Offensive tackle Chris Kemme will get a chance to continue his football career with the 0-16 Detroit Lions.
Kemme played in 47 of 49 possible games in his four years at Akron. He was central to the resurrection of the Zips' line over the past two seasons.
He is the third Zip to sign a pro contract, following Bryan Williams (Browns) and Brandon Anderson (Colts). Don't be surprised if you see long snapper Brian Flaherty and linebacker Kevin Grant catch on somewhere, as well.
Michael Green had been waiting for a scholarship offer. When he finally got one from the school he wanted most, he accepted.
Green, a 6-foot-7 forward, has visited Akron, and the Zips sat atop his wish list. He committed Monday night, according to Tom Gaffney. He averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds as a junior at Dublin's Coffman High School.
Green is a tough rebounder and interior defender. Combine that with his scoring ability, and Green is a player whose skill set Akron has lacked since Romeo Travis.
Presumably, Akron extended its offer to Green after Ralph Hill chose Dayton over the Zips.
Akron has two scholarships to offer to its 2010 class. The last I heard, one would go to Darryl Roberts. I suppose that Adreian Payne would take it if he commits with Akron.
The past year, I have wished Akron would sign a big man, who really isn't all that big -- a guy who has the skill of a blue-chip center but the size of a small forward. The MAC has thrived off of these sorts of players, who aren't really the type to make scouts drool, but are the type to average 15 and eight for their careers.
Akron's second commitment for 2010 is a dual-threat quarterback from southeastern Ohio.
Dylan Potts, 6-foot-1 of Hannibal, Ohio runs the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds. As a junior, Potts passed for 13 touchdowns and ran for 13.
Akron was his only offer, but he also has interest in Toledo and Kent State.
Bryan Williams signed with the Cleveland Browns within 24 hours of the NFL Draft's conclusion. Fellow defensive back Brandon Anderson signed with the Indianapolis Colts.
I strongly feel that Williams can catch on as a special teams player in the NFL. Although the league has precious few kick returner positions, Williams is certainly talented enough to be a gunner on the kick coverage unit.
Over is Akron's streak of four consecutive NFL Drafts with a Zip being selected in the first four rounds.
In fact, no Akron player with his eyes posted to ESPN on Sunday heard his name called. Kevin Grant and Bryan Williams probably had the best chance, and I'm certain they will sign with teams in the next couple weeks.
The MAC was well-represented in the early rounds by historical standards. Northern Illinois' Larry English was the No. 16 pick of the San Diego Chargers. Louis Delmas of Western Michigan (33rd to Detroit) and Mike Mitchell of Ohio (47th to Oakland) were second rounders.
Here are the other MAC draftees:
3rd Round (75th to Dallas) -- Robert Brewster, OT from Ball State 4th Round (109th to Green Bay) -- T.J. Lang, OT from Eastern Michigan 5th Round (171st to San Francisco) -- Nate Davis, QB from Ball State 7th Round (217th to Tampa Bay) -- E.J. Biggers, CB from Western Michigan 7th Round (232nd to New England) -- Julian Edelman, QB from Kent State 7th Round (237th to Kansas City) -- Jake O'Connell, TE from Miami
Tom Gaffney wrote a story updating fans on Adreian Payne's recruitment.
The nation's No. 11 player was on campus this weekend for the King James Shooting Stars Classic. Payne says Akron is still in the mix because of his relationship with Keith Dambrot.
As of 1:15 p.m., no Zips player has been selected in the NFL Draft.
I think Bryan Williams will be drafted at some point, but don't be surprised if there is a total snub.
The hooligan hippies had a fun night on Saturday, igniting street fires, tearing down traffic signs and chanting "KSU! KSU! KSU!"
As if it's not a big enough disgrace that students are raising Cain, they want everyone to know what fine institution they are representing.
I know I've gone a little poll-crazy the past few months. Asking about the strength of the special teams is probably where I crossed the line.
Here is a question that is truly compelling. What sport's next season is most exciting for you?
Is it the basketball team, which is coming off its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 23 years and will introduce the highest-profile recruit in MAC history?
Is it the football team, which is moving into a brand new on-campus stadium with a deep roster full of promise?
Is it the soccer team, which appears closer to a national championship than any team in university history?
Seriously, I don't know the answer to this question. Do you?
Touted recruit Adreian Payne will visit campus again this week for the King James Shooting Stars Classic.
Payne's team is All-Ohio Red, which plays Friday at 7:20 p.m. Tom Gaffney will cover the game for the Beacon Journal.
You can view the schedule here. All-Ohio Red is listed as "17A1," which will make more sense when you look at the schedule.
Special teams have been J.D. Brookhart's pet project for the past couple seasons.
You can't argue with the results. The once-atrocious kicking game has been sturdy. The returners have excelled. But there is still room for improvement. With Bryan Williams gone, it is imperative that Akron maintains some sort of advantage on kick returns. The place kicker can get much better. Andre Jones took a large step back statistically in 2008, presumably because teams were avoiding him.
Caleb Porter firmly believes in the merit of testing his team during the regular season.
Once again, his team will face the nation's stiffest competition in order to prepare the Zips to advance deep in the NCAA Tournament.
Akron's 18-game regular-season schedule includes five foes with top-30 RPIs.
Here are two games Zips fans are certain to circle: Sept. 18 vs. Indiana and Sept. 30 vs. Ohio State. Both games are at Lee Jackson Field.
Two players from Indianapolis' Ben Davis High School visited campus last weekend.
The first player to unofficially join Akron's 2010 recruiting class is one of Ohio's best tight ends, according to Rivals.com.
Six-foot-5 Anthony Ritossa committed on Monday. The product of the Division V Kirtland High School, Ritossa has shown a great amount of skill as a pass catcher, a scout for Rivals.com reports.
Ritossa runs the 40-yard dash in 4.9 seconds. As a junior, he caught 23 passes for 491 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Former Zips quarterback Charlie Frye is working out in Akron, and he hopes to sign with a team before mini-camps begin.
The five-year veteran probably will not re-sign with the Seattle Seahawks. According to a report, he has been working out with Kent State's Julian Edelman, who also is hoping to catch the eye of NFL folks (but probably as a returner or receiver).
If there is a position that can make or break the Zips' 2009 season, it is running back.
Most will agree that the talent is rich. Most also will contend that the bones, tendons and muscles are fragile.
J.D. Brookhart made it clear who will play in the fall. It is Alex Allen, Dale Martin and then everybody else. If you're in the "everybody else" category, don't fret. Allen and Martin have a first down's worth of medical charts.
Martin was a four-star recruit out of Bollingbrook High School in Illinois, the same school that Ryan Bain attended. He committed to Louisville and sat out his first year with a shoulder injury. In his first spring since transferring to Akron, Martin tore his Achilles' tendon. According to the original prognosis, Martin will be out until at least July and possibly as late as September.
Allen's future is a little brighter, but his past has been riddled with injuries. He used a medical redshirt in 2006 after tearing his ACL. He was granted a medical hardship waiver for last year's season, which ended on Sept. 13 with a hip fracture. Before the injury, Allen averaged 4.8 yards per carry as the starting running back. The fifth-year senior sat out during the spring, probably more as a precaution against re-injuring the hip.
Here is a brief breakdown of the other backs who almost certainly will get a chance...
DeVoe Torrence -- A four-star prospect, Torrence committed to Ohio State. The Buckeyes rescinded their offer when Torrence was charged with rape. He was later acquitted. In terms of talent, Torrence is top-shelf. His lack of experience has hurt him in Brookhart's eyes. Torrence missed some time in the spring with an ankle injury. In the spring game, he rushed three times for 32 yards.
Joe Tuzze -- Tuzze will provide depth and serve as the short-yardage horse if he's healthy. He missed the spring with an injured back. Tuzze had 14 carries in 2008 and averaged 6.1 yards.
Nate Burney -- The 5-foot-6 junior showed this spring that he is capable of taking carries. He is more valuable catching passes out of the backfield.
Gary Pride -- If Pride is healthy, he might get a few carries on unorthodox running plays. Pride isn't the sort of back who you want plowing through the middle, though.
Broderick Alexander -- As the only running back recruit from the 2009 class, the coaches would prefer to redshirt him.
Northeast Ohioans love a good quarterback controversy.
Or maybe it's just that they hate the starter.
Whatever the cause, it seems like the Browns' most popular player is the one holding the clipboard. That trend always disturbed me, and I feel internally inconsistent in that I have led a charge to get Matt Rodgers some playing time.
Well, I'm professing today that I have changed my tune. Chris Jacquemain is the starter, and he deserves to play until proving he has regressed from last season.
If it was any other year, Akron should go with the running quarterback with a higher ceiling. But this year is the most critical in the team's history. The Zips will garner interest from people who did not even know Akron had a football team in Division I. With a bowl appearance, the team can sucker these people in to becoming long-term fans. With another sub-.500 season, these people will say, "Nice stadium, but I've seen enough."
That said, the risk-reward analysis favors handing the ball to Jacquemain, who improved from his sophomore to junior years and should profit from Walt Harris and Shane Montgomery's guidance to become a better player as a senior.
Before, I had pushed for Rodgers to get meaningful playing time, even if Jacquemain kept the starter tag. Now, I'm thinking Rodgers' only appearance should be in blowouts or in specific situations in which the coaches determine Rodgers skills are better (i.e. Tim Tebow at the goalline, circa 2007).
What do you think?
My first concern about Jeff Boals leaving was, "Who's going to give me all of my basketball scoops now?"
Just kidding. I actually wondered about what Zeke Marshall thought.
His mom posted on ZipsNation.org that all is well:
Within a week, Akron will lose its top assistant and recruiter to Ohio State, a source tells me.
Jeff Boals will join Thad Matta's staff with the Buckeyes, as if Ohio State needed any help recruiting big men.
Boals was the primary contact with Zeke Marshall, the No. 40 player in the nation who signed with Akron. Boals also was hot after Adreian Payne, the No. 10 player in the class of 2010. Payne has a visit to Akron scheduled for Saturday. The Buckeyes also had offered a scholarship to Payne. Akron's inside track on Payne certainly made Boals even more attractive to Matta.
Boals had been rumored to Xavier, and the rumors had some merit. Losing him to Ohio State is better in that regard because Xavier and Akron compete for recruits more often.
Keith Dambrot knew he couldn't keep Boals forever. Just like he knew he couldn't hang onto Shaka Smart for very long. Smart is head coach at VCU. Boals' career is on its way up. He is a great person, and he deserves it.
While I'm thrilled for Boals, I wonder how this will affect Akron's 2010 class and Marshall's commitment to the program. Luckily, the 2010 class will only consist of one player, and Marshall is a high-character person. So, if you had to pick a time for Boals to go, it could be much worse.
It seems like college basketball and football programs are in one of two modes: 1) Hemorrhaging coaches to bigger programs. 2) Looking to fire their coaches. Akron is an exception in that Dambrot has no interest in other jobs. Losing assistant coaches is a small price to pay for building a long-term winning program. Look at all of the coaches Kent State has lost over the past decade. That would be much more traumatic.
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.
Akron is paper thin at tight end. A couple of tweaks, and the Zips best hope at running back is a freshman. Akron added two passing gurus to the coaching staff.
Those three facts suggest that the Zips will use a lot of wide receivers this season. Seeing four- and five-receiver sets should not surprise anyone.
The Zips have a load of players capable of being productive receivers. The issue is sorting through the eight players who might earn playing time.
I compiled a list of all the players to whom Akron has offered a scholarship.
It should serve as a quick way for you to search for a given player. Here is the link. But you can also look on the right panel on this blog, where I permanently placed the link.
As of now, the list stands at 18.
Maybe I'm noticing it for the first time, but the roster now lists Shawn Lemon as a linebacker.
As I have written on numerous occasions, Lemon's attributes beg for him to play outside linebacker as a pass-rush specialist. I think Almondo Sewell is similar in some ways, but he is an All-MAC defensive end, so there's no use in changing a good thing.
Lemon will join potential All-MAC linebackers Mike Thomas and Aaron Williams. Some combination of the talented young backers Troy Gilmer, Brian Wagner and Will Fleming certainly will earn playing time. You also have serviceable upperclassmen Sean Fobbs and Al-Teric Balaam for depth.
When J.D. Brookhart says he wants to rotate between six or seven linebackers, those are the players of which he speaks. I think the linebacking corps is shaping up to be as deep as the defensive line. Well, almost.
The secondary is a different story. It reminds me of the defensive line of this time last year.
Brookhart has four solid defensive backs in Jalil Carter, Tyler Campbell, Manley Waller and Miguel Graham. I think Wayne Cobham can be productive once he leaves the rover position, which did not suit him well.
The starters are fine, but the second string brings a lot of question marks. Brookhart must rely on at least three players who lack game experience. Marvase Byrd and Josh Richmond are athletic enough to do it. Kevin Davis, a juco transfer, probably has more knowledge about what it takes to play secondary in college. Perhaps the coaches can get some minutes out of three-star newcomers Diamond Weaver and Bill Alexander, as well.
Like the defensive line in 2008, the 2009 secondary has some dependable pieces and some untested talent. If all goes well, the unit could develop into a strength for 2010. If injuries occur and development slows, then we're looking at a collapse that could negate the defense's strength: the front seven.
Remember, Akron will enjoy serious talent on the defensive line. It's definitely the best defensive line that Brookhart ever has had, even if Ryan Bain is hurt. With the linebacker positions looking stronger, it's time to get excited about the Zips finally stopping the run.
After the season, it seemed like Akron's four-year streak of having a player selected in the first four rounds of the NFL Draft would end. A couple of Zips, however, are moving up teams' draft boards.
Kevin Grant, for example, worked out with the Washington Redskins last week, a source tells me. RealGM.com ranks Grant as a top-20 inside linebacker.
After running a sub-4.4 time in the 40-yard dash, Bryan Williams also has moved up the strong safety rankings. NFLDraftScout.com calls Williams the No. 17 strong safety. Clearly, Williams has value as a kick returner, too.
Brandon Anderson, Chris Kemme, Andrew Johnson and Merce Poindexter are also candidates for the draft, but their hopes will be more soundly lodged in the post-draft signing period. Longsnapper Brian Flaherty worked out with a scout from the Browns during Akron's Pro Day. Unfortunately, the Browns have one of the league's best longsnappers in Ryan Pontbriand.
The NFL Draft is on April 25. The Zips will be focused more on the 26th, when ESPN broadcasts the third through seventh rounds.
One of Akron's biggest recruiting rivals took a hit this week when Xavier coach Sean Miller accepted the head job at Arizona.
One player who verbally committed to Xavier already has said he will reopen his recruitment. J.D. Weatherspoon will consider Arizona, as well as the other schools, including Akron, that have offered him a scholarship.
The big prize, of course, is Adreian Payne, the No. 10 recruit in the nation who had visited Xavier. One would think that the Musketeers would fall off the pace in that battle.
Xavier also had interest in Allen Payne and Josh Sewell, two players to whom Akron had offered a scholarship.
Ohio.com has stepped up its sports coverage with the resurgence of two blogs: Varsity Letters and NewsFlashes.
The former has great recruiting updates. In fact, it posted the story about Adriean Payne before me. The latter has a new author to give you updates about the hated rivals. That way Kent State fans can stop lurking over here.
To be sincere, I am more than happy to have Kent State fans post their thoughts over here. My blog traffic nearly doubled this March, compared to March 2008, and I credit a lot of that to Flashes fans.
For what it's worth, Pat McManamon's blog is Ohio.com's most popular. He does a great job with frequent updates, sound opinions and is one of the best self-editors I have seen.
My all-time Internet favorite, of course, is Bill Simmons. His material can be a boost during boring classes.
Tom Gaffney wrote about Mike Thomas, whose size has not prevented him from becoming one of the conference's better linebackers.
The Blue-Gold game is Saturday at noon in the Stile Field House.
Warren Lynum II has a Figure Four on the AK-Rowdies Bracket Challenge. He leads by 11 and has North Carolina winning it all.
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