As I've been writing since the spring, Rob Ianello's offense is ideal for sophomore quarterback Patrick Nicely.
Combine that fact with Nicely's strong camp and it wasn't a difficult decision for the coaches, who named Nicely the starter today over junior Matt Rodgers.
"As we evaluated the body of work, (Nicely) got far ahead of Matt," Ianello said. "We believe in both of them, but the team needs one quarterback."
Ianello has been silent about his passers until today, when he repeatedly stressed the ability of Nicely to make all of the throws in the Zips' new pro-style offense.
"I think the offense really fits Patrick very well," Ianello said.
Nicely responded by telling reporters that he is thrilled to be one of only 120 starting quarterbacks in Division I football. Ianello said he also noticed Nicely picking up a better comfort level.
"Obviously, he feels more comfortable now that he's been named the starter," the coach said. "He can say it's his huddle."
Rodgers is a solid player. Akron is lucky to have a backup with game experience, present ability and upside.
Still, this isn't really "news" to Zips fans. Nicely's selection was such a foregone conclusion that a joker on ZipsNation.org posted a headline stating that Rodgers won the job -- a practical joke.
The greater question might be: Who is blocking for them?
Tonight, Ianello listed his starting offensive line. Jake Anderson will start at right tackle; Zac Kasparek at right guard; Mike Ward at center; Mitch Straight at left guard; Corey Woods at left tackle.
So are you comfortable, coach?
"Comfortable with the depth? No. Comfortable with the guys who will play? Yes."
Fortunately, offensive line injuries are relatively rare. Akron will get Paul Simkovich back from his injury soon. Pat McCloskey is a junior who can contribute.
The cornerstones of the line are Woods and Ward. They have been best friends since freshman year -- when the two roomed together at the Brown Street Dormitory. That building, since demolished, sat on the current site of the FirstMerit Press Tower at InfoCision Stadium.
Their bond is likely to strengthen the line as a whole.
"It's the culture of the offensive line," Ward said. "They're always a tightly knit group. We rely on each other. If one guy screws up, the whole play gets blown up."
Woods and Ward have played every single game after sitting out their true freshman year -- 36 games in all. Kris Kasparek -- brother of Zac -- currently holds Akron's record for games played in a career with 50. Woods and Ward could tie that mark by taking Akron to the MAC Championship and a bowl game.
While today was all about the quarterback, it is the five guys in front of him who need to be at their best for Akron to have a chance at putting Woods and Ward in the Zips' history books.
I watched about an hour of practice today. A bulk of it was dedicated to special teams. One thing I found unusual was that two true freshman quarterbacks -- Dylan Potts and Adam Charles -- were on the kick return teams.
Diamond Weaver looked explosive returning kicks. I couldn't really get a feel for Jeremy LaFrance because the senior didn't seem to exert his best motor. Ironically, LaFrance put a lick on Weaver once the team moved into 11-on-11 drills. LaFrance caught a pass and trucked over Weaver, a cornerback.
Nicely found freshman receiver Keith Sconiers for a couple long gains. They seem to have nice chemistry. I'll bet you'll see at least 2000 passing yards from Nicely to Sconiers before their careers are over.
On the post-practice sprints, freshman receiver Antoine Russell again made an effort to be the fastest player. Akron lacks proven talent at receiver, but the future looks bright.
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