Step one in learning about the Zips' linebacking scheme: Figure out what the heck J.D. Brookhart is talking about when he says "sam," "mike" and "bandit."
Sam is the strong-side linebacker. Mike plays in the middle. Bandit is a safety/linebacker hybrid who is typically your fastest linebacker because he chases the play from the weak side.
OK. Now let's get to the starters...
Kevin Grant, a freshman All-American honorable mention two seasons ago, had a quiet season in that he did not record a sack. In 2005, he had 4.5 of them. Still, the middle linebacker was second on the team with 87 tackles (John Mackey, 88).
Doug Williams, the bandit or weak-side linebacker, possibly had the best spring season of anyone on the team. If that translates to the regular season, the junior from Tampa will be one of the MAC's best defensive players the next two years.
Then we have Brion Stokes, the senior who plays on the strong side, who will be crucial to the Zips' pass rush. As the team's best blitzer, according to Brookhart, he led the team with 5.5 sacks last season. CollegeFootballNews.com calls Stokes the Zips' best player, period.
Now it's time to pull out the wild card: Al-Teric Balaam whose talent probably makes Brookhart wish he could go to a 3-4 defense for this season. The sophomore is talented enough to play any linebacker position today if needed. Both Balaam and backup bandit Amin Kabir will give the Zips a solid linebacking corps for the next three years.
There is no doubt Akron's linebackers are among the MAC's best. The question will be whether the defensive line can consume enough blockers to allow them to make plays on the ball carrier.
Domonick Britt, the dual-threat quarterback Akron had been recruiting,
committed to Cincinnati in a close call over West Virginia. The way Brookhart has recruited quarterbacks, it wouldn't be all that bad to miss out on one this year. Even so, the Zips still have three active targets.
broke down Bowling Green. He says the Falcons' defense will be strong with eight starters returning from last year's unit that was 38th in the nation. Of course, they still don't have a quarterback. Akron will travel to Bowling Green for this year's matchup.
tight end, Frankfort, Ill.
Offers: Akron, Western Michigan and Eastern Illinois
Speed: Not listed
Notes: It's pretty obvious the Zips' coaches are desperate to get a tight end this season. They have regressed to offer a guy who is getting sub-Bowl Division offers. That must mean they aren't confident about the other two targets:
Mike Cruz and
Likelihood: Iowa, Purdue and Ball State might offer sometime in the future. For now, Hammond
admits he doesn't know much about Akron, but has heard nothing but good things about its facilities and football team. I think this is a guy the Zips will land.
offensive tackle, Fresco, Pa.
Offers: Akron, Temple, Connecticut and Virginia
Notes: Running a sub-5.0 in the 40 is impressive for a lineman. Rivals.com
says he's one of Pennsylvania's fastest rising prospects and
maintains a 3.0 GPA.
Likelihood: Lewis visited Virginia, and he plans to commit there soon. Penn State and Michigan have scholarship offers "in the mail." So we'll see if that is enough to sway him. Akron's chances are zilch.
offensive guard, Fort Washington, Md.
Offers: Akron, Connecticut, Wake Forest and Kent State
Notes: Sales comes from the same high school as incoming Zips freshman
Vince Hill. Despite their proximity, he is one of the few recruits for whom Akron is battling Kent.
Likelihood: Sales really
seems to like Wake Forest. The other four schools in his top five have not yet offered a scholarship. Sales plans to announce his decision early in the season, but it almost certainly will be the Demon Deacons.
defensive end, Shaker Heights, Ohio
Offers: Akron, Wisconsin, Bowling Green and Miami
Notes: He might also fit at defensive tackle or offensive tackle.
Likelihood: Although not listed on Rivals, almost every MAC team has offered, Stoller said. He has an uncle who teaches at Wisconsin but
says he's pretty wide open.