Cross your fingers. Stroke your rabbit's feet. Say your prayers.
Akron's defensive line has the potential to blow the whole season.
It's not that the linemen are that bad. There just aren't enough of them.
From what I have seen of Eric Lively and Jared Cecchetti, the two ends are serviceable, but probably not any better than that. Wallace Pendleton will start at nose tackle. The sophomore from Illinois took that job from Nate Robinson this spring.
OK. So the Zips' starters aren't half bad. In fact, including Robinson, four of them are fairly solid. But then what? Then we pray no one gets hurt or quits.
Shawn Lemon will backup Cecchetti. He's a freshman who uses bursts of speed to rush the quarterback. I would stop short of saying Lemon did not earn the backup job in spring. He had some nice sacks, but certainly you want a more seasoned player logging serious minutes like Lemon likely will.
After the spring, the coaches moved Tevlin Petit-Frere from linebacker to defensive line. That makes sense, given the depth at one position and the anemic state of the other. What doesn't make sense is Petit-Frere's 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame -- a size more common for a wide receiver than defensive lineman in a 3-3-5 scheme. Perhaps he will be used solely on third-and-long situations, but still...
Mitchell Magloire is another converted linebacker. He will backup Lively. Craig Truax also is in the mix. He was Lively's backup before suffering a foot/ankle injury that kept him out of spring practice. My guess is that Truax will work his way back into the two-deep before the season begins. The lack of experience is too high for a player who actually knows the position to be third-string.
If you're hoping for a true freshman to ride into the Rubber Bowl on a white horse, don't. Akron is waiting on six defensive line recruits to join the team this fall. None achieved higher than two stars from Rivals.com. I'd say there's still a possibility one of them works into the rotation.
So now I hope you understand how badly equipped the defensive line will be this season. I'm not saying it will be horrible for sure. There's always a possibility that Pendleton and Robinson fulfill their potential, that Lemon earns a starting job and becomes the Zips' sackmaster, that some of these linebackers bulk up to play admirably or that a true freshman joins the team and contributes immediately. It's just not looking all that likely.
As a Zips fan, that should concern you. Run stuffing will be very important to the defense. It will allow the Zips to effectively use all their secondary firepower to stop the pass. The linebackers, for example, can be more comfortable dropping into coverage on a play-action fake without being concerned of a 20-yard run. In the J.D. Brookhart era, Akron has shown the propensity to allow big running games.
The first major test will come in week two, when the Zips visit the Shoe and stud running back Chris Wells. Bring your rabbit's feet.
Here are three new offers...
Rumors have swirled that Rydell Brooks, formerly of Buchtel High, is interested in transferring home from Niagara.
The local newspaper reports that Brooks has left the team for personal reasons, but that Akron does not have a scholarship open for him.
In the spring of 2006, Brooks' decision came down to Niagara and Akron, the only schools that offered him a scholarship.
During the Purple Eagles' late season surge, Brooks started quite frequently, but he never played much more than the first few minutes of the half, the paper reports. He averaged 4.7 points in 18 minutes last year.