He hasn’t been able to see any time, but he’s a big body with just enough quickness to be effective in a rotation at defensive tackle behind Almondo Sewell. He could also be used as a big end as well.

Watch Out For … Hazime. While he’s not on the radar to be an NFL prospect quite yet, he has the size, the quickness, and the Combine-like skills to make scouts start to take notice. If he comes up with a big year as a 4-3 end, he’ll get some long looks as a potential late round flier.
Strength: A change in style. The 4-3 is going to be far, far better for players like Sewell, Odofin, and Hazime as their roles change. The defensive front was there to sit in the middle and allow the linebackers do everything, and now the linemen will get to be more active.
Weakness: Proven pass rushing production. Odofin, Lemon and Hazime were decent last year, but the team only generated 11 sacks and weren’t in the backfield enough. Until someone proves he can hit a quarterback on a regular basis, pass rush will be a concern.
Outlook: The line will be much, much better in the new scheme, and with depth at tackle, promise on the outside, and a nice mix of upperclassmen working around a star in Sewell, this could grow into one of the team’s strengths.
Unit Rating: 5


Projected Starters: Sophomore Brian Wagner was supposed to be a promising backup who could’ve potentially seen a lot of action in the middle if Sean Fobbs moved positions. Instead, he ended up starting from Day One and came up with a tremendous All-MAC season leading the team with 132 stops with a sack, seven tackles for loss, and two interceptions. The 6-2, 220-pound former high school running back is built more like a safety with tremendous range and athleticism, and now he’ll be able to work as a true middle linebacker with more plays funneled to him in the 4-3 alignment. Tough, he makes every stop that comes his way and is always hustling and always consistent. On solo stops alone (72) he would’ve lead the team in tackles.

Back on the strongside will be veteran Mike Thomas , a very fast, very productive senior who was supposed to be the star of the show until Brian Wagner became the main man. Even so, Thomas finished second on the team with 71 stops with 2.5 tackles for loss and two interceptions as the team’s Bandit, a hybrid position that allowed him to roam around. While he’s only 5-11 and 220 pounds, he’s a huge hitter for his size with a full-tilt motor that never stops. The captain last year, he’s the leader and the tone-setter for the back seven, even though Wagner will be making most of the tackles.

Working on the weakside will be senior Sean Fobbs , a decent big body who came up with 41 tackles with a sack and six tackles for loss as the Rush linebacker. At 6-1 and 240 pounds he’s built for the middle, but he has just enough quickness to work on the outside as a pass rusher. He’ll be a part of a rotation and will end up seeing time inside and out as needed, and while he might not be one of the team’s top statistical stars, he’ll be a steady run stopper.

Projected Top Reserves: When it’s not Sean Fobbs on the weakside it’ll be sophomore Troy Gilmer , a 6-1, 230-pound athlete who was supposed to be a big part of last year’s defense but got hurt early on and wasn’t right all year long. He only played in seven games and made six tackles, but with his combination of quickness and size, he’s ready to become a major factor on the outside.

Working behind Brian Wagner in the middle will be 6-3, 230-pound junior Matt Little , a promising tough tackler who started to see the field more and more as last year went on making nine tackles with two tackles for loss in his ten games of work. Wagner doesn’t come off the field, but Little might find time on the strongside just to get him some game action to add more bulk to the corps.

6-2, 215-pound redshirt freshman Tony Longo is built more like a safety and would be a good option for the weakside, but he’s tough and has the ability and potential to be an all-around disruptive force on the strongside. He’ll move around where needed mostly being used as a pass rusher and on passing downs.

Watch Out For … a rotation on the weakside. Fobbs has too much upside and experience to sit on the bench for too long, if at all, while Gilmer should be the stronger option of the two. The old defense would’ve gotten them both on the field, but now those two have to split time.
Strength: Experience and production. Wagner and Thomas were the team’s top two tacklers last season, while Fobbs is a 12-game starter who knows what he’s doing. Little is just starting to scratch the surface and would be a statistical star if he got a chance to step in for Wagner in the middle.
Weakness: Too many plays made down the field. Yes, the tackle stats are there, but the linebackers had to come up with stops five to ten yards past the line of scrimmage far too often. The threesome has to be way more active at getting into the backfield and tougher at the point of attack.
Outlook: With an All-MAC star in Wagner and a great playmaker in Thomas, the Zips might have the MAC’s best linebacking duo. Throw in Fobbs and Gilmer in the mix, and the corps should be solid. Now everyone has to be more physical and do more to make big plays against the run. With a four man front now, there will be more room to roam.
Unit Rating: 5.5


Projected Starters: Three starters have to be replaced from a decent secondary, but the lone returning starter should be a good one to work around. Junior Manley Waller is an undersized 5-8, 165-pound corner, but he’s lightning quick and isn’t afraid to get physical making 47 tackles with three interceptions and six broken up passes. Hampered by a midseason ankle sprain, it took a little while to get back to form, but when he’s right he’s lockdown cover-corner who can handle any MAC speed receiver.

Trying to replace big hitting corner Miguel Graham on the other side of Waller will be senior Diamond Weaver , a 5-9, 175-pound senior who came over from Santa Rosa CC and was supposed to play a big role right away. Instead he saw time in just two games making two tackles and returned a punt 20 yards before getting hurt and missing the rest of the year. Fine now, he has the quickness and the ball-hawking ability to be a major factor with team staying away from Waller.

Senior Doug Richardson will try to settle down a strong safety spot that went through some changes throughout last year with three different players seeing starting time. The 6-0, 185-pound walk-on made just six tackles in his ten games of work, but he’s a physical option who’ll fly all over the field making plays. A try-hard type who won’t take a play off, he has the potential to be one of the team’s top five tacklers.

After spending last year as a little used backup, with one start coming against Kent State, senior Kevin Davis will have the free safety spot all to himself. The 6-1, 200-pounder is one of the team’s biggest defensive backs and is now in his right position. Originally put at linebacker, he didn’t do anything until late in the year, he finished with 13 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. Toughness against the run won’t be a problem, but he has to show range and playmaking skills against the pass.

Projected Top Reserves: Seeing time as a backup corner and a nickel and dime defender, sophomore Marvase Byrd will be used in a variety of ways after making 13 tackles with a broken up pass in his first year. A smallish 5-7 and 170 pounds, he’s quick with a nose for the ball, and the coaching staff will find a way to get his speed on the field.

Working as one of the team’s top backup safeties last season, sophomore Josh Richmond is ready to see more action. The 5-10, 185-pounder make nine tackles with a tackle for loss, and now he’ll work at strong safety behind Doug Richardson with the potential to see action in nickel and dime packages. The former high school running back and cousin of former NBA star, Mitch Richmond, can move.

Watch Out For … the young backups. Nothing is set in stone outside of Waller at the field corner, and while it might be nice to have three seniors ready to start, the coaching staff will take its lumps with a youth movement right away if the production isn’t there. Josh Richmond, Marvase Byrd, and Thomas Miller are all sophomores who should form the core of the secondary for the next few years.
Strength: Quickness. The Zips recruited to a type over the last few seasons, and while there’s no size whatsoever, everyone can fly. There are a slew of former high school running backs who can all cut on a dime and can all get around the field in a hurry.
Weakness: Proven production. Waller is a sure-thing, but there’s almost nothing to rely on right away from the backups and there’s little overall experience from the other three starters considering they’re all seniors. With a weak pass rush, the secondary could struggle early on.
Outlook: The pass defense was surprisingly decent last year considering the front six never got into the backfield. Now in a more traditional alignment with one defensive back taken away, the foursome has to be stronger at coming up with big plays and keeping the deep balls to a minimum. There are several good young prospects to get excited about, but there will be growing pains.
Unit Rating: 4.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: Senior Branko Rogovic took over for the inconsistent Igor Iveljic, but he wasn’t much better hitting just 7-of-15 field goals with three misses inside 30 yards. He has a decent leg hitting a 45-yarder against Temple, but he’s not consistent. With a good range, he could be used on long attempts as well as kickoffs, while sophomore T.J. Marchese will get every chance at the job. It’s a dead-even heat with the steadier option to get the job.

Junior Zack Campbell got in a little work early as a punting option, and then he took over late in the years finishing with a measly 38.3 yard average with just three put inside the 20. However, he was able to come up with a 76-yard bomb against Syracuse and showed good promise as the season went on. After splitting time, he has the job all to himself.

Wide receiver Jeremy LaFrance will get a long look as the main punt returner after averaging 5.5 yards per try on his four attempts last year, while corner-turned-receiver Jalil Carter averaged 18.9 yards per kickoff return as the No. 2 option.

Watch Out For … a fight for the placekicking job. Akron can’t afford to give away points, and while Marchese and Rogovic each have potential, someone has to be consistent and reliable from the start of the year. There can’t be a flip-flop once MAC play starts.
Strength: Kick coverage. The one thing the special teams could do relatively well last season was cover kicks. Opponents average just 19.3 yards per try, and while there were two brought back for scores, the coverage team pinned teams deep most of the time.
Weakness: Punting. The punt return game was atrocious, the field goal kicking was all over the place, and the kickoff return team could’ve been better, but the biggest problem last season was a weak punting game that finished 112th in the nation netting just 31.92 yards per kick.
Outlook: The Akron special teams were phenomenal in 2007, but were abysmal for most of the time over the last several years. The punting game has to be better and the field goal kicking far more consistent. The new coaching staff has a lot of work to do.
Unit Rating: 4.5

- 2010 Akron Preview | 2010 Akron Offense
- 2010 Akron Defense | 2010 Akron Depth Chart
- Akron Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006