Evaluations have given way to decisions for the University of Akron football team.
After almost a month of preseason practice, Zips coach Rob Ianello and his staff have seen enough to make choices about starters and key reserves heading into the 2011 opener Saturday afternoon at Ohio State.
Some positions were determined early and some were determined late, but virtually all positions were open to debate.
“The good news for our team is that we had more competition in training camp since we have been here,” Ianello said Tuesday during the first of his weekly news conferences. “That made it tougher to make some decisions, which is good.”
Ianello, who was hired on Dec. 10, 2009, after five years as an assistant at Notre Dame, said players were judged primarily on their performance in camp.
“It came down to body of work in competitive situations. When we go against each other, when we are in a competitive environment, how does that young man come out,” Ianello said. “Does he do it over a consistent time frame? If he does it on Monday, does he do it again on Thursday?
“In this world of video, we film everything, so we have a chance to go back and evaluate even a couple of days later, if we need to.”
The depth chart released Tuesday shows that the Zips will have freshmen and sophomores in key offensive positions such as quarterback, running back and receiver.
Sophomore Clayton Moore, a junior-college transfer, will start at quarterback, and the primary runners will be sophomore Broderick Alexander and freshman Jawon Chisholm, with freshmen Marvin Staten and Karl Bostick not far behind.
Nick Rossi, a freshman, will join them in the backfield as the fullback.
The primary receivers will be inexperienced juniors Anthony Meriwether, A.J. Price and Marquelo Suel, and sophomores Keith Sconiers, Jerrod Dillard and Antoine Russell.
“We might have the youngest skill kids in America,” Ianello said. “It’s not scary to me. It’s exciting for them, exciting for us, exciting for our future.”
Ianello said that Moore will start at quarterback against the Buckeyes and that he does not have plans to alternate him with Patrick Nicely, who started the past two seasons.
However, Alexander and Chisholm have been nursing injuries, so Staten and Bostick might get carries against Ohio State.
At wide receiver, the starters and reserves might get equal time.
“I can see us using six. Some will be used more than others. Some will be used in certain packages,” Ianello said. “It will be from feel a little bit, too. We will see how some guys do in game conditions.”
Rossi, a 6-foot, 231-pound product of Riverside High School in Moosic, Pa., beat out Austin Bailey, who was injured early in camp, at fullback and is the only true freshman to start.
“Nick has blocked well, picked up the offense well, caught the ball well,” Ianello said. “He is another guy who likes to play football.”
The defense, which returned eight starters, is more experienced than the offense.
Seniors Dan Marcoux, Hasan Hazime, James Harvey and Oren Wilson will get plenty of playing time up front, along with junior John Griggs, a junior-college transfer, and sophomore Nico Caponi.
Junior middle linebacker Brian Wagner, who has led the Zips in tackles in each of his first two seasons, is being counted upon to be the defensive leader once again.
“He is one of the best players in the Mid-American Conference at linebacker,” Ianello said. “You watch tape, and he is there. He knows where the ball is and knows where his gaps are.”
Senior cornerback Manley Waller and junior strong safety Josh Richmond lead a secondary that is expected to be much improved.
The only position yet to be determined is placekicker. Ianello said he hopes to decide today among junior T.J. Marchese and freshmen A.J. Fox and Robert Stein.
Ianello said other freshmen such as Bostick, defensive lineman Isaiah Williams, linebacker Justin March, defensive backs Devonte Morgan and Bre’ Ford are pushing for playing time at their positions and on special teams.
Senior lineman Jake Anderson (offense), Wagner (defense) and junior Adam Steiner (special teams) have been voted captains. Ianello said he will name game captains each week to join them. … Brad Detwiler, who played safety for the Zips in 1999-2001, has been named color analyst for Zips radio broadcasts. Detwiler, 32, who played at Jackson High School, works in the energy conservation industry and this is his first radio job.