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Camp questions: Incoming freshmen

By mrasor Published: August 2, 2007

Football
The situation: J.D. Brookhart has recruited three outstanding classes his first three years. A pattern has emerged (and maybe this pattern fits for each college football team). One freshman steps into a starting position and immediately becomes a star. A few show flashes in practice and see time on special teams. The rest are redshirted.
In 2005, Kevin Grant logged 73 tackles and 4.5 sacks on his way to a Freshman All-American Honorable Mention. Last season, David Harvey became an incredible weapon at wide receiver and kick returner. He also earned All-American honors.
The question: Which freshmen, if any, can be stars or at least contribute in their first year on campus?
Discussion: To answer the question, don't bother worrying about how many stars the players received from Rivals.com. First consider where Akron lacks depth. That would be wide receiver and defensive line. Then consider Brookhart's new-found obsession (and rightly so) for special teams. True freshmen who are likely to play probably will fill one of these needs, and maybe two.
Most hardcore Zips fans will point first to linebacker Almondo Sewell. He is 6-foot-2, 235-pounds and runs a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash. That is the equivalent of an AK-47 on a kickoff coverage team. But will the coaches want to waste his redshirt? The Zips have plenty of good linebackers and it would take a few injuries to justify playing him on defense this year.
Then you have Paul Simkovich, the three-star offensive lineman who decommitted from Michigan State to be a Zip. He has potential to play from Day One. Will Brookhart want to add even more youth to the line at the cost of Simkovich's redshirt?
Notice I have not mentioned Vince Hill. The receiver from Maryland fell short on his SAT and will attend prep school. David Harvey Pt. II hopes to attend Virginia after that. Jalil Carter and Jerome Royal, both of whom run sub-4.5 and are at least 6-1, easily could earn playing time instead of Hill, whom I personally expected to be a star this season.
At defensive line, Akron signed six players. Dan Marcoux and Hassan Hazime intrigue me most, and not just because they have cool names. Marcoux is 6-4, 250 and -- gasp! -- he maintained a 3.1 GPA in high school. Hazime is more of a defensive end. The Ontario native is 6-5, 235 and runs a 4.5. That he was not highly recruited leads me to believe he might be a little raw.
Prediction: Akron should not concern itself too much with protecting redshirts. You must consider the effect InfoCision Stadium will play on recruiting. Why not allow Sewell to bust some helmets on special teams this season when it becomes more and more likely that Brookhart can enlist a new Sewell each February?
While Sewell probably must wait another year to crack the linebacker rotation, Simkovich could beat out Mike Ward this fall for the left guard spot. For depth purposes, at least one of the six defensive linemen probably will not redshirt. The same goes for one of the wide receivers.
The aforementioned players probably will see a series or two per game during the second half of the season. Who is this year's Harvey or Grant? I think it's Gary Pride. With 4.4 speed and excellent quickness, his athleticism suits the punt returner job perfectly. Pride's 5-9 height takes away from some of his potential at receiver, but MAC defensive backs won't outmatch him by much.
Just hope opposing fans leave the "R" in his first name. Poor kid.
Some notes...
A little birdie told me the Zips have five recruits locked up. I'm in the process of finding out the other three. Contrary to Scout.com, Kyle Roddenberry, a defensive lineman from Florida, is not one of them.
Please join Dan Kadar's College Football Pick'em League on Yahoo. Pick'em is fun and easy. Basically, each week you choose the winners of about 20 college football games. Massive amounts of bragging rights among Zips fandom are on the line. To join, click here. Then enter the league name of 7144 and password of kentsucks. Pick'em is like a gateway drug for serious fantasy sporting. I highly recommend it.
As you can see, I have a new format to my blog to match the new Ohio.com (which happens to be pretty sweet for us journalism dorks). Pardon the advertisements if you are one of those anti-commercialism folks.
I plan to have more information and photos of the stadium tomorrow. I'm too tired tonight and I have to defend my house from teenagers throwing eggs. Hmm... It sure would be nice to have Sewell as a security guard.

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