University of Akron football coach Terry Bowden knows one thing.
“We will start becoming good at Akron when we start playing good defense,” he said.
The defense under associate head coach and defensive coordinator Chuck Amato might be on its way to becoming a swarming, intense and possibly dominant unit. That comes with a proviso.
“I’m very pleased with the progress of the defense, but because of the injury situation at wideout, we’re not making as much progress as we need to offensively,” Bowden said.
The Zips have been nicked at wide receiver all spring, primarily a hamstring injury to starter Keith Sconiers, among others.
In Saturday’s practice, converted wide receiver Zach D’Orazio, who works out of the slot in Bowden’s offense, eventually sat out with a sore hamstring.
He is someone the Zips would prefer to have on the field based on talent alone.
“He’s got a ton of potential,” Bowden said. “He’s got good football instincts. He’s got good size, decent speed and very good hands, but he has to practice.”
The real danger in all of this is that at the halfway mark of spring practice the offense remains behind the defense in progress and that could lead to a similar situation when preparation for the season begins in August.
“I feel bad for the offense, but they have to work through it and somebody has to step up and make a play,” Bowden said. “We have to make a play when we have a chance to make it.”
When looking for someone among the wide receivers to do that, Bowden mentioned fifth-year senior Jerrod Dillard, who began to show flashes of talent during the mid-to-latter games of last season, eventually scoring nine touchdowns. With six scholarship receivers down, the heavy lifting falls to him and, to a lesser degree, to Green native Andrew Pratt.
“One is a freshman and he plays like a freshman. He’s inconsistent,” Bowden said. “Dillard, you’re the vet, make the bigger play.”
The reality for the offense is it might not get any of the injured players back for the rest of spring practice. Ultimately, that could hurt the development of the defense, too, because there are few players available to spread the field.
Redshirt freshman John Rachal, a 6-foot-2 linebacker out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is making an impression in practice. He looked especially impressive in goal-line situations Saturday. Rachal appears to be every coach’s dream. He excels academically and he looks like he can get after it.
“Chuck [Amato] really likes the way he’s playing and really likes the size he has in there,” Bowden said.
L.T. Smith, who played one of the outside receiver positions last year, has been moved to the inside, Bowden said.
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.