Still looking for that depth chart, huh?
Check back some time in the near future. What’s clear is that little time remains for players to make their moves to end up on coach Terry Bowden’s two-deep rotation.
That makes Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage important, but not necessarily crucial. There are 13 days left until the Zips kick off the season against Central Florida and, although it’s safe to say that some positions have been locked down, the key word from Bowden’s perspective is “playmakers.” That means that there are battles still to be won.
Bowden has declined to be too specific until after Saturday’s scrimmage; after that it’s safe to say that the team will begin to turn its sights on preparing for the Knights.
Here is a look at some battles on offense:
Fifth-year transfer Dalton Williams and redshirt freshman Kyle Pohl are competing for the top spot. Williams has worked primarily with the first unit and has developed chemistry with likely starting receivers Marquelo Suel and L.T. Smith and less so with Keith Sconiers and Jerrod Dillard. The 6-foot-3 Williams has a strong arm along with presence and patience in the pocket. Pohl has shown he can make all the throws, along with the ability to extend plays with his feet or scramble for significant yardage when necessary. It remains Williams’ gig to lose.
The Zips have seven linemen who they believe can help, line coach Alan Arrington said. Coach Terry Bowden would prefer eight. They have bookend tackles in Jarrod Pughsley and Adam Bice and a center with experience in Vinnie Rizzo. After that, it gets pretty thin with respect to linemen with experience and, given what happened to the line last year, depth will be a key.
Jawon Chisholm has the starting role locked up, but there will be plenty of reps for others. Freshman Conor Hundley, a recruit from Cincinnati St. Xavier, might be the second back. He’s increased his reps with the second team, after showing a surprising burst of speed, soft hands and overall toughness. Broderick Alexander will play, but Bowden continues to look for a home run hitter — he might have found one in Miami, Fla., native Hakeem Lawrence.
With the starters (Suel and Smith) virtually set, the battle is going to come in the second level. Freshmen Imani Davis, another Florida native, and Andrew Pratt from nearby Green continue to press for extended playing time. Davis, who has blazing speed, tremendous athleticism and sure hands, has been the most impressive. The 6-foot-5 Pratt needs some seasoning, but should continue to push for playing time. Still, Bowden isn’t completely satisfied and this is where that word “playmaker” comes in. Receivers either must dazzle him with brilliant big plays or placate him with consistency.
“We know who the four are who are the most experienced,” he said. “But when I look at wins under their belt, there isn’t a lot of difference between the freshmen and them. I’ve got a lot of question marks out there as to who is going to become the playmaker and who’s going to become more consistent.”
Here is a look at some battles on defense:
They’ve got a starting four; now it’s just a search for depth. The first team consists of J.D. Griggs, Nico Caponi, Cody Grice and Albert Presley. Behind them it’s a virtual free-for-all, but ideally Bowden wants to keep six guys fresh at all times.
“Unlike the offensive linemen, defensive linemen have to run so much, they have to sub,” he said. “I hope we can get to eight deep, but we’re not going to be where we need to be as a football team down the road until we have 10 guys who can line up and give you a few quality snaps.
There is no numbers problem. It’s more a matter of quality rather than quantity. Look for newcomer Kurt Mangum, freshman Justin March and senior Troy Gilmer to lead the way, but waiting in the wings are transfer Jamel Turner and freshman Jatavis Brown.
“We can line somebody up, but a lot of them are freshmen and a lot of them haven’t played, but there’s a little bit of talent there,” Bowden said.
“That’s the most solid [unit] on the team,” Bowden said.
Another fifth-year transfer, Avis Commack, and junior transfer Malachi Freeman have walked in and claimed the two corner spots, but Bowden is quick to note that none stands that much above the other. There is also good depth in the secondary.
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/sports.abj.