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2019 Akron Zips football positional previews: running backs

Most of Akron’s running production will be gone in 2019... but that might be a good thing.

NCAA Football: Akron at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Akron, to put it lightly, struggled to maintain the run game in 2018.

Part of it was ineffective run blocking schemes, but even with space and time to work, Akron could not find very much success on the ground, finishing 126th of 130 eligible teams in total rushing offense (1,143 yards on 390 rushes), including an NCAA-worse five rushing touchdowns as a unit. The longest rushing play on offense was a Kato Nelson 55-yard scoring run, which goes to show the lack of big play ability from the primary run game.

2019 will see the Zips lose approximately 50 percent of its running game with the departure of Van Edwards Jr., which usually means bad things for a program, but there’s a few names from the previous signing class which could look to make an impact in the upcoming seasons, including a transfer, which could help bolster the run game in the first year of new head coach Tom Arth.

Key departures:

  • Van Edwards Jr.: 147 carries for 588 yards and three touchdowns; 13 receptions for 105 yards and one touchdown in 2018.

Key returnees:

  • Deltron Sands
  • Keyondre White
  • Abraham Alce

Key additions:

  • Nick Kopczak

Deltron Sands, redshirt senior (Saint Thomas Aquinas HS/Oregon State, Fort Lauderdale, Florida)

  • 2018 stats: 39 carries for 128 yards and one touchdown; one reception for four yards in 11 appearances
  • Career stats (Oregon State and Akron): 70 carries for 325 yards and three touchdowns in 25 appearances (one start)

A first-team All-Name nominee in the MAC, Deltron Sands took over the second back role for the Zips in 2018 after the departures of Warren Ball and Manny Morgan pushed the depth chart up.

Sands finished the season as the Zips’ third-leading rusher, behind Edwards and quarterback Kato Nelson, who combined for 861 of Akron’s 1,143 rushing yards, with 128 yards as the second running back option.

Edwards was the dominant back, with Sands mostly seeing time when Edwards was down or if Akron was looking for a burst of speed. It was a season of recovery for Sands, who was playing coming off of a season-ending knee injury suffered in 2017. He averaged 3.1 yards per carry in his limited attempts, which aren’t exactly the best numbers for a prospective three-down back.

Sands can likely be more clearly judged from his peformance in 2017, if only slightly, where he took over admirably after injuries ravaged the Zips. He led the Zips in rushing twice in the season and earned the starting job vs. Miami before suffering his injury in the first quarter. Sands also saw a lot of time as a kick returner, showing his versatility. Sands averaged an impressive 6.9 yards per rush when he did get time to show of his craft.

The story with Sands, a five-foot-eight, 195 lb. senior, will be if he can stay healthy and stay consistent . He’s suffered two season-ending injries in his career and has been mired in te depth charts over the last two seasons. Time will tell if he can develop into a starting-level prospect.

Keyondre White, sophomore (Dillard HS, Fort Lauderdale, Florida)

  • 2018/career stats: 23 carries, 81 yards and a touchdown; one three-yard reception in four appearances

White was one of a few Zips to play as a true freshman, earning a lot of his playing time towards the end of the season. That he saw the field early is not a surprise at all, considering Akron’s lack of ready depth at the position and his own skill.

A three-star prospect out of a competitive Florida high school football scene, White, a five-foot-ten, 225 lb, power back, was the 47th-ranked running back in the country in the 2018 recruiting class held offers from Illinois, Minnesota, Louisville and Syracuse, but enrolled early at Akron instead. Known for a bruising running style, White ran for 2,869 yards on 271 carries for 30 touchdowns in his prep school career, and was named to the All-County team as both a junior and a senior.

White, the leading rusher in Akron’s game vs. South Carolina last year, could well make a push for the starting role or offer a change-of-pace for Deltron Sands going into 2019.

Other names on the roster:

  • Abraham Alce, redshirt freshman (Imokalee HS, Imokalee, Florida): Six-foot, 224 lbs. A three-star prospect per 247 Sports, who held offers from 11 schools, including Appalachian State, Boston College, Kentucky, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin and USF before ultimately enrolling with Akron. Had 76 carries for 533 yards and 15 total touchdowns his senior season.
  • Devanier Floyd, redshirt freshman (East HS, Akron, Ohio): Five-foot-nine, 200 lbs. A two-star prospect per 247 Sports, Akron was only offer. A hometown prospect, had four former HS teammates rostered as of 2018. Played two ways at East HS, had 1,031 yards and 14 touchdowns on 103 carries and gained All-League honors.
  • Nick Kopczak, transfer redshirt sophomore (Stow-Monroe Falls HS/Marshall University, Stow, Ohio): Five-foot-ten, 200 lbs. Transfers in from Marshall after a redshirt year and was required to sit out an additional year due to NCAA transfer rules. Played primarily defense at Stow-Monroe Falls HS.