To say the Akron Zips have struggled as a program would be an understatement.
They’ve appeared in just three bowl games and none since 2017. Joe Moorehead, formerly of Penn State and Mississippi State fame, was brought aboard last year to rebuild the program after a three-year stretch under Tom Arth which proved diasterous, taking Akron from a in-the-mix bowl team to a laughingstock.
In Moorhead’s first year at the helm, the Zips won just two games... and one was a narrow win over FCS foe, St. Francis (PA). But there was a lot of promise on that squad, with several games coming down to a possession or less. The uptick in performance was thanks in part to an infusion of transfer talent; the Zips brought in nearly 40 players to get the team in ship-shape, and it showed, especially on the offensive side.
As we continue looking at the Transfer Portal movement within the MAC, it’s an unfortunate reality that players from MAC schools will jump ship to better opportunities. However, at the same time, Akron and the like get the opportunity to take advantage of “Power 5” depth pieces who want to star or even JUCO talents who want to make an impact at the FBS level.
The Zips lost a lot of talent in the Transfer Portal this cycle... and we mean a lot of talent. 20 players departed via the portal in the offseason, with an additional six leaving for professional opportunities in March. Even defensive leader Bubba Arslanian left the team in June after spring practices. Suffice to say it’ll be a tall task for Moorhead and company to pick up the pieces.
We’ve compiled a look at each player lost and gained via all kinds of services. It’s really a challenge to track down all of the transfers to and from since the larger sites like to focus on the bigger schools, but Akron has targeted all levels of football this offseason, casting a wide berth in the hopes of finding some underrated talent.
Let’s take a deeper dive into who’s leaving and who’s arriving:
- RB Jonzell Norrils (Uncommitted)
The leading rusher from the Zips’ 2021 squad has jumped in the portal. After three years in the Akron program, Jonzell Norrils is off to a new beginning. As a freshman, Norrils appeared in just two games and managed 30 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. In 2021, he took a massive step forward and led the way with 573 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged nearly five yards per carry.
However, last year, Norrils managed just 22 yards off of nine carries in five games. According to Norrils’ Twitter bio, he is an “RB @ ODU.” However, as of publication, there was no official confirmation of Norills being registerted at Oldf Dominion Universiry (or any other ODU for that matter.)
- RB Cameron Wiley (Uncommitted)
For the second time in two years, Cam Wiley has found himself in the Transfer Portal. Initially spending his first three years at Minnesota, Wiley came to Akron and made an impact. In his three years backing up Mo Ibrahim, Wiley amassed just 215 yards and a score. In just one year at Akron, Wiley led the way with 486 yards and added five touchdowns. Wiley averaged 4.6 yards per carry for the Zips in 2022 and his total production will be difficult to replace.
- WR Tony Grimes (Uncommitted)
After three years in the Akron program, Tony Grimes (not to be confused with Tony Grimes, the DB from North Carolina) is off to the Transfer Portal. Over the course of his Zips career, Grimes appeared in 27 games as a receiver and totaled 346 yards and a touchdown off of just 36 receptions.
- TE Tristian Brank (Uncommitted)
According to On3, Tristian Brank has elected to jump into the Transfer Portal after three years in Akron. As of publication, Brank does not appear on the Zips 2023 spring ball roster, an indication he is indeed in the portal. While at Akron, Brank was a regular contributor on the Zips offense over the last couple of years as both a blocker and outlet receiver. He broke out as the third-leading receiver in the 2021 season with 269 yards and three touchdowns, finishing with second-team all-MAC honors. Brank finished with 153 yards and a score last year.
- OT Xavior Gray (Liberty)
Quite possibly the largest loss in this cycle could be Xavior Gray. Gray was a multi-year starter at left tackle and was able to make an impact early. He was a regular member of the offensive line in 2020 and 2021 where he played in every game and started in most. His playing time was cut a bit in 2022 with the coaching change. Oddly enough, he recovered a fumble for a touchdown in the loss to Kent State in 2020.
Gray will be transferring to Liberty, who fended off a pair of Power 5 programs for his services.
- OT Owen Murphy (ECU)
As was the case with Gray, Owen Murphy was a regular starter on the Akron offensive line before 2022. In 2020 and 2021, Murphy racked up 15 starts and 17 appearances for the Zips. Just like with Gray, Murphy’s playing time was cut all of the way back in 2022, hence his desire to test out other waters.
- OT Max Banes (Houston)
Time is a flat circle, as some have said. Max Banes started off his collegiate career at Houston where he was a big part of the Cougars’ offensive line. In those three years, Banes appeared in 23 games and helped Houston attain a solid offense. Then, he chose to transfer to Akron for the 2022 season. After just one year in Akron, he’s going back home.
- OG Ryan Beckman (ECU)
Ryan Beckman’s story is just like Murphy and Gray: A two-year starter, Beckman was replaced and phased out in 2022 with the coaching change. Beckman was the Zips’ starting at center and guard for 2020 and ‘21, but then he ended up just appearing in one game last year. In total, Beckman logged 1,175 snaps, giving him plenty of experience to take with him.
- OG Jordan Daniels (Charlotte)
Over the last three seasons after his redshirt season, Jordan Daniels was a regular contributor to the Zips’ offensive line. In three years, Daniels logged 21 appearances including six games last year. Needless to say, the offensive line depth has taken a massive hit.
- DL Ravontae Holt (Uncommitted)
Akron was Ravontae Holt’s second school, but he’s off to another. Holt, who had 18 tackles in eight games at Akron, has more of a resume at his previous stop. At Wyoming, Holt tacked up 54 tackles, 5.5 for loss, 3.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.
- DL Quevan Lawson (Uncommitted)
Some players just do not get their feet under them and it seems like that was what happened with Quevan Lawson. In four years, Lawson only appeared in a few games. In total, Lawson contributed just six tackles and 1.5 for loss. Most of that productivity came in the game against Miami (OH) in 2020 where he tallied three tackles and a TFL.
- DL Nazir Sy (Northwestern State [FCS])
As the saying goes: the fourth time’s the charm. Well, maybe not, but Nazir Sy is going to be on his fourth team in six years in 2023 as he takes his talents to the FCS level at Northwestern State.
Out of high school, Sy committed to and played at Western Kentucky for a year. Then, he went the JUCO route to Butler C.C. (KS). After one year at Butler, he spent three years at Akron where he amassed a total of 24 tackles. His best year was the year at Butler, where he produced 42 tackles and 4.5 sacks.
- DL Bryce Wilson (Western Carolina [FCS])
After four years on campus at Akron, Bryce Wilson is off to the FCS. Over those four years, Wilson appeared in 29 games for the Zips and contributed 47 tackles and 4.5 TFls. By far, 2021 was his best year as he started 10 games and he went off for 22 tackles and three tackles for loss.
- DL Curtis Fann (Western Carolina [FCS])
For the second time in as many years, Curtis Fann is off to the Portal. Fann spent his first two collegiate seasons at Florida State, where he did not see any action. He transferred to Akron prior to the 2022 season in hopes that he could make an impact with the Zips. Fann finished with 12 tackles and half of a TFL in 10 appearances. He will be joining his fellow defensive lineman Wilson at Western Carolina.
- LB Jeslord Boateng (Louisiana Tech)
After three years at Michigan State where he earned 18 tackles in 18 career appearances, Jeslord Boateng came to Akron. As a Zip, Boateng was a regular contributor as a linebacker and made an impact right away. In 2021, he started 10 games over 11 apperances, finishing with 80 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, and 1.5 sacks. Last year, he played in 10 games, compiling 26 tackles, 3.5 TFls, and a pass breakup.
- CB Chu Ogbonna (Uncommitted)
After three years at Akron, Chu Ogbonna is looking for his fourth school in seven years. Out of high school, Ogbonna attended Middle Tennessee State, where he did not appear in any action in two years. Then, he went the JUCO route at Hutchinson C.C. where he added six tackles and three pass deflections in nine games. Ogbonna played in 19 games over three seasons in Akron, ending up with just 16 tackles.
- CB Charles Amankwaa (Rutgers)
After three years at Akron, Charles Amankwaa is off to the Big Ten. Initially, Amankwaa played at the JUCO level for his first two years of collegiate football. After no appearances as a true freshman, he played in 11 games in 2019 where he amassed 20 tackles, 18 pass deflections, and an interception which he returned for a touchdown. In his time at Akron, Amankwaa was one of their best shut-down corners, appearing in 20 games over three years and contribuing 58 tackles, 15 breakups, and a trio of interceptions.
- CB Randy Cochran (Uncommitted)
After not appearing in any games in 2022 after being a three-year starter, Randy Cochran is looking for a new home. Cochran recorded 10 starts as a true freshman where he accounted for 42 tackles, two TFLs, five pass breakups, and a forced fumble. His sophomore campaign was a step back with 17 tackles, a TFL, a sack, a pass breakup, and a fumble recovery in six games. In his last year of action in 2021, Cochran added 23 tackles, a TFL, and a fumble recovery.
- SAF Ronald Jackson (Montana [FCS])
After three years in the Akron program, Ronald Jackson is taking his talents to the FCS level. There’s been a trend in this year’s class and Jackson is no different. After a solid 2021 season with 33 tackles and one for loss, his playing time was pared back in 2022. Last year, he appeared in just four games (as compared to seven in 2021) where he managed just four tackles.
- P Kyle Romenick (Elon [FCS])
The starting punter for the 2020 season is on the move. After leading the way with 29 punts 1,168 yards with no touchbacks and 10 getting downed within the ten-yard line, he hasn’t attempted a punt since. Over the past two years, Romenick was the regular field goal holder. After four years on campus (he redshirted in 2019), Romenick is set to punt for Elon.
New Faces In Town
- QB Tahj Bullock (Virginia Tech)
Initially a top-20 overall player out of New Jersey, Tahj Bullock spent the first two years of his college career with the Virginia Tech Hokies. After appearing in just one game where he added 27 passing yards and 17 rushing yards, he will be transferring to Akron.
The Zips will be getting a big, athletic quarterback to learn from DJ Irons for the future. Bullock comes to Akron with three years of eligibility remaining.
- RB Lorenzo Lingard (Florida)
This could be an interesting one. When he came out of high school, Lorenzo Lingard committed to Miami (FL). In the 2018 class, he was considered the third-best running back recruit in the nation. After two pedestrian years with The U (126 yards, two touchdowns), Lingard found a new home at Florida.
Linguars struggled to climb up the ladder in north Florida as well, accounting for just 150 yards and a score. He comes to Akron with his final year of eligibility to try and finish on a high note.
- RB Drake Anderson (Arizona)
Another well-traveled running back looking to stake his claim at RB1 in Akron’s offense will be Drake Anderson. Anderson was initially a Northwestern Wildcat, leading the team with 634 rushing yards and three touchdowns in 2019. Then, his touches declined and he left for Arizona. Unfortunately, it was more of the same as he logged 385 yards and a score off of 87 touches in 2021 and did not see any action in 2022.
Anderson comes to Akron with just one year left.
- WR Dakota Thomas (Western Kentucky)
From one of the most prolific passing offenses at Western Kentucky to Akron, Dakota Thomas took no time at all to wow. He committed to Akron in January and has been on campus since. Thomas was on the receiving end of a massive one-handed touchdown grab in the Zips’ Spring Game. Thomas had 17 receptions for 203 yards and two scores for the Hilltoppers prior to his arrival.
Thomas is eligible to play for the next three years.
- OT Ben Frank (Hobart [Division III])
With all of the shuffling about on the offensive line, Ben Frank should be able to step in and provide some senior leadership after four seasons at Division III Hobart, where he appeared in 23 games and started every game in 2021. In that season, he was selected as a second-team All-Liberty League lineman, standing front-and-center for one of the best offensive line units in the conference.
Frank has just one year left and he will spend it in Akron.
- OT Keon Kindred (Maryland)
After just one year in Maryland, Keon Kindred has found a new home in Akron. He did not appear in any action for the Terps in 2022, thus preserving his redshirt. Kindred was a three-star recruit in the 2022 cycle. The young tackle is an athletic force, as he was a two-sport athlete in high school, playing both football and basketball.
He has four years of eligibility remaining.
- DL Ahmad Rabah (American International [Division II])
Making the jump from Division II to the FBS level, Ahmad Rabah looks to make an impact with Akron. In four years at American International College, Rabah racked up 103 tackles, 22.5 TFLs, 18 sacks, four forced fumbles, a recovered fumble, and two pass breakups. He broke out last year and earned honorable mention All-American honors.
With just one year of eligibility remaining, Rabah looks to help out the defensive line rotation in 2023.
- DL Terray Jones (Tennessee State [FCS])
With 37 games played over four years at Tennessee State, Terray Jones bring a whole lot of experience to the Zips’ defensive line. In total, Jones amassed 89 tackles, 16.5 TFLs, and 8.5 sacks. He’s a big-bodied defensive tackle who has just been getting better as the years go on. He should be expected to carve out a role for himself this fall.
Jones comes to Akron with just one year of eligibility remaining.
- LB Ridge Howard (Northern Illinois)
A rare intra-conference leap, Ridge Howard is now a Zip after just five months on campus in DeKalb. You read that right: he enrolled in the spring, went to spring practices, and jumped in the Portal in May.
His Twitter confirms that he is a transfer from NIU, but only On3 has reported that he is headed to Akron. As of publication, Howard does not show up on the roster(though it should be noted the roster only lists those who participated in spring ball.) Considering that he is a true freshman this fall, Howard has all four years of eligibility remaining.
- LB Shammond Cooper (Illinois)
From the Big Ten to the MAC, Shammon Cooper is looking for a fresh start at Akron after five years at Illinois. Primarily a special teams player, Cooper appeared in 18 games in his career and contributed a total of nine tackles and 0.5 TFLs.
He comes to Akron with two years of eligibility remaining.
- CB Joey Hunter (South Carolina)
After three years in the SEC, Joey Hunter is coming to Akron to kickstart his career. In three years with the Gamecocks, Hunter appeared in a grand total of nine games but did not register any counting stats. He was primarily a reserve corner and battled numerous injuries, so he’s certainly in need of a fresh start.
Akron gets his services for his final two years of eligibility.
- SAF Judson Tallandier (Pitt)
After not playing last year despite raking up 14 appearances the year prior, Judson Tallndier is on his way to Akron. Tallandier worked his way up from playing in one game as a true freshman to appearing in a total of 30 games and amassing 51 tackles, a sack, and a pass breakup.
He spent five years with Pitt so he comes to Akron as a graduate transfer with just one year of eligibility remaining.
- ATH Terence Thomas (Purdue)
Finally, wrapping up the class is Terence Thomas out of Purdue. Initially a three-star athlete out of high school, Thomas was listed as a wide receiver for Purdue. He played both ways in high school and believes that he can play anywhere on the field. With 4.40 speed, he can fit in just about anywhere. He is currently listed as a defensive back on the team roster.
Akron gets his speed and eligibility to play for four years beginning in 2023.