2010 Akron Preview - Offense
Akron OG Mike Ward
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Akron Zip Offense
Preview 2010 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: The spread might not be completely and totally scrapped, but new offensive coordinator John Latina will be bringing in a pro-style offense with a fullback, more of an emphasis on the running game, and more of a traditional passing attack. The key will be the play of the quarterbacks with sophomore Patrick Nicely needing to be steadier after an expectedly rocky freshman campaign. He has a veteran line to work behind led by All-MAC tackle Corey Woods, and there's a good bevy of experienced running backs to take the heat off. Former star corner Jalil Carter will move over to the offensive side to take over the X position where he should be a nice complement to last year's leading receiver, Jeremy LaFrance. Now it all has to come together with some production after the Zips finished 113th in the nation in total offense and 106th in scoring.
Star of the offense: Senior OT Corey Woods
Passing: Patrick Nicely
120-222, 1,349 yds, 6 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: Broderick Alexander
59 carries, 198 yds
Receiving: Jeremy LaFrance
43 catches, 520 yds, 2 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore QB Patrick Nicely
Unsung star on the rise: Junior C Paul Simkovich
Best pro prospect: Woods
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Woods, 2) WR Jeremy LaFrance, 3) WR Jalil Carter
Strength of the offense: Running Back Options, Tackle
Weakness of the offense: Consistent Quarterback, Proven Production
Projected Starter: Patrick Nicely was thrown into the starting role as a true freshman and came up with a decent year. The 6-4, 215-pound sophomore finished with three 200-yard games in eight outings with six touchdown passes, but he also threw six picks. Mobile for his size, he's dangerous enough to be used as a runner for 5-to-10 carries per game, but he's at his best when he can get into a rhythm on short to midrange throws. He's not a lock to stay in the No. 1 spot, but he'll be tough to push out.
Projected Top Reserves: When Chris Jacquemain was kicked off the team, junior Matt Rodgers stepped in and took over the starting job early on. The results weren't pretty. The 6-2, 205-pounder completed 39-of-69 passes for 405 yards with a touchdown and six interceptions, but he ran well tearing off 156 yards and three scores including 80 yards against Ohio before suffering a season-ending knee injury. A playmaker who could be good with more seasoning, he has to get healthy before he can push for the starting job.
An emergency option, sophomore Marc Pedro is a smallish, mobile passer who has a decent short-range arm and can get on the move. Only 6-0 and 190 pounds, he has to work on rollouts and isn't much of a pure-pocket passer, but he's accurate. He's the clear No. 3 in the mix.
Watch Out For … Nicely to be allowed to sing or swim. The new pro style offense fits his skills, and he'll be allowed to develop with more chances to throw down the field and better pass protection with a nice pair of tackles protecting him.
Strength: Experience. The production might have been minimal, but Nicely and Rodgers did what they could. Nicely showed just enough upside to be ready to take over a leadership role as the face of the offense for the next three seasons.
Weakness: Passing efficiency. Rodgers and his six interceptions with one touchdown didn't help the cause. The passing game was hit or miss, to put it nicely, and it's still going to take a while before Nicely and/or Rodgers become consistent.
Outlook: Expected to be spread quarterbacks, Nicely and Rodgers will get to throw it around a bit now. Rodgers needs to come back quickly from his knee problem or the backup situation will become extremely shaky, and while Nicely will be the No. 1, it would be nice if there was a push from the No. 2. Rogers will have to show in fall practices that he might be a good passing option.
Unit Rating: 5
Projected Starters: Fifth-year senior Alex Allen should thrive in the pro-style offense. The 6-0, 210-pound power runner has the size and he has the ability to be the team's best rusher, but he can't seem to get healthy with a knee injury knocking him out two years ago and a hip problem keeping him under wraps at times over the last few seasons. Even so, he still finished with a team-leading five touchdown runs and was third on the team with 188 yards on 59 carries in a limited role. He had his best game in the season-finale win over Eastern Michigan, rushing for 50 yards and a score, and he'll be the focal point of the attack this year as long as he can stay on the field.
The offense will utilize a more traditional fullback now, and that's where LeVon Morefield steps in. The one-time defensive back, he's more of a quick runner with the potential to bring some power. At 5-9 and 235 pounds, he's built to be a blocker for the running game, and he can catch a little bit here and there, too.
Projected Top Reserves: Senior Nate Burney took advantage of his opportunity this offseason as the No. 2 back in the equation, but he could quickly take a backseat again if everyone is healthy. The 5-6, 170-pound mighty-mite ran for just 47 yards on 14 carries and caught five passes for 40 yards, and he'll be a situational back at best.
6-1, 205-pound sophomore Broderick Alexander took over a big part of the running job over the final five games of his true freshman season finishing with 198 yards and two scores. He ran for 42 yards or more in four of his last five games, but he was out this offseason healing up. When healthy, he'll be a major part of the rotation again and could push his way into the No. 1 spot with a decent burst and good toughness through the hole.
Watch Out For … a rotation at tailback. Allen is the best of the lot, but he has to stay healthy. That's hardly a given with his history, and that means there needs to be a steady rotation with Burney and Alexander getting more than their share of carries.
Strength: Options. The leading rusher, Joe Tuzze, is gone, but it doesn't matter; he only gained 244 yards Alexander, Allen, and Burney should keep the ground game fresh and should provide different looks.
Weakness: Proven production. The ground game went nowhere fast last year. Seven players gained more than 100 yards, but only one (Tuzze) gained more than 200. The Zips averaged a paltry 3.6 yards per carry.
Outlook: The backs are in place to do far more, and now that they'll have a fullback to help the cause and a pro style offense to work in, the production should come. If Allen can stay healthy, the offense has a No. 1 back to work around, but Burney and Alexander can come up with big games here and there when needed.
Unit Rating: 5
Projected Starters: Senior Jalil Carter was one of the team's top defensive backs finishing third on the team with 58 tackles and an interception, but now the starting free safety will move over to wide receiver. At 6-0 and 200 pounds, he's big and physical, and the one-time star special teamer has the track star speed to shine at the open X position. He's dangerous enough to grow into a steady deep threat.
The Zips were looking for more firepower for the receiving corps, and they went out and got it taking Jeremy LaFrance from the JUCO ranks. The 6-1, 195-pound senior started out his career at Fullerton CC and was terrific last year catching 43 passes for 520 yards and two touchdowns highlighted by a five-catch, 126-yard, two touchdown game against Kent State. He's a go-to target who'll be the No. 1 receiver at the inside Z position.
The Zips rarely used a tight end last year, but that will change this season giving senior Kyle Weber to play a big role. The 6-4, 250-pounder caught just four passes for 26 yards after coming over from Joliet JC. A good receiver with nice hands and good route running ability, he should quickly grow into a chain-mover who becomes a big factor on third downs.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Curtis Brown has speed, 5-11, 200-pound size, and good upside. Now he needs to start making some plays. The Florida native will work on the inside Z position behind Jeremy LaFrance after making one catch for three yards in a little bit of work. With his speed and quickness, he needs to become a playmaker.
With 6-5, 195-pound size and good toughness, sophomore Nadir Brown has a world of upside at the outside X position. He made five catches for 34 yards in a limited role, but now he'll be a key No. 3 target and a spot starter in three and four wide sets. With his size, he's a matchup problem.
Sophomore tight end Rhyne Ladrach was supposed to be a factor last season, but he only got one start and didn't catch a pass. At 6-4 and 240 pounds he's big and moves well with excellent athleticism and good upside, but he has to first prove he can become a regular part of the passing game after missing time this offseason getting healthy.
Watch Out For … Carter. After all he did for the secondary, he could be even more important as a deep threat on the outside for the offense. He has the size and speed, and if he can stretch the field and take the heat off LaFrance, the passing game could become a major plus.
Strength: LaFrance and Carter. The two have size, speed, and the potential to each average well over 13 yards per catch. If the quarterback play is a bit more consistent, the Zips might have one of the more dangerous receiving duos in the MAC.
Weakness: The No. 2 target. The secondary is missing three starters and needs a No. 2 corner. That shows how desperate the Zips are to move over a good playmaker like Carter. He'll be fine, but one of the Browns or one of the several young players must step up and produce right away. The offense needs receiving options.
Outlook: A disappointment last season mostly because the quarterback play stunk, now the receiving corps needs to rely on Carter to be great right away and hope for several young prospects to be able to grow into roles early on to fill in the gaps. The 1-2 punch of Carter and LaFrance should be terrific, but there will be plenty of question marks if either one gets hurt.
Unit Rating: 5.5
Projected Starters: The big question going into last season was at left tackle where three-time all-star Chris Kemme had to be replaced. In stepped Corey Woods , and all he did was become an All-MAC performer, too. The 6-5, 305-pound senior wasn't always a rock in pass protection, but he was the best blocker on the line and was a force for the ground game. The three-year starter has the size and strength to grow into a pro prospect as a right tackle, where he started out his career.
Working again on the right side, where he started every game last year, is 6-5, 310-pound tackle Jake Anderson, a big junior who buries people in the running game and is improving as a pass blocker. He was the one new starter up front last season after spending his career on special teams, and now he's overdue for a big year. A great recruit who received offers from several bigger name schools, he has the frame and the potential to blossom now that he knows what he's doing.
6-5, 300-pound senior Mike Ward started every game at left guard. A producer from Day One, he struggled early on and now is a polished, tough run blocker who'll combine with Corey Woods to form a strong veteran left side. Versatile enough to play center if needed, he's a good presence for the inside with all-star potential in his final year.
Taking over at center for Elliott Bates will be Paul Simkovich , a 6-3, 295-pound guard who'll get his chance in the middle just to get him on the field. A great scout team performer with good drive for the running game, the junior has been around long enough to be ready to shine. He was a great get for the Zips, and now he has to show why.
6-5, 300-pound junior Zac Kasparek wasn't able to see much of the field over the last few years, but he's ready after waiting in the wings behind Zach Anderson. He's not a mauler, but he has a good frame and the practice time logged in to know what he's doing.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Dan Ronsman will be in the fight for the center job and could take it over if Paul Simkovich ends up moving to guard. The 6-3, 285-pounder is a smart, athletic option who was supposed to be the understudy to take over going into this year, and now he'll end up moving around where needed with a chance to see time at guard.
The team's top guard backup, 6-5, 310-pound sophomore Mitch Straight got some work in early on against Syracuse and now will be a key reserve behind Zac Kasparek on the right side. Big, tough, and a mauling run blocking prospect, he's too big and has too much upside to keep off the field.
Watch Out For … more power run blocking. The pro style offense will allow the bigger line to be able to pound away a bit more. Gone, for the most part, is the spread, and now the new offense will play to the strengths of the front five.
Strength: Tackle. Woods might be the MAC's best tackle while Anderson has all-star potential. The pass protection could stand to be better, but the bookends of the line should be strong.
Weakness: Consistency. The line almost got the quarterback killed at times last year, but it wasn't always the blockers' fault. There isn't a lot of developed depth, but three starters are back meaning the production has to be there game in and game out.
Outlook: A model of health last season, all five starters started every game. That didn't allow much room for development of the backups, and worst of all, the line didn't get appreciably better. However, the three returning starters, Woods, Ward, and Jake Anderson, are good ones, Simkovich is extremely promising, and Kasparek is a good prospect to develop. This won't be a great line, but it's not going to be a glaring weakness.
Unit Rating: 5
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