It could be a case of high risk, high reward in building the University of Akron football program to a level of respectability.
One athlete — a transfer — is on the UA campus attending classes and participating in pre-season conditioning. The other, an incoming freshman, will report to the team in the fall for practice, according to a team spokesman. Both scholarship athletes have had issues in their past.
With UA being a mid-major program, they’re the kinds of chances that the Zips might have to take occasionally, coach Terry Bowden said during a Wednesday phone interview.
“We all make decisions based on relationships we have established that would be considered a risk,” he said. “Whether I was at Auburn, whether I was at Salem College or North Alabama, there are situations where that occurs. I look at each situation on an individual basis.”
Avis Commack, a cornerback, coming from Florida State University with a year of eligibility remaining, could bring some much-needed experience and depth to the defensive backfield, an area in which defensive coordinator Chuck Amato expressed concern during spring practices.
But Commack left the Seminoles after being charged with stealing a fellow student’s iPad, according to reports. He eventually pleaded no contest.
He graduated and will have a year of eligibility remaining. Bowden said Commack didn’t plan to return to FSU anyway.
“[Defensive backs coach] Terrell Buckley has worked with him on and off the field for the past couple of years so we felt he was an ideal guy to take a chance on,” Bowden said. “He made a mistake and we felt like we could give him an opportunity.”
The case of running back Hakeem Lawrence out of Hialeah-Miami Lakes High School represents a problem familiar to many college coaches.
A talented athlete apparently doesn’t take academics seriously and by the time he graduates he finds the opportunity for a collegiate football career slipping from his grasp. Bowden said the Zips are still waiting for his documentation to go through the NCAA’s clearinghouse, but he should be in camp in August.
During his senior year, Lawrence rushed for 1,818 yards for a 10.6 per carry average and 22 touchdowns, but found no one willing to take a chance on him because of his academic record, according to reports.
Bowden said that he’s a typical spread offense back who can run, catch, return punts and kickoffs.
“We’re trying to get as many people [as we can] at that position. You have to have one shine,” Bowden said. “You have to have one special guy. If you have any chances to take, it needs to be a difference-maker or someone who can score points in a game.”
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Zips blog at https://ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.