2008 ended with three straight losses. If Akron won two, they would be going to a bowl (and maybe the MAC Championship). If the Zips won one, they would have hope.
Instead, the Zips hit the Triple Whammy.
As a Northeast Ohio fan, I make it a tradition to look forward to next season after the previous one inevitably crashes like a house of cards in a light breeze.
Breaking down each position for 2009...
Quarterback -- My gut is telling me that J.D. Brookhart will stick with Chris Jacquemain. He did after a sorry 2007. Why not after a mediocre 2008? I give Jacquemain credit for progressing, but he certainly took steps back, as well. Outlook: So-so
Running back -- Alex Allen is the only running back to return from the three that Akron primarily used this season. He is injury prone, so it will be nice to have DeVoe Torrence and Dale Martin behind him. Martin and Torrence are high-level BCS talents. 2009 should be similar to 2008 in terms of depth and talent. There is only a slightly smaller bit of uncertainty. Outlook: Shining bright
Wide receiver -- Andre Jones and Deryn Bowser will return as the MAC's best receiving tandem. Dashan Miller and Jeremy Bruce will provide depth. Watch out for Curtis Brown to emerge. A car accident set him back after high school, but he can fly. The same goes for Gary Pride, but I think Brown is more polished as a receiver at this point. Outlook: Shining bright
Offensive line -- The Zips return their entire starting line except left tackle Chris Kemme. In fact, Kemme was the only senior on the two-deep of Akron's outstanding line. Outlook: Shining bright
Defensive line -- Eric Lively is the only player in the line's rotation to leave. In my 4-man line, I would put Almondo Sewell and Shawn Lemon on the ends, with Ryan Bain and Dan Marcoux on the inside. Even with a four-man line, you can easily go three-deep. The first linemen off the bench should be Joe Rash, James Harvey, Hasan Hazime and Wallace Pendleton. Outlook: Bright (if the 3-3-5 is gone)
Linebacker -- This is the position where Akron lost the most. Mike Thomas and Aaron Williams are going to be really good MAC linebackers -- the kind Akron fans always envy from other teams. Sean Fobbs showed he can play. Brookhart is excited about his freshman linebackers, such as Nate Schuler, Matt Little and Will Fleming. One or more of them will need to play in 2009. Outlook: So-so
Secondary -- The Zips have three defensive backs they can count on in Jalil Carter, Manley Waller and Miguel Graham. The key will be to find a strong safety. Perhaps the position will suit Wayne Cobham better than rover. Outlook: Dim Special teams -- Igor Iveljic and John Stec are back after mediocre seasons. Judging by the end of last season, Brookhart will rely on Miller at kick returner and Pride or Jones at punt returner. Don't be surprised if Torrence creeps into the picture. Another important job will be to find a holder and longsnapper. Outlook: So-so
Akron plays Niagara tomorrow on the road.
It's not the same Niagara you remember from 2007 (aka Buffalo's twin sister). The Eagles are 5-1, with their only loss coming to Villanova.
Their point guard, Rob Garrison, transferred from UConn. Although he played sparingly for the Huskies, he averages 15.7 points per game at Niagara. Also transferring from the Big East was Bilal Benn, a 6-foot-5 guard originally from Villanova who leads the team with 9.3 rebounds per game (also 12.3 ppg). Guard Tyrone Lewis leads Niagara with 17 points per game.
If the Zips win one of their next two games, fans should be very pleased.
I have three exams in the next five days, so my blogging will probably be sparse. I intend to attend the men's basketball game versus Dayton, though.
By the way, this blog is becoming more popular -- statistically, at least. It is now the second-most read blog on Ohio.com with 18,929 page views in November. Still, there are a lot of Zips fans who do not participate online. Urge them to bookmark this blog and also ZipsNation.org. The Internet is the best way to grow a grassroots base of fans.
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