Time is about to put the crunch on the University of Akron football roster.
Those players who’ve not already won a slot in the first or second units of the Zips’ football team — and coach Terry Bowden isn’t revealing who has, so competition will still be fierce — probably have until Saturday during another significant intrasquad scrimmage to show what they can do.
“We play two weeks from today, so I’d say Saturday it’s got to be done,” Bowden said. “We’ve kind of made some decisions based on yesterday’s scrimmage, but we’re not ready to release that.”
What has been noticeable is that on a team that was 1-11 last season there are very few discernible battles as those players, with a couple of exceptions, who practiced with the first team from the start, have remained at those positions.
That signals that Bowden and his staff are comfortable with many of the players who remain on the roster from last year who played significant roles.
One position where competition remains heavy is kick returner. With senior cornerback Malachi Freeman sitting the day out with a minor injury to his elbow, four other Zips — true freshmen Fransohn Bickley and Mykel Traylor-Bennett among them — stepped up to stake a claim.
No one in this area should be surprised at Bickley’s ability, given the fact that he showed promise in all three phases of the game during his time at St. Vincent-St. Mary.
Traylor-Bennett continues to show his eagerness to get on the field and impressed with one return.
“He did it real well in high school and he wants a shot at it,” Bowden said.
The Zips, by Bowden’s admission, weren’t particularly on their game in Thursday’s practice. Call it the summer blahs, but he wasn’t pleased.
But he understands the reality of what the players are going through at this moment in time. They’re tired of hitting one another. Two-a-days don’t exactly thrill, and work remains to be done. Bowden knows his responsibility to his team in the coming days given that their season opener against Central Florida is less than two weeks away.
“I’m not interested in them being fresh today,” he said. “I’m interested in them being fresh two Thursdays from now, so at the very end of two-a-days and preseason is when your legs get worse. Our job is to work them hard during that time and then give them 7-9 days to get fresh again.”
It’s generally accepted that Jawon Chisholm is the top running back with sophomore Conor Hundley behind him, but the battle for the third back remains a wide-open affair.
Sophomore Hakeem Lawrence filled the role last season until getting slowed by injury, but this one could be a different story as two freshmen, 5-foot-8 D.J. Jones from Ravenna and 5-foot-9 Manny Morgan from Naples, Fla. have made noise.
Morgan showed strong running in Wednesday’s afternoon practice.
“I’ll be honest with you: I like what I see so far. Right now Hakeem (Lawrence) has to be a little nervous for his job at that position,” Bowden said.
“He just makes better runs. I think we know our first two guys are battle tested, but we’re trying to find out who our third guy is.”
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.