No fan or coach ever wants to hear that his football team is content.
But that is one way to describe the Zips as the University of Akron prepares for coach Terry Bowden’s third Blue-Gold Game at 1 p.m. today at InfoCision Stadium.
Don’t mistake contentment for complacency or a lack of hunger. Some players will get to show how ravenous they are when they line up against each another for the free annual game.
Each year, things get a little better for Bowden and his coaching staff with respect to morale. Some may have been skeptical when Bowden first arrived in 2012, but things have played out the way he predicted — lose big, lose close, win close, win big — the foundation of a sustainable football program anchored by strong players.
Or as sophomore quarterback Kyle Pohl said after Friday’s walkthrough: “We’re confident.”
That’s a good thing, but Bowden and his staff need to address a number of questions in today’s scrimmage that will have the first-team offense teeing off against the first-team defense with the rest of the units following suit. Bowden likes to foster competition. Although he has confidence in some players, plenty of unknowns will greet the Zips as they prepare for the 2014 season.
Areas to watch:
Offensive line coach John Peterson said he’s less worried about the interior of the line despite some losses. That’s because he has senior center Joe Switzer and experienced guards Dylan Brumbaugh and Joe McNamara.
Peterson and Bowden believe the tackle positions — especially left tackle — are of prime importance. Three players will battle to solidify their spots. The coaching staff penciled in Isaiah Williams in the all-important left tackle spot. It’s his position to lose. Cedric Brittnum spent much of the spring starting at right tackle and Quaison Osborne (Hudson) also got some time there.
There will be no cementing of jobs. Call it treading in quicksand because competition arrives for fall camp. But now is the time to make a lasting impression.
It’s been a constant refrain that the Zips will be hard-pressed to replace Malachi Freeman at corner. Bryce Cheek and John Senter have shown the ability to play well consistently. They can go that much further toward claiming jobs with the requisite performances.
There is no battle for the top spot. Pohl has looked very good in the spring. He’s running well, he’s throwing well and he’s confident. The battle is for No. 2, and as Zips fans saw last year, it pays to have a good backup. Tommy Woodson pushed last year’s No. 2, Nick Hirschman, throughout the spring. Look for how that plays out during the scrimmage.
Speaking in general, the defensive coaching staff will want to see its unit chuck its bad habits. Giving up big plays to the offense occurred more than defensive coordinator Chuck Amato liked. Expect the offense to test that aspect of the defensive team on more than a few occasions.
Offensively, look at who does what behind returning senior running back Jawon Chisholm and sophomore Conor Hundley. Though each has shown the ability to break tackles and Chisholm has a second gear, Bowden likes guys with big-play capability, meaning speed. Hakeem Lawrence, a junior, has all the speed in the world and could be a home run hitter from that position. He ran with confidence during a good spring season.
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Zips blog at www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.