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2019 Akron Zips football positional previews: linebackers

Two of the biggest playmakers amongst the Akron linebackers depart this offseason and a new defense is being installed. What does Tom Arth have to work with in 2019?

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NCAA Football: Akron at Northwestern Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

The heart of the Zips defense in 2018 was its linebacking corps, with the top two tacklers in 2018 coming from the middle of the defense, and four of the top 10 in tackle production coming from the position group.

2019, however, will likely look radically different, as some of its biggest contributors depart, including Ulysees Gilbert III and Brian Bell. John Lako returns for a redshirt senior season for Proven Veteran Leadership (tm), but despite a number of linebackers featured in the depth chart, there isn’t a lot of experience (which, if you’ve followed our Akron previews thus far, has been a prevalent theme.) The good news is that with a new defensive staff which empasizes an amorphous, unset formation, there oculd be a lot of rotation that churns the roster for much-needed experience and rest.

Key departures

  • Ulysees Gilbert III: 85 total tackles, 7.5 tackles-for-loss for 21 yards, .5 sacks for two yards, one pass break-up, two fumble recoveries for 46 yards in 12 games (12 starts) in 2018
  • Josh Ward (transition to defensive end)
  • Brian Bell: 63 total tackles, 3.5 tackles-for-loss, one sack for nine yards, six pass break-ups, one quarterback hit, two forced fumbles in 10 games (10 starts) in 2018

Key returnees

  • John Lako
  • James King
  • Bubba Arslanian

Key additions

  • Michael Scott (JUCO transfer)
  • Jerome Cooper (transiton from running back)

John Lako, redshirt senior (St. Mary Catholic HS/Monroe, Michigan)

  • 2018 stats: 126 total tackles, 10 tackles-for-loss for 27 yards, .5 sack for four yards, three pass break-ups and one fumble recovery in 12 games (10 starts)
  • Career stats: 229 total tackles, 15.5 tackles-for-loss for 41 yards, 1.5 sacks for 12 yards, two interceptions, six passes defended, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery in 39 games (13 starts)

Ulysees Gilbert stole a lot of the limelight in the Akron defense due to his prolific numbers and awards over the course of his career, but Lako was the Zips’ most productive linebacker in the 2018 campaign, finally getting a chance to start after beig a key roational piece in previous seasons.

Lako was fourth in the MAC in solo tackles (73) and sixth in total tackles (126) amongst all defensive players, and was named third-team all-MAC as a will linebacker in ten starts. Lako can play at any of the LB spots, with previous experience as a mike linebacker as well. Lako has sure tackling form and could usually be found around the ball, especially in running situations. He’ll likely take the role of defensive captain and play-caller in the 2019 campaign.

Bubba Arslanian, redshirt junior (Aurora HS, Aurora, Ohio)

  • 2018/career stats: 13 total tackles, two tackles for loss in 12 games (one start)

Arslanian, of the returning linebackers, is second on the list in terms of tackle production (13 total tackles,) which goes to show how often the previous Akron staff kept to their starting lineups.

He showed great potential as a high school senior, collecting 156 tackles, three sacks, fourteen tackles-for-loss, three interceptions, four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one defensive touchdown. For his efforts, Arslanian received 2016 first-team All-Ohio Honors and was named’s defensive player of the year and a defensive all-star in 2016.

Arslanian reportedly had interest from a bevy of Big Ten programs, including Ohio State, Michigan, Purdue and Wisconsin, as well as Arizona, before chosing Akron.

One knock against him being a consistent stater could be his size. Arslanian is listed as standing at five-foot-nine inches and 220 lbs., which makes him rather undersized for the will linebacker position, assuming Lako moves to the mike.

James King, redshirt senior (Booker T. Washington HS/Miami (FL), Miami, Florida)

  • 2018 stats: 17 total tackles in eight games (no starts)
  • Career stats (between Miami [FL] and Akron): 17 total tackles in 11 games (no starts)

The wild card of the linebacker corps this upcoming season is King, a former three-star recruit per 247Sports, and a four-star prospect by ESPN.

Originally a Miami (FL) recruit as a linebacker under Al Golden, King was switched to safety under Mark Richt. He saw three games as a true freshman, but did not record any stats before he wound up at Akron.

The circumstances surrounding his arrival at Akron are a little murky, but King projects to make a return to outside linebacker with the vacancies Akron has coming up in spring camps.

At Booker T. Washington HS, King was a major part of the team, finishing his senior season with 116 total tackles, 32 tackles-for-loss and two interceptions, anchoring a defense which oversaw a 42-0 record and five consecutive state champioships.

If King can get close to the potential he showed in high school, he’ll be a player to watch for in the MAC. Some players just need an opportunity to push up the depth chart to show what they’re made of and King will be one of those players.

Michael Scott, transfer junior (North Florida Christian HS/Tulane/Iowa Western CC, Tallahassee, Florida)

  • 2018 stats/career (at Iowa Western CC): 23 total tackles, three tackles-for-loss, one block

An early enrollee, Scott comes to Akron from Iowa Western Community College, after playing one season on the defensive line. He was a three-star recruit via 247Sports coming out of JUCO, with Akron as his only listed offer. He is listed as a linebacker in the 2019 spring roster.

Scott collected 64 tackles, 11 tackles-for-loss and two sacks in his senior year, collecting 28 offers as a three-star high school prospect from schools including Iowa State, Illinois, Maryland, Syracuse, UCF and USF before going with Tulane. After taking a redshirt year at Tulane, he made the decision to transfer to JUCO.

With how little experience returns, Scott could be an immediate fit as a rotation piece or starter. A highlight tape can be found here, with tape as both a defensive end and a linebacker.

Other rostered linebackers

  • Brandon Bischof, redshirt sophomore (St. Vincent-St. Mary HS, Akron, Ohio): Stands at six-foot-one, 220 lbs. Played all 12 games in 2018 as a true freshman, mostly on special teams. Recorded nine tackles, one tackles-for-loss. A two-sport athlete in high school, once committed to South Carolina-Upstate as a outfield/pitching prospect. Followed his brother Nathan to Akron.
  • Jake Bracher, redshirt freshman (William Mason HS, Mason, Ohio): Stands at six-foot, 205 lbs. Recorded 88 total tackles, a half-sack and a fumble recovery in his senior season as walk-on prospect.
  • Jerome Cooper, redshirt sophomore (Stevenson HS, Detroit, Michigan): Stands at five-foot-eleven, 219 lbs. Listed as running back in 2018, had one carry for 10 yards and saw primarily special teams duty. Played linebacker, safety and running back at Stevenson, collecting 121 total tackles, three forced fumbles, one interception and a defensive touchdown in his senior season.
  • Reggie Corner Jr., redshirt freshman (McKinley HS, Canton, Ohio): Stands at five-foot-nine, 195 lbs. A two-star prospect, per 247Sports. A legacy product, father Reggie Sr. (2004-2007) was a cornerback on the 2005 MAC Championship Akron roster and played five years in the NFL. As HS senior, had 188 total tackles (62 solo), five tackles-for-loss, two forced fumbles, two interceptions, two defensive touchdowns, earned first-team all-Ohio honors.
  • Zach DiLauro, redshirt freshman (Springfield HS, Akron, Ohio): Stands at five-foot-ten, 210 lbs. Totalled 142 tackles, 10 tackles-for-loss and four sacks in his prep career. Cousin Christian a former four-year starter at OT at Illinois, currently in NFL; father Joe a former four-year starter at tackle for Toledo.
  • DeMarkus Glover, redshirt junior (Northside Christian HS, St. Petersburg, Florida): Stands at six-feet-one, 220 lbs. Played in 10 games in 2018, totalling one tackle and one assisted tackle. Had five tackles (four solo) in redshirt freshman season in 2017. As a high schooler, played strong safety for head coach Mike Alstott.
  • DeMarcus Lloyd, sixth-year senior (Dooly County HS/Butler County CC, Vienna, Georgia): Stands at six-foot, 205 lbs. Was on starting lineup in first game of 2018 before suffering a season-ending injury, was on medical waiver after suffering a season-ending injury the year prior. Over Akron career, Lloyd has 28 tackles, 2.5 tackles-for-loss and an interception. Was a starter at Butler County CC in 2015, collecting 109 total tackles, 23 tackles-for-loss, five sacks, four forced fumbles and an interceptions. Was named All-Jayhawk Conference honorable mention.
  • Dean Ramicone, redshirt sophomore (Brusnwick HS, Brunswick, Ohio): Stands at six-foot, 215 lbs. No recorded stats at Akron. An All-Greater Cleveland Conference selection as a HS senior. Was a four-sport athlete at Brunswick HS, playing football, track, wrestling and rugby.