Zips coach Terry Bowden pronounced himself reasonably satisfied with the production during the University of Akron’s first scrimmage Saturday morning at InfoCision Stadium.
But that takes into consideration that the 110-play effort was the first of what will more than likely be three during training.
“It was the first scrimmage, they got after it pretty dadgum good,” Bowden said. “Most everybody was flying around the ball. It’s your very first scrimmage. You’re holding a lot of people out. You see so many penalties. It’s the first time you have officials throwing flags and you see some many things that I call not ready for prime time.”
The team exhibited plenty of messiness, but there was also much to like.
Quarterback Nick Hirschman received the opportunity to work with the first unit all morning. He directed a drive to open the scrimmage that ended with a missed field goal. He completed a couple of nice long passes including a 45-yarder to wide receiver Keith Sconiers that went for a touchdown. The play was a beautiful effort on the part of Sconiers, who made the adjustment to the ball. Hirschman’s other big gainer came on a 33-yard pass to wide receiver Jerrod Dillard, who caught the only pass directed his way.
Wide receiver Tyrell Goodman led the way with four catches for 59 yards.
Unofficially, Hirschman connected on 10-of-20 passes for 144 yards and that touchdown.
The running game got a lot more attention than probably anyone would have expected given the spread is a run-first offense, but the coaching staff had a reason.
The Zips gave up 211.1 rushing yards per game last season. Stopping the run this year is a priority. For most of the scrimmage, starting running back Jawon Chisholm was bottled up. He finished 41 yards on 12 carries for a 3.5 average with a long run of 14 yards.
Sophomore D.J. Jones, a Ravenna native, received the second most carries on the day and didn’t fare much better, gaining 23 yards on eight carries for a 2.9 average.
The defense was stout when it counted, giving up few touchdowns in goal-line situations. Associate head coach and defensive coordinator Chuck Amato lamented that Hirschman scored in one instance because quarterbacks are untouchable at scrimmages.
“They count that quarterback scoring on the goal line, but we’re not allowed to hit him. If we’d knocked him on his [butt], they would have [whined],” he said.
That aside, it wasn’t difficult to see what area of the defense stood out. Even without transfer Moses McCray playing, the defensive line at times looked dominating, getting regular pressure and accumulating at least four sacks.
The depth on the line, especially at end, with senior transfers C.J. James and Nordly Capi, kept quarterbacks on their toes.
“C.J., he’s got a lot of ‘want-to’ speed,” Amato said, “and Capi, Capi can play linebacker. He’s got great footwork. I love both.”
Their presence is creating competition. Defensive end Albert Presley continues to step his game up, registering a sack.
“He knows he’s got competition. Last year, they didn’t have competition. Enough said,” Amato said. “He knows with those two guys behind him, as soon as they learn exactly what they’re doing, it’s going to get even more competitive.”
Intrasquad competition is a good thing to have on a football team.
Quarterback Kyle Pohl sat out the scrimmage, but was in uniform.
“His arm was a little bit tired and we need to see a lot of Nick,” Bowden said of Pohl. “We figured we’d give him a couple days off and I think we need to see a lot of [Dalton Easton] just to see where we are.”
McCray sat out the practice, as well. The defensive lineman, who has dealt with concussions in his career, took a hit to the head and was held out as a precaution. Bowden said that it didn’t appear to be serious.
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.