The University of Akron football team played an extended intrasquad scrimmage Saturday at InfoCision Stadium, producing some clarity about the team’s makeup.
Coach Terry Bowden said that more detailed analysis of video will be necessary but there were some things on offense he liked and a glaring problem that needs to be fixed.
The offense, produced some big plays that didn’t hit on deep passes, he said. That’s a facet of the passing game that Bowden’s spread offense requires for overall efficacy.
“I know offensively we missed too many deep balls,” he said. “When defense plays press, you have to win routes. We hit 1-of-6. We have to be a little better executing that.”
Offensive coordinator A.J. Milwee also appreciated how the quarterbacks ran the offense.
“We played with pretty decent tempo for the most part,” he said. “For the most part we took care of the football and made some big plays which is what we’ve been harping on.”
Bowden sounded impressed with the defense as well.
“I don’t think the No. 1 defense gave up any big plays,” he said. “I don’t think there was a single deep-ball catch against the ones and any runs.”Associate head coach and defensive coordinator Chuck Amato came away liking the defensive performance overall, but took note of the 11 penalties that his defense committed. Many of those were committed by younger players.
Amidst those all-encompassing observations, there were players who stood out in the scrimmage.
Freshman Mykel Traylor-Bennett, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound wide receiver, caught two touchdown passes, including a 35-yarder from quarterback Nick Hirschman along with a short grab that allowed him to use his size to his advantage.
“Every time we see him on the field, No. 1 [Traylor-Bennett] makes a big catch,” Bowden said. “Although he had his first drop today. You have to say he continues to help himself.”
Milwee shared that sentiment, but said that Traylor-Bennett will need to show more consistency and not take plays off.
Listening to Bowden, it sounds as if Traylor-Bennett will get that chance.
“A lot of times a guy will be an outstanding freshman talent, but they’re a little nervous and they have to redshirt because they’re not ready for the big time,” he said. “He’s learning and he’s got a lot to learn, but he’s doing a good job.”
Milwee even showed confidence in the freshman on his short touchdown reception. He said that isn’t a play he’d normally call for someone as inexperienced, but he trusted Traylor-Bennett to use his size and athleticism to fight off the defensive back covering him.
On offense, Traylor-Bennett isn’t the only one to make an impression. Wide receiver Fransohn Bickley (St. Vincent-St. Mary) continues to make a case to receive playing time.
He took short passes and turned them into 20-plus yard gains on successive plays. He also scored a touchdown.
“He stands out,” Milwee said. “He may be little but he plays at a different speed than a lot of guys that we have. [He’s] been standing out because if he can get a crease, he can go. We have to get him the football when he’s in there.”
Ultimately, how he’s used will be most important.
“We just have to make sure we get him the ball in the right way,” Bowden said. “He’s not a big guy and we don’t want to get him hurt. He’s shown some play-making skills.”
When looking at defensive end C.J. James on the field, it’s difficult to understand why he’s with the second unit. A senior transfer, James had at least three tackles for losses in Saturday’s scrimmage. He plays ferociously and with a high motor, but he has Alfonso Horner ahead of him.
“Alfonso plays without any missed assignments. He’s got football I.Q. He sees things,” Amato said. “That’s good because now we have three, but really we have four starting ends who can play for us.”
That puts the Zips in an enviable position. For now, Amato remains content to keep the competition going.
Bowden said that the coaches received no clarity on who the third running back might be heading into the season. The defense has been so effective against the run that a clear-cut choice hasn’t emerged. He said that the team will need all of their running backs. … …Zenel Demhasaj, an offensive lineman who transferred from Pitt, has been granted a clock extension waiver by the NCAA, granting him another season of eligibility.
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.