Davanzo Tate and Reggie Corner are two guys you'd swear have been on the team for five years.
Actually, they have.
They will start at the Zips' two cornerback positions in 2007. They have talent, speed and oodles of experience.
Last season, Tate was third in the MAC with 13 pass breakups. Corner intercepted four passes, second-highest total in the conference. He also added eight pass breakups, sixth-best in the MAC.
Both took untraditional routes to their fifth year of college football. Tate, the nation's 62nd best cornerback prospect out of Austintown Fitch High School in Youngstown, originally signed with West Virginia. He redshirted as a true freshman, then transferred to Akron, which forced him to sit out his redshirt freshman season.
Corner signed with Akron but did not qualify academically his first year. In order to regain his fifth year of eligibility, the former Canton McKinley Bulldog got on track to graduate in that many years.
At the backup spots are Miguel Graham and Rodney Etienne. Graham is a transfer from Coffeyville Junior College in Kansas. The 5-foot-9 junior runs a 4.41 in the 40-yard dash. Etienne, a sophomore, looks like a future defensive captain. Recruited as a safety, he might be playing out of position at cornerback, but I'm guessing the coaches just want to get him on the field.
I wouldn't go so far as to say either starter is a "shut-down corner." Dwight Smith was a shut-down corner because he could control an entire side of the field, a former teammate of Smith's told me last night. Corner and Tate, however, are good players and could be All-MAC selections this season.
After an unprecedented finish at the MAC Championships, Dennis Mitchell thought his Zips were ready for uncharted waters at regionals and nationals.
A month later, he is empty-handed.
"This was a tough one for us," the coach said. "We are very disappointed. In the past we have always done well at nationals. However, we were not able to achieve the same intensity, focus and execution of technique at the next levels."
Natalie Sako, a four-time All-American, finished her career with a 17th place finish in the high jump. She was able to get the height necessary, but her injured back prevented her from executing the contortion necessary to avoid banging the bar.
"She competed smart and like a good veteran of national and international competition," Mitchell said. "It will be hard to see her go."
Stevi Large, only a sophomore, perhaps became too nervous before the hammer throw preliminaries. She finished 14th.
"She was affected by the preliminary jitters where she was very tight in the throwing ring." Mitchell said. "She is still very young. She has a great two years still ahead of her."
Auston Papay didn't throw his best in either the shot put or discus, but he'll be back for his senior year.