As camp draws to a close, Akron players experienced more of a gameday atmosphere today. Some spectators sat in the stands. The blimp flew overhead. The band attended and played the fight song.
I dropped by for the tail end. Here are my notes:
The offensive line is a position that a lot of us, me included, took for granted. With several returning starters, it was a given that the Zips line would be solid. Injuries have complicated the situation. Mike Ward was injured for part of camp. Paul Simkovich is still out. Coach Rob Ianello has not been able to properly assess the unit as a result. The coach has been happy to tell me his starters at every position, but on the line, he is very uncertain. "The one thing we haven't had with the line is continuity," Ianello said.
During spring, the line had a problem with the snap to Patrick Nicely. The centers seemed to have corrected that issue, so that's one positive. But the coaching staff has concerns about the depth here. The Zips will need to get some production out of freshmen Joe Pachuta and Joe Vidovic and sophomores Mitch Straight and Adam Bice.
The only other position that is troubling Ianello regarding depth is linebacker. Although he has plenty of quality with Brian Wagner, Mike Thomas and Troy Gilmer, he is quite low on quantity.
One reason for the shortage of linebackers is position changes. Sean Fobbs was a productive linebacker last year before being switched to defensive end for his senior season. Fobbs has been injured during camp, so he won't start immediately at his new position. (The status and location of Fobbs' injury is classified information. I asked Ianello and he said it's on a "need to know basis." My best guess is aliens, until the coach corrects me with the truth.)
The defensive line has depth with or without Fobbs. Starting at tackle will be Almondo Sewell and Dan Marcoux. The ends are Shawn Lemon and Hasan Hazime. Joe Rash, Cowles Stewart, James Harvey and several others will easily provide depth. "I think we'll be able to establish a two-deep (rotation) where people don't have to play every down," Ianello said.
I haven't really touched on special teams much. Like his predecessor, Ianello is toying with the idea of using Branko Rogovic for kickoffs and Igor Iveljic for place kicking. That decision is not final. He might just pick one. Zach Campbell is the punter. Jeremy LaFrance will be the primary returner on punts and kicks. He is next in a long line of successful Akron returners (David Harvey, Domenik Hixon, etc.).
I only caught a few plays of practice. Matt Rodgers was manning the quarterback position. He threw three unimpressive balls. Two should have been interceptions. I think Rodgers would make a decent West Coast style quarterback, but he might not have the arm to make some of the throws in a pro-style offense.
I plan to attend another practice sometime next week.