University of Akron football coach Terry Bowden looked near — very near — and far to fill out the Zips’ 2014 recruiting class of 13 players.
Among the recruits are three players from Akron and one from Willoughby.
St. Vincent-St. Mary defensive standouts Travonte Junius, a 6-3 defensive end-linebacker, and his teammate Newman Williams, a 6-2 linebacker, will bolster a defense that has potential based on the past two recruiting classes.
“You’re going to have to see where you fit in. We look at it very closely,” Bowden said Wednesday. “With Travonte and Newman, we got after them and got after them hard because we thought they may be available for us.”
But it took more than home cooking to keep them in Akron. The Zips were the only Division I team to give the team’s freshman of the year, Fransohn Bickley, a 2013 St. V-M graduate, a chance, which contributed to landing Junius and Williams.
Anthony Clark, a 6-4, 276-pound end from Buchtel, was one of three defensive linemen that the Zips signed. Clark generated a lot of interest in the recruiting process. Some colleges backed up, but he also turned down a BCS-level school to commit to the Zips.
“We worked hard to create a relationship with him,” Bowden said of Clark.
Of the Zips’ 13-member class, 10 are defensive players and address needs in every aspect of that unit after the Zips lost standouts such as Nico Caponi and Malachi Freeman.
Looking at film, it’s easy to see why Bowden and his staff went that route. Each player offered his own strengths, but the one commonality appeared to be speed. The linemen showed the ability to get off the ball, the linebackers the ability to make plays and the same with the defensive backs.
“It’s mostly the way that football is being played today,” Bowden said. “It’s being played in space most of the time. … Defensively Coach [Chuck] Amato is going to want guys who can run.”
Upon arriving at UA, Bowden said that he and Amato, the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach, wanted their defenses to play with speed and swarm to the ball.
Although they concentrated on defense, the Zips also added some quality players on offense.
Scott Boyett, a 6-7, 315-pound offensive lineman, will add some beef to the Zips’ offensive line. Boyett played his first two years of football at Santa Rosa (Calif.) Junior College. He’s originally from Dania, Fla.
Kyle Ritz, a 6-5 offensive lineman from Willoughby South, will also bolster the line.
The lone quarterback recruit in the class is Chandler Kincade, 6-5 and 230 pounds, of Blackhawk High School in Beaver Falls, Pa.
The local flavor of this team could be essential to turning things around for the Zips, who finished 5-7 in 2013.
Bowden said that his philosophy is to recruit the good ones who fit into the program. So far, players such as nose guard Firestone’s Cody Grice and St. V-M’s Bickley have shown that it can be done.
Bowden said they have helped generate buzz locally for the team.
“You know somewhere along the line you want it to happen and you know what makes it happen,” Bowden said. “You just can’t always guarantee it’s going to happen.”
The buzz and success can translate into higher attendance at InfoCision Stadium. Bowden is a realist in that respect.
“First of all, win and they’ll come and get the thing turned around,” he said. “You’ve got guys who hordes of people have seen play. You’re going to have a lot of people come in and see our local players play. It’s already started to happen.”
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.