For years Akron has been the laughing stock of the MAC. The Zips failed to beat a Division I opponent for more than three seasons, haven't had a winning season since 2005, and have genuinely struggled to get recruits in. So coming off a 5-7 season, the Zips best since 2008, in a season in which the Zips shocked many, it seemed that third-year head coach Terry Bowden would be in store for a big recruiting class. But when the Zips' 2014 class was announced Wednesday afternoon, big was the last word anyone would use to describe it.
Akron's class includes just 13 players, a fraction of the likes of WMU and Northern Illinois' mega classes. Just take a look at it:
|Jamal Baggett||Oak Park IL (River Forest)||S||3-Star||5'11''/185|
|Brock Boxen||Beaver Falls, PA (Beaver Falls Area)||DT||3-Star||6'2''/300||Yes|
|Scott Boyett||Santa Rosa, CA (Santa Rosa Community College)||OT||2-Star||6'8''/325lb|
|Kyron Brown||Boynton Beach, FL (Boynton Beach Community College||CB||2-Star||5'11''/165lb|
|Undrea Bullard||St. Petersburg, FL (Gibbs)||DE||NR||6'6''/250|
|Anthony Clark||Akron, Ohio (Buchtel)||DE||3-Star||6'4''/276lb|
|Blake Dennis||Rittman, Ohio (Rittman)||WR||2-Star||6'0''/175lb|
|Kris Givens||Goodman, MS (Holmes Community College)||CB||2-Star||5'11''/175lb|
|Travonte Junius||Akron, Ohio (St. Vincent-St. Mary)||DE/OLB||2-Star||6'3''/205lb||Yes|
|Chandler Kincade||Beaver Falls, PA (Blackhawk)||PRO-QB||3-Star||6'4''/210lb||Yes|
|Kyle Ritz||Willoughby, Ohio (Willoughby)||OL||NR||6'4''/280|
|Jason Williams||Hialeah, FL (Champagnat Catholic)||DB||2-Star||6'3''/185||Yes|
|Newman Williams||Akron, Ohio (St. Vincent-St. Mary)||ILB||2-Star||6'0''/235lb||Yes|
Akron had a decent amount of needs coming into this Signing Day. The Zips lost almost their entire defensive line, several key contributors on the offensive line, and several starters in the secondary. So one would expect Akron to focus hard on those areas, and in some ways Bowden did. Four of Akron's 13 signees are defensive backs, including a player the Zips were able to flip from Western Kentucky Wednesday morning. But with only 13 members, its impossible to fill all the needs.
Akron was able to haul in four promising 3-Star prospects, two of which are on the defensive line, one of Akron's main areas of concern heading into 2014. The Zips also managed to add a pair of offensive line commits, including a huge JUCO offensive tackle who should compete for a starting job this spring. The Zips also did a great job of recruiting players from their own back yard. Three come from the city of Akron alone, while several others come from nearby locations.
But still, the lack of size is something to take note of. I wouldn't call it a cause for panic, as Bowden has had a lot of success dipping into the graduate transfer pool, as well as the JUCO pool, to find depth, and starters. But, it is a cause for concern. Anytime you fail to bringing in enough recruits on signing day to fill the majority of your scholarships, you are putting yourself in a situation where you could be left scrapping the bottom of the barrel for bodies come fall.
Yet, in a class with so few players, Bowden managed to find a few standout guys.
Anthony Clark is the biggest standout. The Akron native is a 3-star DE who could work his way into a starting spot. He chose to stay home and go with the Zips, over West Virginia, which is something Akron fans should be excited about. But it's not just that he's a hometown boy. Clark is a good looking prospect. At 6'4'', and 276 pounds he has amazing size for a freshman defensive end. His speed is good enough for him to be a threat off the edge, but he could also bulk up a bit and move inside if need be. Clark will be someone who plays early, and plays often.
Then of course there is 3-Star quarterback Chandler Kincade. Kyle Pohl did a good job in 2013, but a little challenge is never a bad thing. Kincade is a top 50 quarterback, with a great frame at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, and a nice arm with some zip (pun intended) on it. Kincade committed back in June and stuck with the Zips the whole way, another promising sign that recruits are starting to take notice of the change happening in the Rubber City.
Scott Boyett, the offensive tackle mentioned earlier, is another standout. He's 6-foot-8, 325 pounds and has two years of junior college experience under his belt. He already has the frame and size to make him the biggest player on Akron's line. The test will be how he holds up against Division I competition, but if he can hold his own, he could be a huge grab for Akron.
There are some great things about Akron's tiny class. The Zips added defensive lineman, and promising ones at that. They also picked up some defensive backs, including a JUCO corner in Kyron Brown who should be able to contribute in the fall. But the sheer lack of volume in this class is worrisome. Akron has amazing facilities (better than some BCS schools), a coach with a proven track record, and a program on the rise. Yet for whatever reason, the recruits aren't there. Again, it could be that Bowden is planning on brining in some transfers, but one still has to be conscious that it could also be a lack of interest from recruits, which is a huge issue if there's any truth to it. While the effort is good, it's hard to give this class a decent grade because 13 signees is a painfully small number.
OFFICIAL HUSTLE BELT GRADE: C