2014 record: 5-7, 3-5 in the Mid-American Conference, fourth in East Division
Look back: Akron entered last season riding a wave of momentum. The program was coming off its best season since 2008, including winning its final three games of the year. A 2014 season-opening win over Howard had the Zips riding a four-game win streak. But that ended with back-to-back losses to Penn State and Marshall. Another win streak — this time three games — appeared to get Akron back on track, but struggles in the red zone helped the Zips lose six of their remaining seven games.
Offensive starters returning: 7
Offensive starters lost: 5
Defensive starters returning: 5
Defensive starters lost: 6
Key losses: RT Cedric Brittnum, RB Jawon Chisholm, WR Zach D’Orazio, WR L.T. Smith III, C Travis Switzer, DE Nordly Capi, S Bre’ Ford, S Johnny Robinson, LB Justin March-Lillard, LB C.J. Mizell, S Devonte Morgan
Top returnees: QB Kyle Pohl, RB Conor Hundley, WR Andrew Pratt, WR Mykel Traylor-Bennett, RG Tommy Brown, LG Dylan Brumbaugh, RT Quaison Osborne, LT Isaiah Williams, LB Jatavis Brown, CB Kris Givens, NT Cody Grice, DL Se’Von Pittman, CB DeAndre Scott
Strengths: Concerns at quarterback forced Terry Bowden to open up the position to competition this spring. Incumbent Kyle Pohl has the most experience of all the players (28 career appearances) while passing for close to 5,000 career yards, but turnovers — 18 interceptions during the past two seasons — could force Bowden to look elsewhere for help. Tra’Von Chapman, a dual-threat quarterback, has been impressive during the spring and could win the job in the fall. Sophomore Thomas Woodson was Pohl’s backup in 2014 and saw limited action, combining for 937 total yards of offense and five touchdowns.
The offensive line returns four of its five starters from last season, led by guard Dylan Brumbaugh and tackle Isaiah Williams. The pair combine for 67 career appearances on the front line for a group that allowed just 24 sacks last season.
Weaknesses: Jawon Chisholm finished his career at Akron as the school’s second all-time leading rusher with 3,403 career yards and 26 career touchdowns. Last season, he led the team in rushing with 620 yards and eight touchdowns. His replacement, senior Conor Hundley, shared backfield duties and was second in the team in carries (104), rushing yards (540) and rushing touchdowns (4). The Zips haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Brett Briggs in 2005.
Receivers Zach D’Orazio (658 yards) and L.T. Smith combined for more than 100 catches and 1,100 yards last season. Their departures, along with those of teammates Tyler Williams and Keith Sconiers, means Akron must make up 53 percent of its production from the position.
Akron ranked third in the league in total defense in 2014, but duplicating that kind of success will be hard after losing eight of its top 10 tacklers. Linebacker Jatavis Brown was a first-team, All-MAC selection last season after leading the team in tackles (99) and tackles for loss (14.5).
Outlook: Akron continues to show improvement under Terry Bowden. The Zips have won more games during the past two seasons (10) than their previous three. However, the program continues to search for its first winning season since 2005. Getting there this season is going to be tough, in part, because the defense needs an overhaul.
Sept. 5 at Oklahoma
Sept. 12 Pittsburgh
Sept. 19 Savannah State
Sept. 26 at Louisiana
Oct. 3 Ohio
Oct. 10 at Eastern Michigan
Oct. 17 at Bowling Green
Oct. 31 Central Michigan
Nov. 7 at UMass
Nov. 14 at Miami (OH)
Nov. 21 Buffalo
Nov. 27 Kent State
College Football / College Basketball Handicapper. 2011 won 74%, 2012 won 72% 2015 SPECIAL. CALL, 877.WIN.ATS9 EMAIL,V@VincentRizzoSports.com