August 28, 2008

Inside look at Akron

MADISON, Wis. - Coming off a season where they finished 4-8 overall and 3-5 in the Mid American Conference, the Akron Zips will step into Camp Randall Stadium Saturday morning to start 2008. The Badgers, ranked No. 13 in the associated press poll, are favored by 26.5 points in the season opener.

The following is a look inside the Akron Zips as the Badgers prepare for the start of the season:

Returning offensive starters: Eight.

Returning defensive starters: Five.

Offense: In 2007, Akron averaged just over 21 points and 311 yards of total offense per game.

Quarterback: Junior Chris Jacquemain returns after starting 11 games a season ago. He finished 2007 with 1,623 passing yards, 11 passing touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Running backs: After losing leading rusher Bryan Williams to graduation, the Zips will look at returning halfback Alex Allen to lead the way. In 2007 he totaled 102 carries for 420 yards. He led all Zips running backs by scoring seven touchdowns.

Senior Dennis Kennedy will most likely see solid playing time in 2008 as well. He finished last season with 46 rushes for 156 yards.

Wide receivers: Last season, Jabari Arthur tallied 1,171 yards receiving and found the endzone 10 times. Unfortunately for Akron, Arthur exhausted his eligibility. Senior Alphonso Owen, the most experienced wide out on the roster, caught 14 balls for 159 yards and one touchdown in 10 games.

Senior Andre Jones will line up on the offensive side of the ball as a wide receiver this season after playing as a defensive back a year ago. He recorded 79 tackles in 2007, good for second on the team.

Tight ends: Senior Merce Poindexter, 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, will lead the position this season after catching 13 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown last season.

Offensive line: As a unit a season ago, the Zips rushed for nearly 128 yards per game. That group returns three starters from a season ago.

Defense: The 2008 defense for the Zips looks to improve upon a defense that gave up 29 points and over 400 yards of total offense per game.

Defensive line: Two players return to a defensive line that had trouble slowing opponent's rushing attacks by allowing nearly 185 yards on the ground per game.

Linebackers: Seniors Kevin Grant and Doug Williams return after both started every game last season. Grant was third on the team in 2007 with 74 tackles.

Secondary: No starters from last season's squad return for 2008 at any position in the secondary. Look for UW to take advantage of the Zips inexperience.

Special Teams: Punter John Stec returns after averaging 37.5 yards per punt last season.

Place kicker Igor Ivelijic also returns after making 15-18 field goal attempts including a long of 51.

Look for converted wide receiver Andre Jones and defensive back Bryan Williams to return kicks and punts for the Zips on Saturday.

Analysis: After a sub-par season a year ago, Akron will be very hard pressed to start off the season with a win on the road against Wisconsin. To their credit, the Zips did hold Ohio State to only 3 points on the road in the first half of their 2007 game. But, defensively, losing the experience in the secondary and problems with slowing opposing rushers will haunt the Zips all afternoon against the Badgers. Wisconsin should, barring any extreme upset, leave Camp Randall Saturday afternoon with an easy victory.

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