Akron did not have a problem with offense. Still, J.D. Brookhart replaced Joe Moorhead, who served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, with two former head coaches. I will steal Rotoworld.com's nickname by calling them "the brain trust." It's all very exciting.
Wait, hold on. Isn't the defense the problem -- more particularly, the run defense? Yes! And this has been an ongoing issue.
In 2008, Akron was 11th out of 13 MAC teams in run defense. In 2007, Akron was seventh, but actually gave up more yards per game.
You can point to a lot of causes. Akron lost many solid defensive linemen who would have been upperclassmen the past two seasons. For example, the Zips were 0-for-5 in retaining defensive linemen who signed in 2005. The team got two linemen from the 2004 class, but Jared Cecchetti and Eric Lively were recruited at other positions. The 2006 class produced only Shawn Lemon and Mitchell Magloire.
Another excuse could be the opponents. The Zips played great running teams in nonconference games, such as Wisconsin, Ohio State and UConn. Those teams rushed for 404, 196 and 262 yards, respectively.
The third, and most popular cause, is that the defensive scheme is a dead loser against the run. Akron has used a 3-3-5 defense since Brookhart arrived on campus. Early on, it received some positive press -- particularly when its novelty was stumping nonconference coaches. Most fans have soured on it as Akron coughs up 10-yard gains by the dozen.
So you have three potential reasons why Akron's run defense has withered. More than likely, all three have played a role. But at this point in the offseason, the coaches only can fix one of the problems: the scheme.
Here are three options for 2009:
Who plays where -- Linemen:
Almondo Sewell and
Chris Henderson. Linebackers:
Aaron Williams and
Sean Fobbs. Secondary:
Wayne Cobham and
The upside -- The players know it well. The coaches know it well. It requires opponents to adjust. It provides for a lot of creativity in blitzing. Finally, Akron has enough beef to make it work
The downside -- Historically, it has stunk. The Zips are heavy on linemen light on defensive backs, so it does not match the personnel. Because of the depth, several talented linemen won't get enough playing time under the 3-3-5.
Who plays where -- Linemen: Bain, Henderson and
Phil Tonga. Linebacker -- Sewell,
Shawn Lemon, Thomas and Williams. Secondary: Waller, Graham, Cobham and Carter.
The upside -- The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers have built dynasties upon this scheme. Having four linebackers allows Akron's best playmakers -- Lemon and Sewell -- to move into positions where they can cause more havoc. The 3-4 is similar to the 3-3-5, so a transition would not be as difficult.
The downside -- Like the 3-3-5, the 3-4 is not widely used in college football. These new linebackers will have to cover tight ends and slot receivers. Can they?
Who plays where -- Linemen: Sewell, Bain, Henderson, Lemon. Linebackers: Thomas, Williams and Fobbs. Secondary: Waller, Graham, Cobham and Carter.
The upside -- Finally -- a normal defense! Having four linemen allows Akron to show off its Lake Tahoe depth on the line. Give me some
Hasan Hazime and
The downside -- You might as well incinerate the playbook. It will be a total defensive reconstruction. The surprise element of Akron's defense is gone, too.