Three questions for the Zips as they begin spring practice:
1 Will quarterback Kyle Pohl continue to develop?
Last season, quarterback Dalton Williams arrived at UA with four years of experience in Terry Bowdenís fast-paced system and enjoyed some success before injuries hammered the offensive line. Williams officially passed the reins to Kyle Pohl during the final game of the season against Toledo and Pohl showed some flashes until the Rocketsí defense began to tee off on him. Still, there is plenty with which to work. Pohl has a lively arm and he has the ability to extend plays with his scrambling ability and to make sizable gains with his legs. The latter might not be what Bowden cherishes most in a quarterback, but itís an asset nonetheless. Pohl almost has the job by default because heís the only one on the roster with significant experience. In the meantime, who is going to step up to fill the backup role? Behind Pohl, the Zips are young with Steve Franco and Marcus Prather, the prime candidates for the job, being redshirt freshmen.
2 Who steps up to fill holes?
Although the Zipsí losses to graduation were not staggering, they did lose a few players who had become leaders. Key among them was the aforementioned Williams, but there was also fifth-year senior transfer Kurt Mangum at the middle linebacker position. They didnít play in the program for four years, but they held influence with teammates. And with gritty, gutsy offensive lineman Adam Bice gone too, there are voids to be filled with respect to leadership. Defensive linemen Nico Caponi and Cody Grice definitely began to show those needed qualities last season. They both led by example and commanded the attention of their teammates with their play on the field. Will C.J. James emerge on the defensive line? What about towering lineman Cedric Brittnum on the offensive line?
3 Will a playmaker or two emerge?
The one thing the Zips sorely lacked was at least one big-play threat. In Bowdenís offense, thatís close to a death sentence. Just one player with the ability to break one big is essential in keeping the opponentís defense honest. That ability didnít come from the offense, nor special teams. There were a couple of big plays, but they were few and far between. Wide receivers Tyrell Goodman and Imani Davis, both sophomores, possess the speed, but not the experience. How they develop could be a big key to the offense.
ó George M. Thomas