The offense is catching up with the defense, at least it did Saturday, University of Akron football coach Terry Bowden said.
The Zips worked through a half scrimmage Saturday morning at the Stile Athletics Field House, and Bowden said there were things to appreciate on both sides of the ball.
Most important for a team that wants to be known for a potent offense, quarterback Kyle Pohl showed that he and his teammates are making strides. They struggled early in the scrimmage but they finished impressively in their regular sets and goal-line situations.
“I thought the offense got a little better than the defense today and made a big play, and overall, they were just playing a little more consistent,” Bowden said.
He gave credit for their success to Pohl and a backfield, which includes Jawon Chisholm, that he described as mature.
“I think Kyle’s comfortable. He’s very relaxed in the pocket. One of his strengths is he’s very poised,” Bowden said. “I think now it’s just learning every situation we can put him in over and over and over again and him always continuing to show his leadership.”
For Pohl, comfort appears to be a relative state.
“I’m more comfortable than I have been, but nowhere near as comfortable as I need to be,” he said. “Because we play at such a fast pace, I have to get as comfortable as [last year’s quarterback] Dalton [Williams] was.”
Pohl offered an honest self-assessment, saying that he needed to read opposing defenses better so that he can get the offense into the right play and avoid putting it in bad ones.
“We struggled in third downs and a lot of that bothered me because that was on me,” he said. “I wasn’t seeing what I needed to see.”
He did have noticeable success, however, during a 55-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver L.T. Smith, a play that was wide open with the nearest defender 10 yards from Smith as he dashed into the end zone.
Before that, the defense had been having a solid morning against the offensive counterparts no matter whether it was starters on starters or reserves on reserves. Although they played ineffectively in goal-line situations — it was the first time it has been practiced — there wasn’t a lot with which to quibble overall.
What was noticeable and what the coaching staff wants from the defense this season is more turnovers.
“The defense has got to play with a little more reckless enthusiasm,” Bowden said. “They have to get out there and make plays. They didn’t do quite enough.”
Here are a few performances of note in the scrimmage:
• Ravenna’s D.J. Jones is getting a chance to open some eyes. The freshman had a chance to showcase the skills that made him the Northern Inland District Division III Player of the Year in high school, peeling off a few significant runs and showing unwillingness to fall when hit multiple times. A few “oohs” and “aaahs” could be heard among the crowd.
“What I like is when a young guy earns the respect of his teammates by being tough and having a local guy like that who is out there earning the respect of his teammates and showing he can play is awful nice,” Bowden said.
• Chisholm, last year’s starting running back, continued to impress on many of limited opportunities carrying the football. Barring injury, he should improve statistically across the board in the coming season.
• Bowden said he believes the offensive line is coming together. No one player stuck out. But the line worked as one, he said. “Losing Mitch Straight and losing Adam Bice, I figured we’d have a little more time struggle there, but I thought they played as a unit,” Bowden said. “As a unit, I thought our offensive line played very well today.”
Bowden said that he and his staff might have to rethink the way they do things with respect to practices and workouts. Right now, four players — Imani Davis (wide receiver), Keith Sconiers (wide receiver), Dee Frieson (wide receiver) and Hakeem Lawrence (running back) — are all nursing sore hamstrings.
The Zips like to run more than 160 plays per session. Fewer plays might be part of the solution.
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.