There’s little doubt where one of coach Terry Bowden’s many points of focus will be in the offseason.
The Zips rank last in kickoff returns in the Mid-American Conference.
The game against rival Kent State last weekend amplified that problem. The Zips spent the afternoon “sky” kicking it to keep KSU’s Dri Archer, the conference’s leading kickoff returner, from getting his hands on the ball and inflicting serious damage.
Because of that, KSU enjoyed average starting field position of their own 33-yard line. The Zips’ average starting point was their own 22.
It’s not as if Bowden hasn’t tried to find the right person to fit into the role of kick returner for the Zips. He has tried Malachi Freeman, Tyler Williams, Jawon Chisholm, Quentin Hines and most recently Hakeem Lawrence, who has also struggled in the part.
Bowden has come to a realistic evaluation of what needs to happen.
“Not hopefully, but we’ll have to develop Wade Edwards [or] one of the guys that is redshirting,” he said. “We have to develop a kick returner or recruit one who can do it. That is not on our team right now.”
Injuries forced Bowden to make a couple of on-the-fly changes to the offensive line against KSU. Freshman Quaison Osborne shifted to left tackle and starting left tackle Jarrod Pughsley moved to left guard. The changes caused Pughsley to have to adjust, but it allowed Osborne (Hudson High School) to showcase his skills.
“The guy is going to be a really good football player,” Bowden said of Osborne.
The good news to come out of the Kent State game was the return of defensive linemen Nico Caponi (ankle sprain) and Albert Presley (fractured fibula). Caponi’s play on the inside made it more difficult for Trayion Durham to run through his spot, forcing Durham to bounce his runs to the outside.
Caponi was held out of Tuesday’s practice, but is expected to play this week against UMass.
“My belief is that he’ll be a little bit better this week than he was last week,” Bowden said.
As the UA basketball team prepares to head south to Conway, S.C., to take on Coastal Carolina, nagging preseason questions remain for coach Keith Dambrot.
The primary one will be how the new defense, a variation of the one used by Virginia Commonwealth, suits the Zips.
When asked how the team has taken to it, Dambrot said: “average.”
The high-pressure scheme requires stamina and a deep rotation.
“They’re tired all the time and not really used to picking up full all the time,” Dambrot said. “It’s good to have in your arsenal. We just have to decide when push comes to shove if we’re ready.”
From the bench
With the starting lineup seemingly in place, Dambrot is looking to replace last year’s conference sixth man of the year, Quincy Diggs.
Who comes off the bench first depends on the situation, he said. But Nick Harney, freshman Reggie McAdams and backup center Pat Forsythe were mentioned as possibilities.
Point guard Alex Abreu practiced on a limited basis Tuesday. He said that he’d ramp things up as the week moved on, but Dambrot doesn’t want things rushed.
“I don’t know if he’ll play,” Dambrot said. “I’ll be surprised.”
Some might not recognize senior forward Chauncey Gilliam, who joined a UA fraternity. It required him to cut his hair and shave the familiar beard as a way of experiencing a rebirth.
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.