I'm starting to pick up a pattern for Akron's rebuilding cycle.
In Year 1, a position is full of promise, but no experience. In Year 2, some players have emerged and others still are on the verge. In Year 3, the position is absolutely stacked.
The pattern has been clear with the receivers, defensive line and defensive backs. First, fans think, "Oh crap. These guys won't know what they're doing." Then it's, "Wow, they surprised me." Finally it's, "Just try and find a better unit in the conference."
The offensive line is in Year 3 of this cycle.
The Zips lost only one player from an offensive line that was a fortress in 2008. They protected Chris Jacquemain, who was sacked only 17 times. They spread holes for Dennis Kennedy, who looked like a superstar once he could reach the second level of defense.
Although the departed Chris Kemme was the leader of the group, I would argue that he plateaued will others continued to rise during the course of the season. Sophomore Jake Anderson appears to be the leader to take over for Kemme at left tackle. While Akron lost Kemme, it will gain Paul Simkovich, a touted recruit who sat out last year with a head injury.
The rest of the first string should remain the same with two juniors (Mike Ward and Corey Woods) and two seniors (Zack Anderson and Elliott Bates).
J.D. Brookhart can call on the following horses for depth: sophomores Simkovich and Dan Ronsman, junior Jason Sekinger and senior Casey Estrada. Those guys could start on many MAC teams. Brookhart has the luxury of using them to give the starters a rest.
It is a safe bet that the Zips' pass protection will continue to thrive in 2009. Further, whoever takes the handoffs will probably have a better season than he would behind any other line in the conference. He will have those big men up front to thank.
Grades Talent: B+ Experience: A- Depth: A Overall: A
What do you think?
Akron placed a stunning five players on the United States' U-18 club. Kofi Sarkodie and four incoming freshmen will train in California later this month.
This is just another objective indicator of Caleb Porter's prowess.
The Zips will continue their spring season Saturday in Fort Wayne, Ind., against Indiana University.
Find out more on the Zips' U-18 members on the Ohio.com Varsity Letters blog.