There is progress, but also lots of work to be done for the Akron Zips.
When coach Terry Bowden opened spring practice, he wanted “to have a thorough enough understanding of the offense to be able to execute and get the right people in the right places.”
They’re getting there, he said after Saturday’s scrimmage, even if they didn’t look particularly sharp on either side of the ball in the intrasquad outing.
Lack of communication between quarterbacks and receivers remains an issue as penalties and turnovers plagued the various offensive squads.
“I think when you have communication problems between the quarterback and receiver, I think it’s because you never really learned it the first time,” Bowden said.
He took the time to point that out throughout Saturday’s practice. By no means was that the only issue as the center had problems getting the ball to the quarterbacks.
The good news is that there’s plenty of time for it to be fixed. Bowden said the communication issues will be resolved by the receivers and QBs memorizing the signals. The problems at center will correct themselves with repetition.
But that doesn’t change a fundamental problem that the offensive unit has at this moment. While the team has had several players shine on an individual basis, including running backs Jawon Chisholm and Broderick Alexander along with receivers A.J. Price and J.T. Smith, Bowden still hasn’t seen that one special player.
“Do we have that special guy that makes a difference? I don’t know yet,” he said. “I don’t know if the offense is complete, but I do believe we can complete the spring as far as we possibly could. We kind of have a feel for where we don’t have anyone to plug in.”
The situation is much the same for the defense. Although players have been shuffled around, Bowden has taken notice of two specific areas.
The defensive backs have been coming on in recent days and several members of the defensive line — James Price, Albert Presley and Cody Grice — have shown something.
But notice that there’s no mention of linebackers and as a group, they haven’t distinguished themselves as a group.
In recent days, a couple — Justin March and Jamar Williams — were moved to learn different linebacking positions to improve depth, defensive coordinator Chuck Amato said. But as a unit that corps hasn’t stood out.
“We need to find someone to step up in that front seven,” Bowden said. Amato agreed and said that the defense still needed someone to step up and show some leadership.
But that’s not to say there’s nothing to build on with respect to the defense. Those defensive backs are noticeable because they’ve been picking off the ball.
In Saturday’s scrimmage they picked off three passes, returning one for a touchdown. On the day, the defensive unit had four turnovers. But there is a flip side to that, also. While Amato said in some respects the staff is still teaching technique, the defense can be its own worst enemy as well.
“I know when we want to go hard, we can do it. We can’t give up the big plays that we give up. We can’t do that and do what we want to do,” he said. “We can’t stop ’em, stop ’em, stop em and give up the big play. Then it’s like we didn’t stop them at all…these are things they will learn. They are very willing to learn.”
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. 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.