The University of Akron defensive unit had a reversal of fortunes of sorts in Tuesday morning’s spring football practice.
After a rough outing in Saturday’s practice in which it gave up a couple of big plays and several touchdowns in goal-line situations, the defense was having none of it Tuesday.
The defense played no favorites, sacking most of the Zips quarterbacks who took part during practice at some point.
When they weren’t applying pressure, they defensed passes. In short, the respective offensive units never had a chance to work into a flow.
“The defense turned it on today,” UA coach Terry Bowden said. “They came ready to play from the very first play [a safety]. Nothing ever happened for the offense.”
The offense didn’t display the primary trait that Bowden seeks from that unit — consistency.
“You have to be consistent,” he said. “We’re a work in progress. There’s no question. We’re not returning the No. 1 offense in the conference.”
Lack of consistency bit the offense Tuesday morning.
Although the goal-line offensive units scored at will in Saturday’s scrimmage, they scored just once Tuesday.
Consistency proved to be the elusive factor, but the defense must be given its due.
Several defenders stood out, but none as much as freshman Jason Stargel, a 6-foot-3 defensive lineman from Cincinnati Walnut Hills High School.
Stargel had an outstanding morning.
“He’s showing that he has a lot of desire to play football,” Bowden said. “I like seeing that. He runs real well and he’s really rangy and he likes to play football.”
Stargel batted a pass at the line of scrimmage back into the face of backup quarterback Steve Franco. Moments later he sacked quarterback Dalton Easton, and on a short pass play, he released from a block on the line at his right end position and dashed to the other side of the field to get in on the tackle.
“I’m not the biggest guy, so I have to be able to run around,” Stargel said. “Football is a game of effort, so I have to get out there and run.”
Stargel said he just plays the game the way his father and mother taught him. Yes, he said mother.
“You’d be surprised,” he said when asked about it. “She’d scare many a professional football player.”
Other defensive highlights:
The linebackers in pass coverage: Justin March and Jatavis Brown are fast — very fast. Each of them at different times was able to defense passes on 20-to-25-yard patterns while covering wide receivers. Brown batted down a pass meant for junior wide receiver L.T. Smith and March, covering Smith on a different occasion, got in front of him to knock a ball down.
The defense inside the 5-yard line was much better for the Zips. The assorted offensive units scored once on approximately 10 attempts. On one of the rushing attempts in the goal-line offense, former Firestone running back and current Zips defensive lineman Cody Grice got a shot at getting the ball in the end zone. He didn’t make it.
Any normal person wouldn’t have wanted to get the ball into the end zone either. Working with hard-nosed, old-school coach Chuck Amato, the team’s associate head coach and defensive coordinator, has its advantages, but it isn’t perfect. Amato believes, as many coaches do, in running to correct mistakes. Had Grice scored on that play, he would have cost the defensive unit a gasser (four runs of the width of the football field).
Wide receiver L.T. Smith used an unorthodox method to work on his hand-eye coordination after practice Tuesday. Using a small, boxy machine that fires tennis balls, he worked on catching the fuzzy green spheres with each of his hands for about 10 minutes.
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.