Will Akron "Zip" By With 13 Recruits?
By Lana Sache
For a team that lost most of its defensive line and several key starters from last season, a sparse 13-player recruiting class is not something that Akron had planned on this offseason.
Fans may be crossing their fingers for head coach Terry Bowden to have something up his sleeve, but as the days have passed since signing day, gloom still lingers over the Rubber Capital of the World. Truth be told, Akron had more recruiting needs in terms of ability and numbers than any other team in the Mid-American Conference, but instead received little of either. Maybe Akron can get by next season, but it will still be a stretch.
Akron is still a bottom-tier team in the MAC despite a modest 5-7 record last season that marked one of the best campaigns in the past five years for the Zips. The 2007 season was the last year that they had more than four wins.
Bowden was clearly in need of a big recruiting class for next season, but Akron has instead been left to bank on finding walk-on hopefuls and transfers.
All is not lost, though. Akron's incoming freshmen recruits are not as bland as the Zips were last season.
Ten of the Zips' 13 newcomers are defensive players, and three of those are Akron natives. While such a recruiting emphasis on defense may seem surprising, each player whom Bowden has brought in has diverse strengths.
One thing they all have in common, however, is speed.
"Defensive coach (Chuck) Amato is going to want guys who can run," Bowden said at a press conference.
Anthony Clark is one of those guys, a three-star defensive end and Akron native on whom the Zips concentrated its recruiting efforts.
“We worked hard to create a relationship with him,” Bowden said of Clark at Akron's press conference following signing day.
Clark seems to want to keep that family dynamic as well.
"My grandma, Nana, is an Akron graduate and she means the world to me," Clark told the Akron Beacon Journal. "She is the reason why I am staying home."
Clark turned down both Pittsburgh and West Virginia to sign with the Zips. At 6-foot-4, 276 pounds and with enough speed to pose a threat to opposing offenses, Clark is a freshman who will play in the fall. He is also someone whom the Zips can train to be more flexible to seal the inside and create a distinctive edge. In an incoming freshmen class as thin as Akron's, the Zips could not have grabbed a better player than Clark.
Akron's three commits on offense included a wide receiver from Ohio, an offensive tackle and a quarterback. According to 247sports.com, Chandler Kincade is a Top-50 quarterback from Beaver Falls, Pa., and another big steal for the Zips. He committed last June after decommiting from Pittsburgh and stayed with Bowden throughout the process. Kincade had several unofficial visits to BCS schools after committing to the Zips, but he put no effort into them.
Akron may not have good numbers, but it has good loyalty, and that is something that Bowden is playing as his team's advantage. His commitment to players from the city of Akron is also something in which Bowden takes pride.
“You’re going to have a lot of people come in and see our local players play," Bowden said. "It’s already started to happen.”
Defensively speaking, Akron needed the numbers. It lost too many players not to have that as a focus. Last season, the Zips were third in the MAC in both total defense and rushing defense, and the school hopes the recruits can help maintain that status, but Akron still could have used help on offense.
Of the five games the Zips won, they had to rally in the second half twice and relied on the strength of their defense. They were sixth of 13 MAC schools in total offense and scoring offense, averaging a mediocre 4.9 yards per play. Akron managed a third-down conversion rate of 39 percent and 219.4 passing yards per game.
So, did Akron recruit to the best of its ability? Bowden would not be able to say so if he were being truthful. It is too hard to tell what the Zips will or will not bring to the table next fall with such small numbers.
Maybe Bowden really does have something up his sleeve, but he is simply keeping his mouth "zipped" for now. At least that is what Akron fans are hoping.