The University of Akron football team will remain in the growing-pain stage even with its spring showcase looming this weekend, and it's not difficult to figure out why that is.
A new coaching staff equals a new system equals a significant learning curve. As the Zips continue on their installation and absorption of new schemes, there’s not a lot to digest observationally.
What can be discerned is that improvement exists. Quarterback Kato Nelson said he sees and feels it. The presumptive starter — although new coach Tom Arth won’t guarantee anyone anything at this point — Nelson said after Tuesday morning’s practice that his comfort level with Arth’s offensive system has grown since the beginning of spring practice.
“I think from the first practice to the 10th we’ve improved on the offensive side of the ball,” he said. “Today was a little rough because we had a lot of install this morning and everyone wasn’t playing as fast as they usually do because they were thinking a lot, so we had a lot of mental mistakes today.”
The team's goal is to look at the film and make corrections based on it. Arth said lethargy, perhaps from watching the NCAA college basketball championship game, reared its head Tuesday.
Arth is pleased enough overall, but said he expects more.
“With some success comes higher expectations,” he said. “As I’ve told the [media] and everybody, we’ve really come out and had a great semester in the classroom. We’ve had a great semester in the weight room and the start of spring practice. They’ve exceeded our expectations.”
Yes, there is a “but.”
“They have to realize that,” Arth said. “They have to embrace that and they have to come out and play with that same type of energy and that same kind of purpose every single day.”
It’s shown to some degree. Nelson, 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, has improved his footwork, which in the past often resulted in the ball not always getting where it needed to be. The accuracy issues often proved frustrating in some situations.
“A lot of that has to do with individual drills we have before practice because a lot of my accuracy problems had to do with my feet,” Nelson said. “And those drills that we do during our individual periods, I think, have cleaned that up.”
Nelson said he's also making reads a little bit faster and, given the veteran composition of the offense, there is chemistry on some level despite the newness of the schemes.
“That’s what we’ve got summer for,” he said. “During the summer we’ll get all the receivers and the offense together and really dig into the offensive playbook, and I think we’ll be fine going into fall camp.”
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ByGeorgeThomas.