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Camp questions: Quarterback

By mrasor Published: July 31, 2007

Football
The situation: Akron's quarterback situation has always been fairly stable. Ever since Charlie Frye won the job his freshman year, Zips fans could count on a proven entity. Even two years ago, when Luke Getsy and Jabari Arthur battled for the position, the prevailing thought was that converting the latter to wide receiver would serve more team needs. Getsy, also, was a BCS recruit who nearly won the starting job at Pitt.
Three signal callers are in play this fall. They are sophomores Carlton Jackson and Chris Jacquemain and freshman Sean Hakes. Although Jackson finished last season as No. 2 behind Getsy, Zips coaches publicly say it's a wide-open job, and it almost certainly will come down to performance during preseason camp, which begins Monday.
The question: Which quarterback fits best into the Zips offensive philosophy?
Discussion: From what I can tell, the talent is not that much different. There are different skills, however. Each player possesses running ability, but in different ways. Jackson is a speedster. Jacquemain has the field vision. Hakes is more physical and doesn't mind trucking over a tackler.
Each can throw the ball, too, but in different ways. Jackson has a strong arm and showed off his deep ball in his only pass last season. Jacquemain appears to be a great fit for a team with a lot of possession receivers. Hakes likes to throw on the run. But like I said, the real question is which quarterback fits in best with the team's strategy, which is to run the ball and rely on the pass defense to keep the game close.
Now you have to factor in an inexperience offensive line. Due to a lack of healthy quarterbacks and a more pressing concern to better the run blocking, J.D. Brookhart focused on moving the ball on the ground during the spring. It appears the line will be able to block at least adequately for Dennis Kennedy and Alex Allen.
The line's progression at pass blocking, however, may very well sway the coaching staff from one quarterback to another. Here's what I'm talking about ... Jackson needs a good line. At only 6-foot-2, 192 pounds, he could be one solid sack from an injury. That isn't so important for Hakes, who is more in the mold of Frye. He will scramble and looks less brittle than Jackson. Jacquemain is strong, too, but prefers pocket passing.
There's also another objective for the Zips' quarterback: Don't screw up. The offense's job isn't to put up 40 points and 400 yards passing. It's to let the running game dominate, but also keep the defense from stacking the box. Hakes has shown a propensity for screw ups. His competition has done a little better, but the preseason practices should wipe the slate clean.
Lastly, look at the other personnel on offense. Without David Harvey, there are few, if any, deep threats. That takes away from Jackson's game.
Prediction: The coaches will use all of these factors to make the decision. The main factor, though, is how the quarterbacks play the next few weeks. Jackson has done nothing to take away his status as the leader at the end of last season. Given the personnel, it might make more sense to have a durable, mistake-free quarterback. If the pass protection falters, that probably works into Hakes' favor.
I'm embarassed to say I have flip-flopped on this for awhile. I went from Jackson to Hakes to Jacquemain to Jackson again. What do you think?

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Camp questions: Defensive line

By mrasor Published: July 30, 2007

Football
The situation: Akron's defensive line might be one injury away from a catastrophe. Depth certainly is thin this season. Only three d-linemen on the roster, Eric Lively, Jared Cecchetti and Nate Robinson, have some experience.
Robinson, once the No. 1 prospect in the nation, could not keep his job this spring. Sophomore Wallace Pendleton overtook him at nose tackle. In a way, that's good news because Akron coaches believe they have a fourth serviceable defensive lineman.
In the spring, a possible fifth lineman emerged in Shawn Lemon. The freshman worked his way onto the depth chart behind Cecchetti. But he's a lineman closer to the mold of Doug Williams, whom Akron converted to linebacker because he's not bulky enough to play line in the 3-3-5 defense.
The question: Will a sixth or seventh lineman emerge to lighten the load on the starters and lessen the blow on a potential injury? Also, will the 3-3-5 defense last all season?
Discussion: Akron was OK against the run last season, but the Zips defensive linemen totaled just 7.5 sacks all season. Allowing opposing quarterbacks so much time had two negative results. First, at times it made the Zips' secondary look worse than it really was. Second, it allowed mobile quarterbacks time to find gaps to run and crippled Akron on third downs.
Mind you, this was with a defensive line that included two future professionals in Kiki Gonzalez (Kansas City Chiefs) and Jermaine Reid (CFL). If the line can't affect the game with talented, adequately sized players, how will it fare without them?
That brings me to my whacky idea. Can we please ditch the 3-3-5? It's concealing the true talent on this defense while accentuating a weakness -- interior linemen. With a 4-3 defense, which is pretty standard in any level of football, Williams and Lemon could play defensive end. The team would have depth at defensive tackle, but of course, lose some at end.
Prediction: J.D. Brookhart has sworn allegiance to the 3-3-5, and that's fine. It's not very feasible to switch during camp anyhow. With any luck, one of the true freshmen will show some ability to adapt to college football sooner than expected. Although I'm convinced Akron would be better served without the 3-3-5, the more important goal for camp is to find another lineman who can play. I think the Zips will.
Tomorrow: Who is the quarterback?

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Camp is almost here

By mrasor Published: July 30, 2007

Football
Players report for camp on Aug. 5. They begin practice the next day.
In the week heading up to this momentus occasion, I will address the five burning questions that training camp poses. I hope you readers will chime in with your own assessments and predictions.

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MAC recruiting update

By mrasor Published: July 28, 2007

Football
Here's a look at how the MAC teams are faring according to Rivals.com.

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NCAA 2007 ratings

By mrasor Published: July 27, 2007

Football
Three players tied for the highest rating in the new NCAA Football video game.
Reggie Corner, Brion Stokes and Jabari Arthur each received an 87 rating.
The lowest is player No. 44 with a rating of 51. Player No. 44 is not listed on the roster.

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Brookhart wants to narrow QB field

By mrasor Published: July 26, 2007

Football
By the end of the first week of camp, Akron's quarterback situation should be a bit clearer.
The team will narrow the three-candidate race to two by then, J.D. Brookhart said during yesterday's MAC Media Day.
David Lee Morgan's ABJ story also confirms that David Harvey has left the team due to academic reasons.
I found his quote to be somewhat interesting: "It's disappointing not having David, but we all have requirements to take care of,'' Brookhart said. "Unfortunately, that's the way it is, and we're moving on."
It mirrors what he said during spring practice, except I believe he used the word "obligations," rather than "requirements." At the time, it sounded a lot like he was helping a sick family member or something nobler than flunking out.
I will say it again -- and this prediction rests on no inside information -- I don't think we've seen the last of David Harvey.

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Notes from media day

By mrasor Published: July 26, 2007

Football
A few of you asked if I would attend Media Day in Detroit.
It's a lousy city. I have three jobs. Law school is going to make me too broke to hit up the casinos to make the trip worth it.
So no. I did not attend, or even consider it.
But MACReportOnline.com did. Dave Ruthenberg of that site wrote down some notes. Check them out.

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Zips picked third in MAC poll

By mrasor Published: July 25, 2007

Football
Akron will finish third in the seven-team MAC East, according to the annual poll at the conference's media day today.
Ohio and Kent State will take first and second, respectively. Miami, Bowling Green, Temple and Buffalo will round out the division.
Western Michigan will take the West, followed by Central Michigan, Toledo, Ball State, Northern Illinois and Eastern Michigan.
Brion Stokes and Jabari Arthur accompanied J.D. Brookhart to this year's media day held in Detroit.

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Manny vows to fight for land

By mrasor Published: July 24, 2007

Football
The ABJ's Carol Biliczky wrote a fascinating article about Manuel Nemer and the impending eminent domain battle for his businesses on Exchange Street.
The story suggests Manny wants more than fair market value for his businesses -- Manny's Pub and Aroma Coffee and Tea. He wants to be part of the new stadium complex, or at least nearby.
In the end, the businesses cannot stay. They absolutely are part of the university's stadium complex plan. It probably will come down to UA helping Manny stay on the Zip Strip in a different location, or UA not helping Manny and having to go to court.
If I came to America with $6, I'm pretty sure I'd be pretty strong willed to keep my businesses, too.

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How could they? Adidas turns back on UA

By mrasor Published: July 24, 2007

Miscellaneous
Just read the story. Those bastards!
I wonder if Nike would like a new collegiate partner.

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Getsy has third-biggest shoes to fill

By mrasor Published: July 23, 2007

Football
Whoever wins the quarterback job will have high expectations, according to CollegeFootballNews.com.
Akron's passer is the third-most important position to fill in the MAC, the site says. The writer expects Ohio and a resurgent Miami to battle for the East crown, although he mentions Akron as a solid program not to be counted out.
I'm a bit surprised not many fans have discussed who they would like to see as the starting quarterback. It's the biggest position battle the team has seen in two years when Luke Getsy took the job over Jabari Arthur.
In Carlton Jackson, you have a total athlete with a great arm. (In fact, recruiting sites listed him as an athlete, not a quarterback, coming out of Pompano Beach, Fla.) But you have some character concerns, as Jackson was suspended last season.
In Chris Jacquemain, you have a good option-running quarterback who won't lose the game for you, but probably won't win it either.
In Sean Hakes, you have a combination of the two, with the added bonus of an extra year of eligibility in front of him. He has struggled, however, to limit interceptions in practice.
Who do you guys like?

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Zips lock up defensive end

By mrasor Published: July 22, 2007

Football
Defensive end Kyle Roddenberry from Crystal River, Fla., committed recently to play for Akron.
Neither Rivals.com or Scout.com rank the 6-foot-2, 218-pound prospect very highly. The Zips were his only scholarship offer. His high school team is pretty awful, too.
Still, Akron always will need serviceable defensive ends, and Roddenberry appears he could be one. It helps that his high school plays the same scheme as J.D. Brookhart -- the 3-3-5 formation.

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Some thoughts on the stadium

By mrasor Published: July 20, 2007

Football
I appreciate all the feedback on the stadium. It justified all the hassle the university gave me in acquiring the rendering.
Here are some of my thoughts...

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STADIUM RENDERING

By mrasor Published: July 19, 2007

Football
(Click to enlarge)
My first words were, "Holy crap. That stadium looks absolutely breathtaking." Your thoughts?

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What's up with the stadium plan

By mrasor Published: July 19, 2007

Football
For more than a month, the university has fed me semi-truths as to why I cannot have the stadium plan.
First, it was, "They aren't complete, so you can't have them." Then, it was, "The board of trustees hasn't seen them, so neither can you." Last, it was, "It doesn't constitute a public record."
During this battle, I was fully aware of the real reason: UA wants a big party in early August where fans can feast their eyes upon the new stadium for the first time.
Finally, the university admitted to me today that the entire stadium plan is mine if I want it. UA also said that it has big plans to "surprise" people on Aug. 1 with some exciting details about the stadium.
Because there is no real journalistic purpose in spoiling a surprise, I had no problem with a compromise. I will have one new rendering for you in the coming days (possibly today).
I suppose it would've been nice to be taken seriously before I threatened legal action.

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Dome possible in future

By mrasor Published: July 18, 2007

Football
The new open-air stadium has potential for conversion to a dome, the Buchtelite's Adam Ferrise reports.
His story also provides a timeline for the construction.
UA could break ground on the stadium, which Mack Rhoades says will rival the nation's best facilities, by next spring. Standing in the way is the acquisition of all the land, but the university has six months to complete that while construction plans are drafted.

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Harvey, Lindsey missing for months

By mrasor Published: July 17, 2007

Football
It's too early to say with absolutely certainty that wide receivers Jermaine Lindsey and David Harvey will not play in 2007.
The university has not said anything about their eligibility. However, a big indication of the future is that neither has participated during the offseason program. Harvey has been AWOL since the spring. Lindsey hasn't been around since June.
So where does that leave the team in terms of receivers? From what I'm hearing, juniors Stephon Fuqua and Brandon Williams are having strong summers. They appear to be the No. 2 and 3 receivers respectively, unless a true freshman can earn playing time (cough, Vince Hill).
As far as the quarterback situation goes, Carlton Jackson probably still has the advantage. I'm starting to remember the feeling in the stands during CJ's debut at the Rubber Bowl. A tangible buzz filled the air. That feeling was on the sidelines, too, according to a player I spoke with.
This summer, many true freshman have participated in the offseason program. One is quarterback Matt Rodgers. From what I hear, this guy is a real talent. He possesses a great arm and surprising maturity and intelligence for a freshman.
A new offer...

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Travis finally gets some minutes

By mrasor Published: July 16, 2007

Men's basketball
The Las Vegas Summer League is complete, and Romeo Travis barely had a chance to prove he deserves an invitation to Cavaliers camp.
He played in three of the six games, averaging 2 points and 1.3 rebounds in 7 minutes per contest.
Travis probably will join Rob Preston to begin his professional career overseas. You certainly have not heard the last from him in the United States, in my opinion.
Football
I'm still making progress with getting you the stadium plans.
In the mean time, here are two more scholarship offers...

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Arena Football League and the MAC

By mrasor Published: July 14, 2007

Football
Isn't it fascinating how ESPN all of the sudden starts putting AFL highlights on SportsCenter after the Worldwide Leader signs a contract to carry arena games?
ESPN really can't avoid these conflicts of interest which put a new spin on journalism ethics.
Anyhow, with the buzz the AFL has received lately, I decided to check how many MAC players compete in the 12-team league. There are eight...

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VanDelay picks Zips in MAC East

By mrasor Published: July 12, 2007

Football
VanDelaySports.com says Akron will win the MAC East with a record of 8-4 and 6-2 in the MAC.
The site also picks Chris Kemme as a first-team preseason choice. Dennis Kennedy is the lone second-teamer.
To have just two preseason all-conference players, yet still lose two games, says a lot about Akron's all-around team.
A record of 8-4 might be stretching it, however. Although the schedule only shows two guaranteed losses (@ Ohio State, @ Western Michigan), my prediction stands at 6-6 until the defensive line proves it can stop some of the excellent rushers it will face, at least three serviceable wide receivers work into the rotation and one quarterback emerges.

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Stadium notes

By mrasor Published: July 11, 2007

Football
I'm still banging my head against the wall to get the stadium renderings.
In the mean time, here are some details...

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More about the LeBron camp

By mrasor Published: July 11, 2007

Men's basketball
Slam Online put out some interesting notes from the LeBron James Skills Academy.
It's fascinating to hear the center of the basketball world is just down at Rhodes Arena, although the author of this post was not so kind to the city.
Football
Miami nabbed the nation's No. 22 quarterback, Zac Dysert, to whom Akron also offered a scholarship.
This could end up as the MAC's best recruit for 2008.

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MAC recruiting update

By mrasor Published: July 10, 2007

Football
Akron has one commitment so far: quarterback Jordan Miller.
The Zips are about in the same position as this time last year, when the team only had one verbal commitment -- wide receiver Jerome Royal.
Here is how the other MAC schools are doing, according to Rivals.com...

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My revolutionary plan for the final possession

By mrasor Published: July 10, 2007

Men's basketball
New concepts in basketball are rare.
I have one.
Try to pay attention as I explain, because I told my friends about it during a Cavs game and they looked at me as if I was speaking Swahili.
OK. In the final possession of a quarter (or half), one team typically has the ball with the strict orders to run down the shot clock and get the last shot. Let's call them Team A.
Now, over the course of a game in basketball -- college or pro -- the amount of points scored roughly equals the amount of possessions. In other words, you average about 1 point per opportunity to score. When sent to the foul line, that amount jumps to about 1.35 points per possession (if you assume the foul shooter averages a middling 67 percent at the stripe).
Back to Team A. They have the ball with 20 seconds left. Their coach says, "Run down the clock, then shoot." My revolutionary concept comes as my role of Team B's coach. If I am Team B's coach, I tell one of my players to foul Team A before the clock ticks lower than 14 seconds, which is adequate time for my team to run an effective play after Team A shoots foul shots.
This plan runs in stark contrast to the end of each NBA and NCAA period I have ever seen.
Now let me explain why it works...
With 20 seconds left on the half's final possession, Team A statistically will average about 1 point. That means Team A will finish the half scoring 1 point more than Team B had with 20 seconds left. It doesn't have to be that way.
My plan says to foul Team A, putting them on the foul line, giving them an average of 1.35 points. Oh well. Swallow it for now, Team B. You get the ball with 14 seconds left. And you will average 1 point in that final possession of the game.
When the buzzer sounds, Team A will have an advantage of 0.35 points, rather than 1 point -- which it would have enjoyed under the conventional wisdom of today. (Where do I get 0.35 points? It's Team A's 1.35 points from free throws minus Team B's 1 point from the final possession) That is a net gain of 0.65 points -- my plan versus the typical plan.
Of course, there are caveats. First, you don't want one of your most foul-prone players putting the squeeze on the ball handler -- especially in college where players are afforded just five whistles before ejection. Second, it's best to foul once the ball reaches a non-jump shooter, working under the assumption that good field-goal shooters also are successful at free throws.
However, even if you foul Mark Price, you're giving up 1.81 points. But you'll get back 1 point after he's done at the line. With the best foul shooter of all time, you still have a net gain of 0.19 points per execution of my plan, rather than the conventional plan.
You can always make the argument that offensive rebounds are possible on missed foul shots. That would give Team A an even larger advantage. However, that risk is outweighed, in my opinion, by the frequency that Team B's foul will be their seventh, eighth or ninth of the half -- making it a one-and-one shooting situation. The one-and-one is exclusive to college basketball, of course.
A final caveat should go without saying, but this plan is conceived on a macro level, much like almost all baseball statistics. A lefty-lefty matchup works most of the time for the Indians. When it doesn't, you have to shrug it off and keep plugging in the best matchups, by the numbers.
I hear you saying, "So what?" This scenario only occurs once a game in college, three times for the pros. In those scenarios, your team will be Team B just half the time. Still, if a college coach chooses my strategy, his team will average 0.33 more points per game over the course of a season than otherwise. For an NBA coach, that total jumps to a full point.
Is 0.33 points or 1 point per game a huge deal? Not really. Could it make the difference in one game over a 35- or 82-game season? Absolutely.
I've really been itching to debate this with someone, because no one seems to understand the theory. I should just see what Keith Dambrot thinks about it. For now, I'd appreciate some fan feedback. I could be completely, totally out of my mind. Or someone could steal this idea and write a book about it.
A short, dull book.

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Huggins calls Akron a second home

By mrasor Published: July 9, 2007

Men's basketball
Andy Katz
of ESPN.com spoke with West Virginia's Bob Huggins, who said his trip to Akron for the LeBron James Skills Academy has been pleasant.
Contrast that with an earlier trip to Cincinnati, where Hugs felt uncomfortable.
Some of his colleagues, however, have chided him about the "Coaches Corner" mural at Rhodes Arena.
This academy is mostly a festival for the big boys. Only nine of the 154 coaches who checked into the event came from mid-majors. Katz does not list Akron's Keith Dambrot as one of the participants, although I can't imagine him being away from the action in his back yard.

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LeBron's camp 'not so advantageous'

By mrasor Published: July 9, 2007

Men's basketball
You would think having 80 of the nation's top high school players on campus would be a good thing.
Andy Katz from ESPN.com disagrees, saying most players at the LeBron James Skills Academy are out of the Zips' league or traditional geographical recruiting area.
Football
Kiel Fleming kicked off the annual "Bash Whatever KSU's Slogan Is" contest. I posted a sample of his work below.
Since I can't upload everyone's posters, I suggested that he start a thread on ZipsNation.org.

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Game times finalized; three more televised

By mrasor Published: July 9, 2007

Football
Those of you with hodophobia (fear of road travel) should rest a little easier tonight.
Three more Zips away games will be televised, albeit on hard-to-find networks.
Akron will play Ohio State and Indiana on the Big Ten Network. The Connecticut game is an ESPN regional telecast. That is in addition to the two games on ESPN2 and two on ESPNU.
The universities also agreed on start times for each game. The only odd time is 11 a.m. at the Rubber Bowl against Central Michigan on Nov. 23 -- the day after Thanksgiving. (That is some early, early tailgating.)
The inaugural Patriot Bowl will begin at 7 p.m. on Sept. 1 against Army at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

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Travis watches as Cavs fall at buzzer

By mrasor Published: July 8, 2007

Men's basketball
Romeo Travis
played 2 minutes and 40 seconds tonight, grabbing one rebound and not attempting a shot.
The Cavaliers lost 85-84 at the buzzer to Team China after Yi Jianlian dropped a game-winning jump shot.
Cleveland will play Phoenix Monday at 10:30 p.m. in game three of the Las Vegas Summer League.
For what it's worth, former Buckeyes center Terrence Dials is not playing much either.

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Travis sits in Cavs' opener

By mrasor Published: July 8, 2007

Men's basketball
With a few good big men ahead of him on the depth chart, Romeo Travis will have to struggle for playing time during the summer league, which began Saturday night.
The Cavaliers beat San Antonio, but the former Zips' star did not play.
The forwards ahead of Travis, Darius Rice and Dijon Thompson, combined for 28 points and 14 rebounds. Cleveland will play the second of five games tonight against Team China at 8 p.m. in Las Vegas.
Football
A new offer...
Derek Carter, safety, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Offers: Akron, Wisconsin, Central Michigan, Florida Atlantic and Louisiana-Lafayette Height: 6-foot-0 Weight: 205 Speed: 4.55 Notes: Rivals said Carter emerged as a sleeper during a camp at Rutgers. He is the third prospect from Ft. Lauderdale to whom Akron has offered a scholarship. Likelihood: If one of these three commits (the other two are linebacker David Williams and cornerback Stephen Atkinson), it could help in swaying the others.

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Why you haven't seen the stadium plan

By mrasor Published: July 6, 2007

Football
UA is still stalling on presenting me with the $2 million stadium plan.
A week ago, the university gave me a computer-generated rendering that the media already published. That won't cut it.
The general counsel, or possibly the president's office, is concerned that the public will see the details and believe it's the finished product.
First of all, I told the university officials that I will add a big, fat disclaimer: THIS IS NOT THE FINISHED PRODUCT. And even if I didn't write that, is the public going to see too few luxury boxes and start picketing on Buchtel Common?
Second, if this plan is so far from final -- and let's pretend it is -- why would UA spend $2 million of taxpayer money on a rough draft?
Third, it's illegal to withhold the plan from me or any citizen, according to Ohio's open records laws. Basically anything a public university does is open to the public (because, ya know, we actually pay for it).
In my four years of working for the Buchtelite, I noticed a couple things about the administration. First, they're genuinely good people -- very friendly. Second, they aren't used to dealing with a college newspaper that knows what it's doing. Even routine police reports became a hassle because administrators had never really dealt with students who knew the laws.
So here I sit, pressed between dozens of fans who are anxious to see what their taxes produced for their favorite football team, and between an administration that doesn't want to budge for a lowly blogger without a legal department.
Well, the blogger is in the process of developing a legal department. Stay tuned.

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Travis is on Cavs' summer league team

By mrasor Published: July 5, 2007

Men's basketball
As anyone could have guessed, Romeo Travis will get a shot at the NBA with the Cavs.
Unfortunately for him, this roster is pretty stacked.
Of the big men, Kevin Pittsnogle, Darius Rice and Terence Dials each have proven more in their careers than Travis.
Cavs fans should pay attention to the position Shannon Brown and Daniel Gibson play. I'm sure Mike Brown wants one of them to get some minutes at point guard.

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Recruiting notes from Rivals.com

By mrasor Published: July 4, 2007

Football
Akron has offered a scholarship to each of these prospects...

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Steele's All-MAC team

By mrasor Published: July 4, 2007

Football
Cleveland-based analyst Phil Steele includes few Zips in his All-MAC preseason teams.
ESPN.com's Pat Forde talks about the method to Steele's madness.
ESPN also says three of Akron's nonconference opponents will play some of the easiest schedules in the nation.

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MAC breakdown: EASTERN MICHIGAN

By mrasor Published: July 3, 2007

Football
Head coach: Jeff Genyk
Last season: Football Truth No. 1: You won't win games scoring fewer than 14 points per game. The Eagles' 13.9 scoring average was worst in the MAC and fifth-worst in the nation. The defense was pretty awful, too, giving up more than 200 yards per game rushing, which was fourth-worst in the nation. If there was one bright point, it was the completion percentage of the quarterbacks of 58.6. But the trio of passers still threw 16 picks compared to seven touchdowns. Five of the touchdowns went to star receiver Eric Deslosiers.
Best returning player: Junior linebacker Daniel Holtzclaw
Offense: Football Truth No. 2: Losing your five of your best players from a 1-11 team won't yield much better results. Sophomore Andy Schmitt has some upside as the starting quarterback, but he's recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. The Eagles return their top three running backs, each of which could be decent. They also will need to catch some passes, as Deslosiers will be hard to replace. The offensive line returns three starters, but it will be difficult for EMU to establish a running game with an offense devoid of established receivers and a mistake-prone quarterback.
Defense: The defense returns nine starters, including Holtzclaw, who led the MAC in tackles. The two graduating starters were strong in stopping the run, so that should be an even larger question than last season (if that's possible). Senior lineman Jason Jones, an all-MAC preseason choice, is a force inside, though. He registered 18 tackles for loss last season.
Season outlook: Looking at the schedule, the only winnable games appear to be at home versus Ball State and Bowling Green. The Eagles absolutely must have some young players step up at receiver. Schmitt also needs to cut down on miscues, and inexperienced route runners probably won't help his cause. A young team like this needs confidence, and a win in the MAC opener could do that.
Crucial game: Sept. 8 vs. Ball State
Predicted record: 1-11 (including a loss versus Ball State)

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MAC breakdown: TOLEDO

By mrasor Published: July 2, 2007

Football
Head coach: Tom Amstutz
Last season: How much you wanna bet Toledo could've won more games last year? Oops. Nevermind. Looking at the stats, the Rockets are about middle of the pack in every category in the MAC. They beat Kansas and McNeese State at home before losing four straight conference games. They finished at 5-7. Rising above the mediocrity were junior running back Jalen Parmele and freshman safety Barry Church. Parmele trailed only Garrett Wolfe for rushing yards in the conference. Church registered 71 tackles and four sacks en route to a First Team All-MAC selection. Clint Cochran and Aaron Opelt shared time at quarterback and played OK.
Best returning player: Senior running back Jalen Parmele
Offense: Amstutz said Opelt and Cochran will start fresh this fall. The better player will win the job. Toledo is inexperienced at receiver, but they will bring back All-MAC tight end Chris Hopkins, who scored seven touchdowns last season. The offensive line appears to be steady, led by All-MAC left tackle John Greco.
Defense: Toledo has depth and experience at every position. They will have to display better results this season, however, if Toledo is to challenge Central and Western Michigan. It couldn't hurt to get more pressure on the quarterback. As much as the media guide props up his linebackers and defensive line, that shouldn't be a problem.
Season outlook: This schedule is a real gem. Toledo opens the season playing Purdue at home, and I think they'll win. Then they return last year's game at Kansas and at home against Iowa State. The only losses I can see are at Central Michigan and at Kansas. Toledo's record should be much better, even if the talent isn't.
Crucial game: vs. Western Michigan on Sept. 29
Predicted record: 10-2 (including a win vs. WMU)

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MAC breakdown: BALL STATE

By mrasor Published: July 2, 2007

Football
Head coach: Brady Hoke
Last season: The Cardinals played three Big 10 teams tough, including a nail biter at No. 2 Michigan that almost made "The Game of the Century" against Ohio State irrelevant. Ball State won three of four MAC games down the stretch to finish at 5-7 and 5-3 in the MAC. Its offense found a surge behind stud freshman quarterback Nate Davis. The Cardinals led the MAC in passing. The defense -- worst in the MAC against the pass, third-worst against the run -- is why the team only won five games.
Best returning player:
Offense: Davis' two favorite targets, tight end Darius Hill and receiver Dante Love, are good ones. But that's basically it. They need to find a deep threat at receiver. Both Hill and Love are possession receivers. Incoming running back MiQuale Lewis averaged 5.8 yards in limited action last season. Coach Hoke said he needs to find a fifth lineman, as well.
Defense: When asked about this unit's progress, Hoke talked about teaching defensive concepts during spring practice. That's coachspeak for: "We don't have much talent, but we're working to make bad players into serviceable contributors." The Cardinals do have a few good pieces. Defensive end Cortlan Booker registered 14 tackles for loss last season. Hoke is excited about linebacker Bryant Haines. They also boast one of the nation's best punters in Chris Miller. He will be a pro in two years.
Season outlook: They will open their renovated stadium during Week One versus Miami. They will lose at Nebraska and Army. If the Cardinals, however, can win one of two midseason games against Illinois and Indiana, they could be bowl eligible. They lucked out with crossover games against Buffalo and Miami.
Crucial game: Nov. 13 vs. Toledo (on ESPN2). Both teams will be looking for bowl eligibility at this point. With the national spotlight, it should be a great game.
Predicted record: 5-7 (including a win versus Toledo)
Miscellaneous
In the annual Captain Kangaroo vs. Mike Rasor softball matchup, I was made to look foolish.
The ZipsNation.org moderator pounded several hits. I was 0-4 with an error in the field.
What really matters? My team won, 10-7.

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Nonconference schedule set

By mrasor Published: July 1, 2007

Men's basketball
The Zips announced their 14-game nonconference schedule.
It includes home games against Temple and Wyoming, trips to Dayton and Winthrop and a three-game tournament in Alaska.
For the second-straight year, it does not include any big boys. Some people think it's worthless to play an ACC or Big 10 team on the road. I disagree. I think even a loss accomplishes important objectives, such as learning to play in a hostile environment, which the Zips will have to do during league play at Ohio and Kent State. I see it as a win-win situation, because even if you get your brains beat in, it's good to have your weaknesses exposed early in the season, rather than later. Also, it obviously improves your strength of schedule.
That said, Akron's schedule isn't all bad. I love the deals with Winthrop and Dayton. Playing eight home games almost guarantees Keith Dambrot his third-straight 20-win season. The favorable draw in the Top of the World Classic prevents the possibilty that the Zips are rusty in the opener, like against Arkansas-Little Rock last season.
The schedule strength isn't where it needs to be for at-large consideration. But the MAC is a one-bid league, so the season easily could come down to another Cedrick Middleton free throw.

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