2019 Akron Zips Team Preview

It was an up and down seven years under Terry Bowden, but Akron has finally moved on, hiring Ohio native Tom Arth to take over the job. Arth is best known for his stint at his alma mater, DIII John Carroll, where he went 40-8 and remains the “one” in DIII powerhouse Mount Union’s 132-1 regular season record dating back nearly 14 years.

Arth was hired away to try and revive former FCS power UT-Chattanooga. After a tough start in year one, the Mocs went 6-5 in year two and looked to be on the upswing before Arth left for Akron, which is where we stand now.

In the MAC, where it is really hard to distinguish yourself from the pack, taking a chance on a young guy without traditional qualifications like Arth, who has a single-digit number of wins above the DIII level, is a really great thing.

Arth is an Ohio native and has ties to high school coaches throughout the state, and he takes over a team that will have to rebound after injuries essentially cost the Zips a real shot at anything meaningful last year.

Offense

The Zips had one of the worst offenses in the country in 2019 (4.6 YPP), the good news is they’ll get a solid bit of experience back, and should get even more experience back in 2020 for Arth’s second year.

Dual-threat QB Kato Nelson returns along with four of the top five receivers in a group headlined by juniors Andre Williams (649 yards, 14.1 YPC, six touchdowns) and Jonah Morris (281 yards, 14.7 YPC, one touchdown).

Deltron Sands will take over at halfback after rushing for 128 yards on limited carries last year, and three of five are back on the offensive line.

There is experience on offense, talent may be a so will probably play the high risk/high reward game, but the good news is that with only four seniors in the two-deep, pretty much everyone will be back in 2020 with a year of experience under Arth’s system under their belts.

Defense

A pair of big names return on defense in MLB John Lako (10 TFLs) and S Alvin Davis Jr. (seven PD), but outside of them, almost nobody is back for the Zips (nine of top 13 tacklers gone, only three starters back), and the depth looks really spotty.

DC Matt Feeny was with Arth at Chatttanooga, and he’ll have to completely revamp a defense that has little to speak of in terms of experience returning.

Some other names to watch would be senior safety Shawn Featherstone, who missed last year with an injury, and the only other returning starter: DE Josh Ward (seven TFL, four sacks). However, the top three corners are gone from a secondary that was probably this team’s strongest unit last year on either side of the ball.

The depth is scary, in a bad way, and there will probably be a lot of underclassmen in the two-deep, meaning if injuries come we’ll be in for a tough year.

I’d expect Lako to keep the run defense chugging along, but the pass defense will take a big step back with the loss of guys like Kyron Brown, and I’d expect this defense not to reach the level of last year’s group in year one under the new system.

2019 Outlook

The offense might take a step forward but the defense will take a big enough step back to counter that and I expect this team to be about on par with last year’s squad.

The schedule isn’t too bad, the Zips could use a schedule like this next year when all the pieces are in place, but the lack of talent means the Zips will be underdogs in every game, not that I expect them to go 0-12.

Bowden led Akron to their first ever bowl win and their most wins since they joined the FBS, he’ll be a tough act to follow, but he didn’t leave a lot in terms of hope for 2019. As long as Arth can string together a couple wins, I’d be happy as an Akron fan all things considered, the real test will come in 2020.

Schedule

DateOpponentOPP. RANKProj. Margin
31-Augat Illinois81-16.7
7-SepUAB91-9.1
14-SEPAT CENTRAL MICHIGAN122-4.7
21-SepTroy77-11.3
28-Sepat Massachusetts124-3.6
12-OCTKENT STATE111-2.4
19-OCTBUFFALO100-7.4
26-OCTAT NORTHERN ILLINOIS85-15.7
2-NOVAT BOWLING GREEN118-5.8
12-NOVEASTERN MICHIGAN106-5.2
20-NOVat Miami (Oh)99-13.5
26-NOVOHIO72-12.0

Average Projected Record: 2.9 wins, 9.1 losses (2.0 wins, 6.0 losses)