Losses on offense: Dalton Williams (QB); Marquelo Suel (WR); Adam Bice (OL); Mitch Straight (OL).
Losses on defense: J.D. Griggs (DE); Troy Gilmer (LB); Kurt Mangum (LB); Avis Commack (DB)
Quarterback: Last year Dalton Williams arrived at UA with four years’ experience in Terry Bowden’s fast-paced system and enjoyed some success before injuries hammered the offensive line. He officially passed the reins to Kyle Pohl during the final game of the season last year against Toledo and Pohl showed some flashes until the Rockets defense began to tee off on him. There is, however, plenty which with to work in Pohl possesses a lively arm and he has the ability to extend plays with his scrambling ability while making sizeable gains with his legs. The latter may not be what Bowden cherishes most in a quarterback, but it’s an asset nonetheless. Pohl almost has the job by default because he’s the only one on the roster with significant experience at the position. What could prove essential is who wins that backup role.
Offensive line: The Zips lost two starters on the right sided of their offensive line (third starter was lost if you include their long snapper). They will miss right tackle Adam Bice in more than one way. Not only did he play gutsy football, but he was without a doubt one of the team’s leaders. Right guard Mitch Straight was steady and the line as a whole put together a good first half of the season, but struggle later on. The primary problem with the Zips offensive line wasn’t the front line players; it was a lack of depth. O-line coach Alan Arrington struggled to come up with eight linemen to open the season, this year there may be more talent from which to choose, making things easier. Zips fans will have to see.
Lack of a playmaker: For anyone being realistic, the one thing that the Zips lacked at least one homerun hitter. In Bowden’s offense that’s close to death. Just one player with the ability to break one big is essential in keeping the opponent’s defense honest. That ability didn’t come from the offense, or special teams. There were a couple of big plays, but they were few and far between. Players such as wide receivers Tyrell Goodman and Imani Davis, both sophomores now, possess the speed, but not the experience.
Offensive line: With Bice and Straight gone look for redshirts or players such as Hudson’s Quaison Osborne, who got some playing time when left tackle Jarrod Pughsley struggled with an ankle injury during the second half of the season, to make a push for playing time on the offensive line. Kent Roosevelt’s Curtis Black at 6-foot-4, 330lbs could get some play. Redshirt Michael Casimos, who was part of the 2012 recruiting class, could fight for more time. But it’s also an opportunity for Micah Lio, who towers at 6-foot-8, 308 lbs to state his case. The Zips also brought in transfer Cedric Brittnum from Asa Community College, who stands 6-foot-6 and weighs, 330 lbs.
Defensive end: With J.D. Griggs moving on, the Zips will need someone to fill his spot. Again, the defensive line was one of those problem areas with respect to depth. Look for senior transfer C.J. James to come in and claim a sport.
Slot receiver: The Zips’ loss of Suel (76 catches, 820 yards) leaves a hole at that spot, which is tailor made for smaller wideouts. Look for quarterback-wide receiver convert Zach D’Orazio to make a huge push for this starting gig
Linebacker: The big unknown with the loss of Gilmer and Mangum with a host of potential players looking for playing time.
Look out for: Brittnum, who towers above everyone in highlight film, looks as if he could move mountains – alone. Well-traveled C.J. James could come in and make an impact. Lastly, Jamel Turner, the former four-star recruit of the Ohio State Buckeyes, could take a huge leap forward this year now that he’s acclimated.