The numbers are gaudy.
The University of Akron is averaging of 38.6 points and nearly 500 yards of total offense, including 361 yards passing.
Those numbers have Dalton Williams on the Davey O’Brien Watch List, the award that honors the nation’s best quarterback. Williams leads the Mid-American Conference in touchdown passes and yards per game.
Arguably the most jaw-dropping stat of all is that in 243 pass attempts, Williams has been sacked just six times.
He’s getting his notice, but he knows where a large share of the credit belongs — the offensive line.
“They’re playing together as one unit. Everybody’s got one another’s backs,” Williams said after practice Thursday morning. “They might be playing as the best unit on the field.”
It’s a far cry from last season, when the Zips’ offensive line had given up 21 sacks at this point in the season. This season, the line has been virtually impenetrable.
“I thought they would be the most mature group,” Zips coach Terry Bowden said. “They have tough veterans, older guys. You add the other guys and you have a good nucleus.”
There are a host of reasons, according to the workhorses who comprise a line that includes seniors Adam Bice, Mitch Straight, Vinne Rizzo, junior Jarrod Pughsley and sophomore Travis Switzer.
It begins with communication.
“On the right side, me and Mitch [right guard] may not be talking, but we know what the other is going to do,” Bice said.
Straight agreed, adding that with the exception of a minor ankle injury to Pughsley, the bug that struck the line last year hasn’t bitten thus far this season.
“Consistency is a big part of it. We’ve had a pretty consistent lineup so we built those relationships working together,” he said.
Two changes stand above the other, the first being coaching.
“Alan Arrington came in and from Day One said I’m not going to accept anything but your best and he’s pushed us that hard to get where we are,” Bice said.
Arrington, who also coached on Bowden’s North Alabama staff, works the line with enthusiasm during practice, teaching. Although his is the first coach’s voice anyone is likely to hear during a session, it’s not because he’s screaming at the players. It’s simply evident that he loves what he does.
The Zips’ success can also be tied to the offensive system that Bowden brought to UA and the quarterback chosen to run it in its first year.
“It’s great for an offensive lineman to have a quarterback get the ball out of his hands fast and make great decisions like [Williams] does,” Bice said.
Williams said the credit belongs to the line. Playing in a similar spread offense for five years, he understands what it takes to learn it.
“I think they just understand the concepts really well. They’re really a smart group of guys. They have real good physical attributes about them and they play together as a unit really well,” he said. “And it’s been allowing them to handle anything that’s been thrown at them.”
“What they have done in run and pass block has allowed us to run our offense,” he said. “I’m very, very pleased with what they’re able to do. They’re a blue-collar group.”
Williams on ballot
Until Oct. 22, Zips fans will be able to vote for Williams for the Davey O’Brien Award. Williams, who has completed 153-of-243 passes for 1,679 yards and 14 touchdowns, ranks in the Top 15 in several categories nationally.
Fan participation counts 5 percent toward the overall award vote. To vote or receive more information, go to VoteOBrien.org.
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.