Under Keith Dambrot, players have never returned from summer in such great shape, according to assistant coach Jeff Boals.
The team opened its conditioning period with a mile run. Cedrick Middleton, who spent his summer interning at ESPN in Bristol, Conn., blew everyone away with a time of 4 minutes, 47 seconds.
Many players have lost significant weight, including Jeremiah Wood, Steve McNees and Nick Dials.
The Zips worked really hard last season to compile an outstanding record. With the way it all disappeared with Penno's Prayer, the team could have responded in two ways: give up or work even harder. Coaches are raving about how their players have taken the latter path, and it all starts with Middleton (who must be considered team captain, in my opinion).
"Coach was talking about how Cedrick has changed the complexion of the program with how hard he works," Boals said.
Another good sign is that every player is solid academically.
Looking ahead, the starting lineup probably will consist of three guards again. You can't keep Middleton or Dials out of the starting lineup, but you also don't want to force either into a true point guard role. Ronnie Steward, a Dru Joyce clone, and McNees, a flashy passer, will platoon at the 1.
The coaches are realistic in thinking the team might not be that great to begin the year. Joyce and Romeo Travis meant a lot, particularly in intangibles. Joyce's graduation leaves a hole for the team's "quarterback" and go-to shooter in the clutch. Travis' offense and rebounding kept Akron alive in many games.
The team has just one exhibition scheduled. Walsh University will visit on Nov. 8.
(The purpose of this post is to deter mass suicide among Zips fans if Akron loses to Army on Saturday.)