When preseason camp opened last week, University of Akron defensive linemen Nico Caponi and J.D. Griggs found themselves in the coaching staff’s glare.
Like an actor looking for a role in a high-profile Broadway musical, they had to audition for their parts. Considering they didn’t participate in spring practice, they had to kick things up a notch.
“We didn’t get to do anything, so we have to come out here and show what [we’ve] got,” Caponi said.
“That’s what they kept telling me all summer, ‘We didn’t get to see you play,’ ” Griggs said.
Caponi sat the spring with injuries to his hamstring and knee and Griggs was recovering from a torn labrum, forcing them to watch from the sideline. It was a viewpoint that neither appreciated.
Apparently they’ve made an impression, because Griggs and Caponi, who play side-by-side on the left side of the defensive line, are two of those mentioned when coaches talk about the defense.
They’re being counted on to make up for depth problems on the line. They sound eager to go after it in a defensive scheme that affords their respective positions more freedom.
“The defensive scheme fits everyone on the D-line at their position,” Griggs said.
For Griggs, that means it plays to his strength as a speed rusher. For Caponi, it means something different, considering he’s making the move from the outside to the inside this season, a move he likes.
“I thought I was a good size [for it],” he said. “I can play either one but inside is probably a better fit for me and a better fit for the team. I really like it.
“It’s more my style of play, head-to-head, a little less finesse like him,” he said while pointing to Griggs and laughing. “Muscling people. That’s what I like to do.”
Williams out for season
Linebacker Jamar Williams tore his right anterior cruciate ligament and will be out for the season, coach Terry Bowden said during Thursday morning’s practice.
Williams’ loss is a big blow to a linebacking corps that was thin coming into the season. Williams, a junior, was expected to step in and give the Zips consistency at the position.
“He was doing so well. He was having a great preseason and was doing a great job,” Bowden said. “We have great doctors. At a better age, he will be better than he is now. In the long run, it will be better for us, but that’s tough when you have that happen.”
Now it affects the Zips’ depth at linebacker, a position that took a big hit when Brian Wagner elected to graduate and leave the program early after last season.
Bowden is looking to an upperclassman or freshman to come in and fill the void. Jatavis Brown, a freshman from Florida, was an individual he mentioned specifically.
The situation concerns Bowden, but he’s dealt with it before. He’s operating from the assumption that opportunity tends to bring out the best in people.
“Someone will step up,” he said. “A young freshman or an upperclassman will get an opportunity and someone will step up.”
Making an impression
Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Mike Davis doesn’t look imposing. But he has made an impression on the field in practice.
A walk-on, he’s impressed enough to catch the eye of defensive line coach Todd Stroud.
“Physically, he’s not going to be a kid that bowls you over, but at the same time, he’s just a football player,” Stroud said. “He has a knack for doing things at the point of attack. He’s not going to be your fastest or your biggest or your strongest, but he could be a guy who could factor into our depth chart at some point and give us some depth.”
Junior cornerback Bill Alexander cannot have any contact for 2-6 weeks because of a broken thumb. … Two-a-days in full pads began with Thursday morning’s practice, one that proved intense, but without the punches being thrown.
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.