The offense scored a bit of revenge from the spring game today, going on a streak of about 15 minutes where the passes crisply hit their marks and running backs broke free for first downs.
As Carlton Jackson and Sean Hakes moved the ball, the offense's sidelines looked like a team counting down the seconds before being handed the MAC Championship.
Of course, the defensive captain (and craziest man on the field), John Mackey, didn't like that. He fired up the defense, which began to blitz, and the defense regained its dominance for the remainder of the fourth-to-last spring practice.
Dennis Kennedy continues to look really good. He doesn't possess
LaDanian Tomlinson's speed,
Jerome Bettis' force or
Barry Sanders' vision, but he does each of those things pretty well.
Also notching some impressive runs were Joe McDaniel and Joe Tuzze. Both are superb blockers, but you're not handing the ball to either on first-and-10. That brings me to my next point...
The run blocking has really improved. The holes are wide up the middle and running backs have even more space to the outside. Kennedy's longest run was off tackle left. Coach J.D. Brookhart said run blocking has been the focus so far in spring. It shows.
The downside to that is the pass blocking is subpar, and even inoperable at times. "Pass protection in general (is struggling)," Brookhart said.
Hopefully, it's a sign the Zips defense will start blitzing more. With two exceptional pass rushers (linebackers Doug Williams and Brion Stokes), the Zips might as well have five men on the line for some plays.
Defensive highlights include back-to-back pops on the ball carrier by Al-Teric Balaam and Yamari Dixon. Neither of these guys have a problem firing themselves like a rocket right at your helmet. Those consecutive hits swayed the celebration back to the defense's sideline.
It's sort of a shame the quarterbacks are protected by red jerseys. I really want to see the them run more in the open field. It's one thing to slide through a hole in the line and hear the whistles blow. It's another to run the option, knowing a linebacker wants to stick his helmet into your jaw.
Speaking of the option, the Zips ran a nifty reverse option today. It didn't really go anywhere, however, because the defense did not overpursue.
I talked to Brookhart a bit about recruiting, which always fascinates me. I asked him how his coaches decipher whom to pursue. They can't go after the blue chippers, because Ohio State, Penn State, etc. will beat them out. So how do you find that second tier, yet keep your eyes open for guys who might want to choose Akron over the big boys? "You have to ask the tough questions," the coach said.
He means he tells his coaches not to fear rejection. Just ask Chris Wells, for example, if he would consider the Zips. You'll hear a lot of "no"s, but every once in a while, you'll find a Paul Simkovich who will say "yes."
Most recruiting trips are done in the winter months following the season. Then the coaches set sail again in May and June. Brookhart named Indiana, Illinois and Connecticut as three high-majors with whom the Zips regularly duel. It couldn't hurt to beat two of those teams in their own stadiums this season.
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