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Akron targeting former Zips to take over football program

By mrasor Published: December 11, 2011


Mike Johnson and Paul Winters, two former UA players, are serious candidates for Akron's head coaching vacancy.

Mike Johnson, who quarterbacked the Zips in 1988 and 1989, will be interviewing with AD Tom Wistrcill this week. Winters, meanwhile, was a premier running back for Akron in the late 1970s. He is head coach at Wayne State, which is playing in the Division II National Championship on Saturday.

Johnson is interim head coach at UCLA. He asked to be considered for the permanent job, after the school fired Rick Neuheisel, but the Bruins instead hired former NFL head coach Jim Mora. Johnson does not have head coaching experience, but it appears that he will coach his first game as a head coach on the Dec. 31 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Here is a link to read the rest of Johnson's bio, which includes extensive NFL experience.

Johnson has another year at $390,000 remaining on his UCLA contract. The chances of him staying on with Mora are probably less likely than in the normal replacement situation, because Mora once fired Johnson when Mora coached the Atlanta Falcons. Both Mora and Johnson are saying the right things so far about potentially reuniting.

As you might guess, Akron won't be able to have in-depth conversations with Winters until next week. However, Wayne State has confirmed it granted permission for Wistrcill to speak with its head coach, the PD's Elton Alexander reports.

During his seven years at Wayne State, Winters has made his program strong by recruiting in Ohio and Michigan and making sure he keeps those guys around for four years. Winters also built a good reputation in a prior assistant coaching stint at Akron. In 2003, the Winters-led offense ranked ninth nationally in yards-per-game average. Can you imagine even one game of 470 yards of total offense, much less averaging that total over a season???

Another rumored candidate is Pat Narduzzi, the defensive coordinator at Michigan State. Narduzzi is a Youngstown native who has become a candidate for head coaching jobs based on his success with the Spartans. He also has extensive experience on successful MAC teams, such as Northern Illinois from 2000 to 2002 and the 2003 Miami RedHawks, which finished 10th in the national polls.

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