College Football News Preview 2021: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the Akron season with what you need to know.
– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
– Top Players | Keys To The Season
– What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
– Akron Zips Schedule Analysis
– Akron Zips Previews
2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015
Akron Zips College Football Preview 2021: Offense
– The offense needs a whole lot more pop and it has to find one thing it can do consistently well. It worked in the win over a miserable Bowling Green team, and it put up points against Kent State mostly because the Golden Flashes wanted to get their own O back on the field to have more fun, but other than those two games, the Zips couldn’t hit 14 points in four of the other six.
– There’s experience with nine starters expected back, and there are options now to work with. Step One is to find a quarterback who can just get this thing moving. Akron averaged just 281 yards and 17 points per game with a brutally inefficient passing attack.
Second-year freshman Zach Gibson had a few moments throwing for 784 yards and four scores, but he’s not a runner and he threw five picks. Kato Nelson has been around for forever – but didn’t play last year – and DJ Irons comes in from the JUCO ranks to give it a go.
Losing leading receiver Nate Stewart hurts a bit, but he only caught 17 passes for 217 yards and a score. George Quallis is a good-sized 6-2 junior who can stretch the field a bit, and Tony Grimes is a smallish speedster who caught 12 passes – that was good enough to tie for second. Sophomore Michael Mathison led the way with two scoring grabs.
– The offensive line has to be far, far better. It was way too leaky in pass protection, but it should improve in a big way after starting four freshmen and with all five starters expected to return. All the O needs is a little bit of help for the decent backs.
Teon Dollard came in from the JUCO ranks and was a bright spot with 666 yards and six scores, but second-leading rusher and WR Jeremiah Knight is transferring out. On the way is Anthony Williams from Michigan State to instantly be a part of the rotation.
NEXT: Akron Zips College Football Preview 2021: Defense
4. Akron Zips College Football Preview 2021: Defense
– The defense had a rough go. It didn’t give up a ton of passing yards, but it also didn’t come up with any big plays, didn’t generate a lick of pressure, and with a total disaster against the run. Ten starters are back, though, and like the offensive side, it was young and developing.
– Start with the positives – the Zips have a few keepers in the secondary. The corner tandem of Randy Cochran and former safety AJ Watts – who was second on the team in tackles and came up with the team’s only two interceptions – should be one of the team’s biggest strengths.
There’s help on the way from the JUCO ranks to go along with former Michigan Wolverine Jaylen Kelly-Powell, a decent-tackling safety who made 18 stops. Adetutu Daranijo finished fourth on the team with 23 tackles.
– The pass rush needs options up front. The front three isn’t going to do a lot to get into the backfield, and it has to be night-and-day better against the run, but there’s size and bulk around 6-3, 285-pound sophomore Bryce Wilson on the nose and 284-pound Eric Bentley at one end.
5-9, 205-pound is built like a big safety, but he’s the main man on the inside of the linebacking corps with a team-high 74 stops. He’s also one of the only Zips who can get behind the line. 6-1, 210-pound Brandon Bischof is the other tackler on the inside, and there’s depth for a rotation on the outside.
NEXT: Akron Zips College Football Preview 2021: Top Players
Akron Zips College Football Preview 2021: Top Players
Best Akron Zips Offensive Player
RB Teon Dollard, Jr.
He started out at Alabama A&M at the FCS level, left and went the JUCO route to the FCS, and he turned into the biggest bright spot in an otherwise dismal season for the Akron offense.
The 5-11, 205-pounder has decent size and a great burst, averaging close to six yards per carry with a 202-yard day against Kent State and 185 more against Bowling Green.
2. C Bryce Petersen, Sr.
3. OT Xavier Gray, Fr.
4. WR George Quallis, Jr.
5. WR Tony Grimes, Fr.
Best Akron Zips Defensive Player
LB Bubba Arsianian, Jr.
He’s only 5-9 and 205 pounds, but he was tough enough to come up with 125 tackles with two sacks in a redshirt freshman season and followed it up with a team-high 74 stops with three sacks and four tackles for loss.
The Second Team All-MAC performer has the range to make up for his size, and while he doesn’t have the raw bulk to hold up against the blasters, he’s a terrific tackler.
2. CB/S AJ Watts, Soph.
3. CB Randy Cochran, Soph.
4. LB Brandon Bischof, Jr.
5. DE/LB Julian Richardson, Soph.
Top Incoming Akron Zips Transfer
QB DJ Irons, Soph.
The Zips need a steady producer to run the offense. There are plenty of options to try finding the right fit, and the hope is for Irons to be the JUCO transfer who can get this going.
What does he have that the O needs? Efficiency – at least at Iowa Central CC he was able to bomb away. Along with his accuracy and downfield ability he’s able to add more of a rushing element to the position than there was last year.
NEXT: Akron Zips College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season
Akron Zips College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season
Akron Zips Biggest Key: Offense
The Zips finally have to generate a good passing game. It was one of the last-efficient passing games in the country and was 113th in yards per completion.
It was a struggle just to keep the chains moving, there weren’t enough big plays down the field, and there was little to no help for a running game that was dared to try producing against the stacked fronts.
There were a few big plays in the wild 69-35 loss to Kent State, but that was about it. The offense failed to average more than 5.2 yards per pass in four of the six games with just four touchdown passes and six interceptions.
Akron Zips Biggest Key: Defense
The pass defense has to come up with more big stops. It has to pick off passes, it has to make a play on third downs, and it has to just be better.
The Zips had one of the nation’s least-efficient pass defenses. Opposing quarterbacks averaged ten yards per attempt with 12 touchdown passes and just two picks. Bowling Green’s passing game didn’t work in the 31-3 loss, and Buffalo was the only other team that didn’t have success when needed.
The Bulls, though, were busy running for 428 yards and six touchdowns.
Just four years ago, Akron’s defense generated 19 interceptions, it came up with just five in 2019, and then last year it failed to come up with one until the final two games.
Akron Zips Key Player To A Successful Season
DT Bryce Wilson, Soph.
There isn’t a whole lot of bulk for the interior. 308-pound Nazir Sy was part of the rotation making nine tackles, and the 6-3, 285-pound Wilson made just seven stops in five games. Neither one generated a tackle for loss. They’ll combine to work on the nose and they need to do more for a run defense that struggled way too much.
Akron Zips Key Game To The 2021 Season
Ohio, Oct. 2
The Zips finally got a win in the Tom Arth era last year with the blowout over Bowling Green. That’s the second MAC game of the season, but first is a visit from a solid Ohio team that’s good enough to be in contention for the conference title.
Just how much has Akron improved over the last few years? It pushed Ohio hard in a 24-10 loss last year but got rocked 52-3 in 2019. The 2017 Zips won 37-34, and that’s been about it in a run of 12 losses in the last 13 games to the Bobcats. Pull this off at home, and it might just be the sign that everything is changing.
2020 Akron Zips Fun Stats
– Passing TDs: Opponents 12 – Akron 4
– Penalties: Opponents 38 for 374 yards – Akron 24 for 190 yards
– Average Rushing Yards Per Game: Opponents 248.2 – Akron 141.7
NEXT: Akron Zips College Football Preview 2021: What Will Happen, Season Prediction
Akron Zips College Football Preview 2021: What Will Happen, Season Prediction
Akron played for the MAC Championship in 2017. It didn’t win, but it got there and went off to the Boca Raton Bowl where it was slaughtered by Florida Atlantic 50-3.
Throw those two games into the mix, and the Zips are 4-27 against FBS teams over its last 31 games, and even worse, it’s 1-22 in its last 23.
Head coach Tom Arth is trying to rebuild this thing, and it’s been painful.
To be fair, his first two teams were very young and had to go through the early growing pains, and now 19 starters are expected to return, there are a few real, live position battles with decent options in some spots, and there’s reason to hope for an improvement.
Set The Akron Zips Regular Season Win Total At … 2.5
It’s the MAC, so it’s possible to go from zero to hero in a snap, but this is still going to take a little while.
Experience has to translate into production on the lines, finding more playmakers for the offensive side is a must, and the program just needs a little bit of positive momentum.
The problem is a schedule with a built-in win over Bryant and … ?
The Bowling Green game – the lonely win over that run of 23 games – is on the road, and it’s going to take a home upset or three over Buffalo, Kent State, maybe Ohio, maybe Ball State to start to make a move.
But for this year, just winning a few games and being more competitive would be a huge step.