The primary question that will occupy University of Akron football coach Tom Arth as the spring practice session winds down: What comes next?
Plenty of hard work.
“We have a long way to go, a long way to go,” Arth said after Saturday’s Spring Showcase at InfoCision Stadium. “The effort our guys are putting forth to do things right, to do them as well as they can, has been very exciting to me.”
There wasn't a lot revealed in the Zips’ practice, but unlike most of this spring period, Arth and his players at least offered some semblance of want to function on both sides of the ball.
With any actual football action being situational — third down, goal line, etc. — Arth praised his players.
Offensively, presumptive starter at quarterback Kato Nelson looked the most comfortable he’s been since practice started.
“Today, I thought we did a good job of executing here and there with the formations and alignments we have trouble getting lined up and stuff like that, but that’s what the summer is for,” Nelson said.
“We’re allowed to spend time with them in the summer. We’re not allowed to practice. We’re not allowed to have a ball or anything like that,” he said, “but we can meet with them. We can install. We can come out and do drills without a ball. That will be a really important time for us.”
Heading into the summer, the defense, which lost nine starters from last season’s unit, will remain the question mark. They varied alignment depending upon the situation. What’s clear is 4-3 or 3-4 doesn’t matter. What does is what works.
The big question for the defense will come in the form of who takes the leadership reins. As last year’s remaining starting linebacker John Lako points out, there are plenty of defensive players who have in-game experience still on the roster.
“It’s more adjusting to our new scheme and more of that than, I think, how young we are,” Lako said. “I think everyone has to get their confidence and get team chemistry going.”
Arth said defensive players should view the vacancies as opportunities.
“That’s what we expect from our group,” he said.
However, starters are starters for a reason — usually with leadership being an inherent quality.
Lako understands he and defensive back Alvin Davis will be called upon to fill that void.
“Going from a scout guy to working my role in there, I’ve kind of been groomed for [leadership],” he said “I’m excited to step into that leadership role. You just have to be confident and let everyone know we need all 11 guys.”
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ByGeorgeThomas.