University of Akron quarterback Kyle Pohl was hobbled a good portion of last season.
The difference between a healthy Pohl and last year’s edition can be seen as the Zips go through the rigors of spring football practice.
The difference in mobility is obvious. He races to one side to hit a receiver, flashes to the other side to throw another completion. Then he drops back and avoids the pass rush to complete a pass.
Inexperience and injury were Pohl’s enemies last season, one that was still respectable with a 56 percent completion rate on 225-of-402 passing attempts for 14 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and 2,438 yards.
“Having a year under my belt really helps a lot,” Pohl said after Tuesday’s practice. “It gives me more confidence and a lot more responsibility. I’m trying to get myself some more freedom within the offense and get us into the best situation.”
Pohl doesn’t want to make any excuses for last year, but the mobility could make a huge difference in his game this season.
“It was tough,” he said of the ankle injury, “but everybody out here plays with an injury. It was never an excuse for me, but being fully healthy right now is really big for me, allowing me to be more aggressive, which is really something we want to work on this spring, being more aggressive throwing the ball downfield.”
Former defensive lineman Isaiah Williams, a 6-foot-3 senior from Cleveland, said that despite the fact that he played offensive line, including tight end, in high school, he’s still adjusting to returning to the offensive side of the ball.
Williams made the switch last season and was given time to observe, learn and develop. This year, his skills will be needed after the Zips lost three players on the offensive line, including left tackle Jarrod Pughsley.
“It is [an adjustment] because defense is all about going and once you switch to offense, it’s about reading the defense,” Williams said. “One thing I came to respect playing offense is that I’m learning the game a little bit better. I’m learning how to read defenses and play it to my advantage. It’s not a bad transition to me.”
Headed into spring practice, UA coach Terry Bowden and his staff chose Williams as the No. 1 left tackle with the proviso that he continue to earn it.
The Zips signed a number of linemen who will arrive for fall practice, so Williams can expect competition.
Among them is well-regarded Scott Boyett, who hails from Florida but played ball in California at Santa Rosa Junior College.
“You always got to keep working hard,” Williams said. “I’m thankful to keep playing the position. I’m thankful that he was able to give me the position and wants me to be that guy.”
Fight for No. 2
The battle to watch at quarterback is for No. 2 where junior Nick Hirschman is getting pushed by freshman Tommy Woodson, Bowden said.
Hirschman, who transferred from Colorado last year, brings size and mobility to the position, but his accuracy has been off thus far this spring, a fact that’s most noticeable on deep passes on which he’s getting a lot of air under the ball.
Conversely, Woodson’s passes have looked sharp and he’s shown the ability to run with the ball, but he still shows noticeable inconsistency.
“I think Tommy Woodson is creating some competition with Nick Hirschman at No. 2. Tommy’s got such outstanding arm talent,” Bowden said. “[He’s] a young quarterback with time to grow, but I think he’s going to push Nick a little bit.”
Former cornerback Malachi Freeman is drawing pro interest, having been worked out by at least one NFL team with more probably on the horizon.
He has the speed (4.4 in the 40-yard dash) and closes on the ball tremendously. The biggest concern when it comes to an NFL career is that Freeman is just 5-foot-9, 179 pounds. Still, Bowden expects him to be in an NFL training camp this summer.
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.