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You can read the entire Akron Zips preview in Athlon Sports' 2012 Big Ten football magazine, available for purchase now at the Athlon Sports store.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PRESEASON TOP 25
MAC East PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Terry Bowden, First Season | OFF. COORDINATOR: Terry Bowden | DEF. COORDINATOR: Chuck Amato
New coach Terry Bowden has returned the Zips to the spread attack that the program used for years and one that is employed by many other MAC teams. In 2010 and 2011, Akron used a pro-style offense — with very little success — under Rob Ianello, who was fired in November after consecutive 1–11 seasons. Those offenses ranked 119th (2010) and 115th (’11) nationally in total yardage.
Junior quarterback Clayton Moore, who struggled last season in his first year as a starter, decided to transfer in mid-July. Moore was pushed in the spring by senior Dalton Williams, a transfer from Stephen F. Austin who was originally planning on playing for Bowden at North Alabama. Williams will be Akron's No. 1 quarterback when fall practice kicks off. Also, redshirt freshman Kyle Pohl had an outstanding spring and could move into the picture with a strong fall camp.
The Zips had one of the youngest sets of skill players in the country in 2011, and that experience could mean significant improvement in 2012. Sophomore tailback Jawon Chisholm returns and is a threat to rush for more than 1,000 yards, a plateau he just missed last year. Keith Sconiers, who led the team in receiving last season as a sophomore, is back, along with reliable seniors A.J. Price and Marquelo Suel. There also is a bevy of young receivers vying for time, making this one of the deepest positions on the team.
The line was hampered by injuries and a lack of depth last season. Four starters are gone, with only center Adam Bice returning.
The defection of All-MAC linebacker Brian Wagner, the team's leading tackler in each of his first three seasons, is a devastating blow. Wagner graduated in December and left to play his senior season at Arizona. His departure adds even more uncertainty to a front seven that already was the biggest question mark on the team.
The loss of Wagner and both defensive tackles leaves the Zips woefully inexperienced up the middle. Ends John Griggs and Nico Caponi are back, as is linebacker Troy Gilmer. However, both Caponi and Gilmer missed spring practice with injuries, complicating the picture even more. The strength of the defense will be the secondary, which lost only corner Manley Waller off the two-deep.
Bowden brought in former NC State head coach Chuck Amato to be the defensive coordinator and believes Amato’s enthusiasm and knowledge can mask some of the defense’s weaknesses.
Akron thought it had its placekicking woes solved when A.J. Fox stepped in midway through the 2011 season and converted all eight of his field goals. Fox, however, left the program in May. Back to the drawing board. Zack Campbell, the punter for the past three seasons, is gone, leaving the job open for freshman Zach Paul.
Akron is headed for its seventh consecutive losing season. The 1–11 marks in 2010 and ’11 under Ianello represented the worst two seasons for the Zips since they joined college football’s top division in 1987. That’s a big hole to climb out of, and even the presence of the much-ballyhooed Bowden will not change the fortunes that quickly.
The offense has some potential playmakers, but they will get a chance to produce only if the line develops. Amato must perform some magic on defense for the unit to be successful. Bowden seems to be a good fit for the job, but Zips fans must be patient.