Starting with Thursday's opening spring practice, Akron will attempt to fill nine holes left by departing seniors.
On offense, it's Luke Getsy, Andy Alleman, Mike Donaldson, Tim Crouch and Andy Wills. Before you get all anxious about having to replace almost an entire line, consider that J.D. Brookhart has planned for this by landing several highly touted linemen.
On defense, it's Kiki Gonzalez, Jermaine Reid and Jason Nedd. Losing the two most consistent defensive linemen hurts most. Also, throw in Jon McClain on special teams.
Without further adieu, here are five questions I think spring practice should answer...
- Can Zach Anderson be the stand-out blocker we assumed he was as a three-star recruit in 2005? And are the other new linemen capable of protecting a first-time quarterback? Call me crazy, but I actually can see the offensive line being a strength this year.
- Will a leader emerge to win the starting quarterback job? It's between Chris Jacquemain, Carlton Jackson (both sophomores) and Sean Hakes (redshirt freshman). I think Jacquemain has a lot of work to do to win the job. Coaches put Jackson ahead last season, and the Florida native showed brief flashes of incredible ability. Character issues could be his downfall. And then there's Hakes, who I compare to Charlie Frye in his ability to scramble and throw on the run. No coach will say it, but Jackson is basically the incumbent. He needs avoid a terrible spring or another off-the-field incident to become the leader.
- What the heck will the depth chart at running back look like? Here's my guess, but it's only a guess: Dennis Kennedy, Alex Allen, Aaris Reed and Andre Walker. That does not include Miami (Fla.) transfer Andrew Johnson and Bryan Williams, who probably won't play this season. Don't be surprised if one or two of these guys transfer in the next year. It's a logjam.
- Does the Zips defensive line stand a chance? This is the thinnest part of the team, and if Brookhart could play a 1-5-5 defense, he probably would. Your starters are probably Nate Robinson, Eric Lively and Jared Cecchetti. We all know Robinson can't play a full game without an oxygen mask standing by. Lively has never started. Cecchetti has never impressed me. Behind that, it's anyone's guess. It's going to take some serious convincing to tell me this isn't one of the worst defensive lines in the nation. That will put a lot of stress on the defensive backs. Maybe Brookhart will get lucky and one of his true freshman can play a little.
- Who is the place kicker? Matt Domonkos played himself out of last year's job, which was handed to him after Igor Iveljic hurt his back. Andy Hildreth is now listed as a place kicker, too. Luckily Brookhart will have more options than last season, when he resorted to stealing a player off Caleb Porter's pitch. If healthy, I think Iveljic is the winner (as long as he's done beating up fellow students in the dorms).
Notice I didn't mention the secondary, linebackers or receivers. Those positions should be solid. In fact, so should running backs. It's just figuring out who gets the bulk of the carries.
In a story in the Massillon Independent, Keith Dambrot basically said he buys into Bob Huggins' theory that Akron's program has Final Four potential.
He was at a Hall of Fame luncheon in Canton, trying to get Stark County residents excited about Zips basketball.
Dambrot, with his business background, is well versed with marketing his program.