The situation: Akron's defensive line might be one injury away from a catastrophe. Depth certainly is thin this season. Only three d-linemen on the roster, Eric Lively, Jared Cecchetti and Nate Robinson, have some experience.
Robinson, once the No. 1 prospect in the nation, could not keep his job this spring. Sophomore Wallace Pendleton overtook him at nose tackle. In a way, that's good news because Akron coaches believe they have a fourth serviceable defensive lineman.
In the spring, a possible fifth lineman emerged in Shawn Lemon. The freshman worked his way onto the depth chart behind Cecchetti. But he's a lineman closer to the mold of Doug Williams, whom Akron converted to linebacker because he's not bulky enough to play line in the 3-3-5 defense.
The question: Will a sixth or seventh lineman emerge to lighten the load on the starters and lessen the blow on a potential injury? Also, will the 3-3-5 defense last all season?
Discussion: Akron was OK against the run last season, but the Zips defensive linemen totaled just 7.5 sacks all season. Allowing opposing quarterbacks so much time had two negative results. First, at times it made the Zips' secondary look worse than it really was. Second, it allowed mobile quarterbacks time to find gaps to run and crippled Akron on third downs.
Mind you, this was with a defensive line that included two future professionals in Kiki Gonzalez (Kansas City Chiefs) and Jermaine Reid (CFL). If the line can't affect the game with talented, adequately sized players, how will it fare without them?
That brings me to my whacky idea. Can we please ditch the 3-3-5? It's concealing the true talent on this defense while accentuating a weakness -- interior linemen. With a 4-3 defense, which is pretty standard in any level of football, Williams and Lemon could play defensive end. The team would have depth at defensive tackle, but of course, lose some at end.
Prediction: J.D. Brookhart has sworn allegiance to the 3-3-5, and that's fine. It's not very feasible to switch during camp anyhow. With any luck, one of the true freshmen will show some ability to adapt to college football sooner than expected. Although I'm convinced Akron would be better served without the 3-3-5, the more important goal for camp is to find another lineman who can play. I think the Zips will.
Tomorrow: Who is the quarterback?
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