A point of demarcation was reached Saturday for the University of Akron football team.
A two-hour practice at Info- Cision Stadium, which was open to the public, was the 19th session of training camp. Starting Tuesday, the Zips will have the first of nine practices directly leading to the Sept. 3 opener at Ohio State.
“You can say this is the end of training camp,” head coach Rob Ianello said Saturday after the open practice. “We will still do some training-camp-type stuff in practice, covering situational things and cleaning some things up.
“But we also will turn our focus to team periods against an opponent, Ohio State in this case.”
Since reporting for camp on Aug. 3, the players have lived together at Spicer Hall and been free to concentrate on football. There have been double sessions and single sessions. There have been practices in the morning, afternoon and evening.
Last week, the players began moving out of Spicer Hall to the apartments or dorms where they will live during the school year.
School starts Monday, so players will be attending classes and studying while also attending practice and team meetings.
“They have to manage their days now. They have a lot more going on in their day,” Ianello said. “It’s not just all football all day.”
Ianello said he liked what he saw of his team during training camp, pointing to how more depth at many positions has meant more competition for jobs.
He said quarterback, placekicker and kick-off returners are still unsettled, and the first- and second-team spots on the depth chart may have some additions and subtractions.
“We do have some decisions to make,” Ianello said.
In the open practice Saturday, which drew about 400 fans, the Zips spent most of the first 90 minutes on individual drills. For the last 30 minutes, the team held a scrimmage in full pads, with first, second and third units sharing time.
Both of the starting quarterback candidates, junior Patrick Nicely and sophomore Clayton Moore, showed lively arms at times.
Redshirt freshman Jawon Chisholm, who is vying with sophomore Broderick Alexander, freshman Marvin Staten and freshman Karl Bostick for time at tailback, had the longest rush of the day with a 60-yard touchdown run.
Freshman fullback Nick Rossi added to the ground game with several punishing runs.
A young receiving group, led by junior Marquelo Suel, also caught the attention of the crowd with catches in traffic.
The play of the tailbacks and receivers has been a focal point of training camp because the top two rushers and top two pass catchers from 2010 have finished their eligibility.
“The biggest thing for us on offense coming into training camp was that we were going to have to play some guys that didn’t play last year, especially at running back and receiver,” offensive coordinator John Latina said Saturday after practice. “We had to get them up to speed, get them jelling with the other guys to give us a continuity that offenses have to have. That was a big hurdle, a big obstacle.
“That is coming around. We are not quite there yet, but we have made great strides. We feel like the arrow is pointing upward.”
The first-team defense, despite missing the injured Dan Marcoux and ShelDon Miller, dominated at times on Saturday, especially the front seven.
Kevin Cosgrove, the Zips’ first-year defensive coordinator, has definite opinions about his unit after the spring and preseason practices. He has eight starters back, but UA ranked 99th (out of 120) in the Football Bowl Subdivision in total defense.
“We are a work in progress,” Cosgrove said Saturday. “We have to improve our fundamental techniques at each position and each defense.
“I really like their attitude and work ethic. As far as the things we are asking them to do, you see them try to do it. The more reps they get, the better they will become.”
After the Zips’ opener in Columbus, the home opener is Sept. 10 against Mid-American Conference foe Temple.