University of Akron football coach Terry Bowden referenced legendary boxer Muhammad Ali when talking to his team Friday.
“The will must be stronger than the skill,” is a quote attributed to the heavyweight boxer.
Bowden said that’s what his players need to know as they prepare for the upcoming season. Some will need to will themselves because after a week in preseason camp, preparations and position battles begin in earnest with a scrimmage today.
It’s a chance for coaches to give reps to players who flashed some potential and either solidify their status or look to someone else.
Still without a depth chart — something that should be coming after assessing efforts in the scrimmage — Bowden said that what he’s looking for is general and specific.
“Playmakers,” he said simply when asked that question, “guy who makes a block, a guy who makes a sack, a guy who goes out individually and makes a great play in a game situation.”
But what about the specific? His thoughts turn to defense.
The Zips have two solid defensive ends in transfer Albert Presley and senior J.D. Griggs and a solid defensive tackle in Nico Caponi. But two more are needed in Bowden’s mind.
The Zips have more than 10 defensive backs listed on their roster. At this stage, they don’t know who their top cover guy is going to be.
The defense is still of concern to defensive coordinator Chuck Amato, who has not been impressed with the efforts he’s seen the past couple of days.
“I want to see a bunch of wild nuts out there,” Amato said. “It takes 11 people to put one man in a strait jacket. They have to play like they’re in a straitjacket. It should take 110 people to hold you down and that’s the way we have to play.”
Offensively, the line appears to be cemented and the wide receivers have had their share of ups and downs, but show unlimited potential.
Ultimately, their success will depend on whomever is playing quarterback. Transfer Dalton Williams has shown chemistry with multiple receivers.
“We’re still in the battle, but Dalton is having the better days. He’s holding onto his position. Kyle [Pohl] is going to have to make his move in the next week or week and a half,” Bowden said. “We need them both, and I think we’ll play them both in a lot of situations. Kyle’s got a lot of talent, but we need him to get better. He’s missing a throw here or there that we think he should make.”
Running back is an area that appears solid. Jawon Chisholm, a redshirt sophomore, appears to have locked down his role. Still, Bowden wants more, saying that in order for the offense to be successful, Chisholm will have to kick it up a notch.
He will receive fewer reps in the scrimmage as Broderick Alexander, a redshirt junior, freshman Conor Hundley, who has impressed Bowden, and others get a shot at operating in this revamped offense. Above all, Bowden is looking to eliminate the inconsistency that has the defense tearing it up one day and the offense on another.
“Some way these two have to sync and improve each day,” he said. “I believe we can be a successful football team if these players continue to fight and improve.”
Jamel Turner, a four-star recruit at linebacker in 2008 who has overcome ridiculous odds to resume his playing career, practiced for the first time Friday. Turner has come back from being shot twice during his senior year at Ursuline High School in Youngstown.
Depending upon how long he takes to learn the defense, he could give the team some much-needed depth. If he taps the potential he possessed coming out of high school, he could be a major addition.
“Right now, he’s a potential help because at one time, he was a highly recruited in Ohio and we’re very fortunate to have him,” Bowden said. “He’s one who’s going to have to go on sheer talent for a while because he’s going to have to learn the defense.”
“He can run. He can move. He can flip the hips. He is what they’re supposed to look like,” Amato said. “He’s got a lot to learn. If he’s in a game, we’re going to have to watch what we call.”
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.