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Spring Ball 2024


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12 Questions Going Into Spring Ball
 

1) Who will be the starting QB?

Chances are California grad transfer Ben Finley will be the starter upon completion of spring ball. He has proven experience at the P5 level and has been brought in to compete for the starting job. However, he has also been turnover prone and that particular issue could hold him back. Tahj Bullock has all the physical traits to be an elite QB in the MAC (if he ever puts it all together). That being said he must dramatically improve his decision making and accuracy. Otherwise, Bullock will continue to be a situational player.  

 

Will Steele Wasel be ready to toss his name into the conversation? He’ll have a chance to display his development going into his 2nd full spring. If none of the QBs are up to par, the staff may venture back into the portal. Keep in mind, Bullock was not signed until after spring was completed last year.

 

2) How will the carries be divided at RB?

It’s almost a complete overhaul in the RB room. Gone are Lorenzo Lingard, Drake Anderson, and CJ Price. Only redshirt sophomore Charles Kellom and senior Blake Hester return (although, Hester is mostly used on special teams). Michigan State grad transfer Jordon Simmons has the most experience and will likely start. This may be the year Charles Kellom receives significant snaps. He will be pushed by Minnesota transfer Marquese Williams. Talented freshman Sean Patrick will not arrive until after spring concludes.

 

3) Is the WR room complete?

After originally thinking this room was complete, it would not be a surprise to see more player movement due to staff changes. Veteran coach JD Brookhart knows what he wants from his players. That, coupled with a new offensive coordinator, may lead to some changes being made after the spring. As it stands, Alex Adams could be All-Conference again if fully healthy. Adrian Norton is set for a breakout year. There is plenty of returning talent, plus incoming JUCOs, to potentially make this a highly productive group.

 

4) Who will emerge at TE?

Redshirt sophomore Jake Newell has All-MAC potential and will be the starter going into the spring. Mizzou transfer Max Whisner was running with the Tigers’ 2nd team at this time last year. The staff has kept snaps fairly balanced at TE, so it’s safe to expect both of the aforementioned to see plenty of snaps. Redshirt freshman Conner Cravaack redshirted, but has high upside and may carve out a role.

 

5) What does the OL look like?

The offensive line usually takes the longest to develop in turnaround situations and it has been no different here. There is far more talent on the roster than when Joe Moorhead arrived and only one holdover from the previous staff (Colin Lyons) going into 2024. A number of combinations could take place, but best guess going from left to right will be Blanchard, K. Davis, T. Williams, Seymore, Kindred. Coach JRod is going to play 8-10 linemen per game and the depth is easily the best it has been. Regardless of what the starting lineup looks like, the OL will have size and athleticism. This should be the year the OL takes a significant leap.

 

6) Who will step up on the DL?

The only major loss on the interior of the DL is Terray Jones to graduation. Lama Lavea is back, as is true sophomore Marcus Moore. Grad transfer Nathan Kapongo will immediately push for starting snaps as well, giving the Zips an impressive rotation of interior DL. 

 

CJ Nunnally returns, but may be hard pressed to replicate his 7 sacks due to the increased attention by offenses. Bennett Adler is back for his senior year and will be pushed by LaJoshua Jackson,  Kabbash Richards, and Kam Cheatom. When asked about Cheatom last season, Moorhead said “Cheatom is going to be a star in this league.” 

 

7) Is this the best LB corps in the MAC?

Almost all of the linebackers that were voted All-MAC in 2023 are gone, while the Zips have their most productive players returning. Miami can probably lay claim to best linebacking corps going into the season, but Akron is not far behind…if behind at all. Former JUCO Antavious Fish finished the season with 94 total tackles, while junior Bryan McCoy collected 95 total tackles and was voted All-MAC Third Team. Former Illinois transfer Shammond Cooper became a vital piece of the defense and proved to be an excellent blitzer. Former JUCO Gage Summers, redshirt freshman Melvin Spriggs, and freshman Rich Benenge will see if they can lay claim to significant snaps. This room is flat out loaded.

 

8} How will the secondary shake out?

The secondary is wide open with the only returning starter as Nickelback Darrian Lewis. Redshirt juniors Joey Hunter and Devonte Golden-Nelson should get first crack at the Cornerback spots. However, they have both yet to play a full season due to injuries. JUCO transfers Iesa Jarmon and Justin Anderson will arrive physically ready to contribute. Silas Proby, Zayden Laing-Taylor, and Catrell White redshirted last season and will have an opportunity to compete for snaps. 

 

Terence Thomas looked the part in the spring last year, yet did not see any defensive action as Darrian Lewis and Corey Thomas collected all the snaps at Nickel. 

 

All the starters are gone from Safety, meaning this will be a revamped group. Senior transfer Paul Lewis will likely be one starter as he was voted All-Conference at Cornell. Aman Greenwood was a part-time starter at Syracuse and will likely fill Corey Thomas’ role splitting snaps between Safety and Nickel. Oregon transfer Daymon David will also have an opportunity to collect starting snaps. This will be an important spring for redshirt juniors DiMarco Johnson and Neal Roach to find their footing on the depth chart. They will have redshirt freshmen Darius Owens and David Jester pushing them.

 

9) Which kicker will lock down the starting spot?

Noah Perez has the most game experience and was 9 for 9 on PATs, but struggled with FGs beyond 30 yards. Owen Wiley was perfect down the stretch going 3 for 3 on FGs and 7 for 7 on PATs. His only two misses on the season came from beyond 40 yards. Ideally Dante Jackson will be left to just kicking off and punting. Competition is a great thing, but what cannot happen again is the musical chairs act that occurred last season.

 

10) How much different will the offense look in 2024?

Probably not substantially different, but new offensive coordinator Taylor Housewright will certainly bring some new elements. Last year’s offense struggled through much of the season and was a disappointment compared to the year before. If a change was going to occur, this off-season was the right time to make it.

 

11) Can the defense continue to improve?

The defense has improved in nearly every statistical category since Tim Tibesar’s arrival and all coaches on the defensive side of the ball return. The defensive front 6 (7) should be just as good, if not better, in 2024. If the secondary gels quickly, there is reason to believe the 2024 defense will be the best we’ve seen under the current staff.

 

12) How many wins should be expected?

To start out, I’m guilty of ramping up expectations for what turned out to be a disappointing 2023. It’s hard to win many games without an adequate quarterback. DJI never returned to form, while Bullock and JU were inconsistent. 7 games were decided by one score and we only managed to win 2 of the 7. That’s tough. I’m not sure if there’s another team in the nation that has played, and lost, as many one score games as we have over the last two seasons. It’s time to get over the hump.

 

Almost every team in the MAC will role out a new starting QB in 2024. If there was ever a year the MAC was wide open, 2024 would be it. Playing at Ohio State, South Carolina, and Rutgers seem like 3 losses on paper. If that turns out to be the case, 9 wins would be the max. On the flip side, I believe 6 wins and a bowl appearance should be the minimum. 
 

 

Edited by catdaddyp
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2 hours ago, catdaddyp said:

8} How will the secondary shake out?

Senior transfer Paul Lewis will likely be one starter as he was voted All-Conference at Cornell.

 

I think Paul Lewis III will end up starting at CB as it looks like he has excellent cover skills.

 

At Cornell it looks like he played mostly at the boundary corner spot.

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2 hours ago, zzx said:

 

I think Paul Lewis III will end up starting at CB as it looks like he has excellent cover skills.

 

At Cornell it looks like he played mostly at the boundary corner spot.

You may be right. I know he spent much of his time there at Cornell. Could be a situation where he was labeled incorrectly like Judson Tallandier last year.

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On 2/19/2024 at 10:50 AM, catdaddyp said:

12 Questions Going Into Spring Ball
 

1) Who will be the starting QB?

Chances are California grad transfer Ben Finley will be the starter upon completion of spring ball. He has proven experience at the P5 level and has been brought in to compete for the starting job. However, he has also been turnover prone and that particular issue could hold him back. Tahj Bullock has all the physical traits to be an elite QB in the MAC (if he ever puts it all together). That being said he must dramatically improve his decision making and accuracy. Otherwise, Bullock will continue to be a situational player.  

 

Will Steele Wasel be ready to toss his name into the conversation? He’ll have a chance to display his development going into his 2nd full spring. If none of the QBs are up to par, the staff may venture back into the portal. Keep in mind, Bullock was not signed until after spring was completed last year.

 

2) How will the carries be divided at RB?

It’s almost a complete overhaul in the RB room. Gone are Lorenzo Lingard, Drake Anderson, and CJ Price. Only redshirt sophomore Charles Kellom and senior Blake Hester return (although, Hester is mostly used on special teams). Michigan State grad transfer Jordon Simmons has the most experience and will likely start. This may be the year Charles Kellom receives significant snaps. He will be pushed by Minnesota transfer Marquese Williams. Talented freshman Sean Patrick will not arrive until after spring concludes.

 

3) Is the WR room complete?

After originally thinking this room was complete, it would not be a surprise to see more player movement due to staff changes. Veteran coach JD Brookhart knows what he wants from his players. That, coupled with a new offensive coordinator, may lead to some changes being made after the spring. As it stands, Alex Adams could be All-Conference again if fully healthy. Adrian Norton is set for a breakout year. There is plenty of returning talent, plus incoming JUCOs, to potentially make this a highly productive group.

 

4) Who will emerge at TE?

Redshirt sophomore Jake Newell has All-MAC potential and will be the starter going into the spring. Mizzou transfer Max Whisner was running with the Tigers’ 2nd team at this time last year. The staff has kept snaps fairly balanced at TE, so it’s safe to expect both of the aforementioned to see plenty of snaps. Redshirt freshman Conner Cravaack redshirted, but has high upside and may carve out a role.

 

5) What does the OL look like?

The offensive line usually takes the longest to develop in turnaround situations and it has been no different here. There is far more talent on the roster than when Joe Moorhead arrived and only one holdover from the previous staff (Colin Lyons) going into 2024. A number of combinations could take place, but best guess going from left to right will be Blanchard, K. Davis, T. Williams, Seymore, Kindred. Coach JRod is going to play 8-10 linemen per game and the depth is easily the best it has been. Regardless of what the starting lineup looks like, the OL will have size and athleticism. This should be the year the OL takes a significant leap.

 

6) Who will step up on the DL?

The only major loss on the interior of the DL is Terray Jones to graduation. Lama Lavea is back, as is true sophomore Marcus Moore. Grad transfer Nathan Kapongo will immediately push for starting snaps as well, giving the Zips an impressive rotation of interior DL. 

 

CJ Nunnally returns, but may be hard pressed to replicate his 7 sacks due to the increased attention by offenses. Bennett Adler is back for his senior year and will be pushed by LaJoshua Jackson,  Kabbash Richards, and Kam Cheatom. When asked about Cheatom last season, Moorhead said “Cheatom is going to be a star in this league.” 

 

7) Is this the best LB corps in the MAC?

Almost all of the linebackers that were voted All-MAC in 2023 are gone, while the Zips have their most productive players returning. Miami can probably lay claim to best linebacking corps going into the season, but Akron is not far behind…if behind at all. Former JUCO Antavious Fish finished the season with 94 total tackles, while junior Bryan McCoy collected 95 total tackles and was voted All-MAC Third Team. Former Illinois transfer Shammond Cooper became a vital piece of the defense and proved to be an excellent blitzer. Former JUCO Gage Summers, redshirt freshman Melvin Spriggs, and freshman Rich Benenge will see if they can lay claim to significant snaps. This room is flat out loaded.

 

8} How will the secondary shake out?

The secondary is wide open with the only returning starter as Nickelback Darrian Lewis. Redshirt juniors Joey Hunter and Devonte Golden-Nelson should get first crack at the Cornerback spots. However, they have both yet to play a full season due to injuries. JUCO transfers Iesa Jarmon and Justin Anderson will arrive physically ready to contribute. Silas Proby, Zayden Laing-Taylor, and Catrell White redshirted last season and will have an opportunity to compete for snaps. 

 

Terence Thomas looked the part in the spring last year, yet did not see any defensive action as Darrian Lewis and Corey Thomas collected all the snaps at Nickel. 

 

All the starters are gone from Safety, meaning this will be a revamped group. Senior transfer Paul Lewis will likely be one starter as he was voted All-Conference at Cornell. Aman Greenwood was a part-time starter at Syracuse and will likely fill Corey Thomas’ role splitting snaps between Safety and Nickel. Oregon transfer Daymon David will also have an opportunity to collect starting snaps. This will be an important spring for redshirt juniors DiMarco Johnson and Neal Roach to find their footing on the depth chart. They will have redshirt freshmen Darius Owens and David Jester pushing them.

 

9) Which kicker will lock down the starting spot?

Noah Perez has the most game experience and was 9 for 9 on PATs, but struggled with FGs beyond 30 yards. Owen Wiley was perfect down the stretch going 3 for 3 on FGs and 7 for 7 on PATs. His only two misses on the season came from beyond 40 yards. Ideally Dante Jackson will be left to just kicking off and punting. Competition is a great thing, but what cannot happen again is the musical chairs act that occurred last season.

 

10) How much different will the offense look in 2024?

Probably not substantially different, but new offensive coordinator Taylor Housewright will certainly bring some new elements. Last year’s offense struggled through much of the season and was a disappointment compared to the year before. If a change was going to occur, this off-season was the right time to make it.

 

11) Can the defense continue to improve?

The defense has improved in nearly every statistical category since Tim Tibesar’s arrival and all coaches on the defensive side of the ball return. The defensive front 6 (7) should be just as good, if not better, in 2024. If the secondary gels quickly, there is reason to believe the 2024 defense will be the best we’ve seen under the current staff.

 

12) How many wins should be expected?

To start out, I’m guilty of ramping up expectations for what turned out to be a disappointing 2023. It’s hard to win many games without an adequate quarterback. DJI never returned to form, while Bullock and JU were inconsistent. 7 games were decided by one score and we only managed to win 2 of the 7. That’s tough. I’m not sure if there’s another team in the nation that has played, and lost, as many one score games as we have over the last two seasons. It’s time to get over the hump.

 

Almost every team in the MAC will role out a new starting QB in 2024. If there was ever a year the MAC was wide open, 2024 would be it. Playing at Ohio State, South Carolina, and Rutgers seem like 3 losses on paper. If that turns out to be the case, 9 wins would be the max. On the flip side, I believe 6 wins and a bowl appearance should be the minimum. 
 

 

I’m guessing #10 can be scratched off the list. All the position coaches seem to be filled. Not sure where Housewright would fit in at this point.

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53 minutes ago, LZIp said:

What am I missing? 

Out - QB/OC (Fess)

Out - WR (Gilbertson)

Out - ST (Tucker)

 

In - QB (Shuster)

In - WR (Brookhart)

In - ST (Matviko)

 

All spots are filled except no OC listed. Maybe JoeMo is officially taking that back over? Also odd that Housewright does not have an active twitter account (unless I missed it). 


Edit: Maybe Housewright will be listed as a co-position coach and OC? From the outside looking in it doesn’t seem like this is happening.

Edited by catdaddyp
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22 minutes ago, catdaddyp said:

Out - QB/OC (Fess)

Out - WR (Gilbertson)

Out - ST (Tucker)

 

In - QB (Shuster)

In - WR (Brookhart)

In - ST (Matviko)

 

All spots are filled except no OC listed. Maybe JoeMo is officially taking that back over? Also odd that Housewright does not have an active twitter account (unless I missed it). 

 

Dang, that kind of stinks if so. Housewright was by far the new hire I was most excited for. With that said, JoeMo taking over the OOC reins again would probably be a good thing when you look at his first two seasons here.

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29 minutes ago, Blue & Gold said:

I'm just praying for an OC who can "figure out a way" to call running plays when we've got the best running back in the conference.

I laugh, but out of frustration. I definitely believe we left some games on the table last year by limiting his touches. 7 carries against Temple, 9 against Buffalo, 10 against CMU.  Also 7 against Morgan State, but we somehow pulled that one out. 

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7 minutes ago, catdaddyp said:

I laugh, but out of frustration. I definitely believe we left some games on the table last year by limiting his touches. 7 carries against Temple, 9 against Buffalo, 10 against CMU.  Also 7 against Morgan State, but we somehow pulled that one out. 

💯 It's still a sore spot w/ me too.  

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3 hours ago, catdaddyp said:

Out - QB/OC (Fess)

Out - WR (Gilbertson)

Out - ST (Tucker)

 

In - QB (Shuster)

In - WR (Brookhart)

In - ST (Matviko)

 

All spots are filled except no OC listed. Maybe JoeMo is officially taking that back over? Also odd that Housewright does not have an active twitter account (unless I missed it). 


Edit: Maybe Housewright will be listed as a co-position coach and OC? From the outside looking in it doesn’t seem like this is happening.

I will be curious to see how much influence JD might have on this offense and the play calling.

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2 hours ago, Lee Adams said:

I will be curious to see how much influence JD might have on this offense and the play calling.

He turned a runt of a running back, Brett Biggs, into one of the most impactful players (at least for one season) in Zips history. 

 

I just don't know what contact with football JD has had since leaving Akron. Maybe someone could help me out with that. The game has changed a lot since then. 

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