“During the Zips’ bye week, the University of Akron football team witnessed a sight they thought they would not see again after the Sept. 22 game against Kent State – senior-leader and defensive rover John Mackey returning to practice. After tearing his right ACL early in the game against KSU, the prognosis was that Mackey, one of the team’s most vocal leaders, would be relegated to the role of mentor for the rest of the 2007 season.””
During the Zips’ bye week, the University of Akron football team witnessed a sight they thought they would not see again after the Sept. 22 game against Kent State – senior-leader and defensive rover John Mackey returning to practice.
After tearing his right ACL early in the game against KSU, the prognosis was that Mackey, one of the team’s most vocal leaders, would be relegated to the role of mentor for the rest of the 2007 season.
Mackey practiced in about 20 plays and did individual work in practice Sunday using a brace on his right knee.
Head coach J.D. Brookhart said during his weekly news conference Monday that Mackey recently approached the coaching staff about attempting a comeback.
He was walking around getting ready to have surgery this last week and approached us about seven or eight days ago, and said it felt pretty good, Brookhart said. I asked him after he worked out (Oct. 16), ‘How’s it feel?’ He said, ‘Well, it hurts, but not as bad as last year’s shoulder.
Mackey led the Zips in tackles in 2006 with 88, despite suffering a shoulder separation that required surgery at the end of the season.
Brookhart cautioned that the team does not know at this point if Mackey will be able to complete his comeback, but said that he knows that the senior captain will do everything he can to prolong his collegiate career.
I don’t think we will know for another five or six days whether it’s for real and he can really do it, but if anyone can, it would be him, Brookhart said. You have got to love him. He wants to play and is showing he can do it.
Akron (3-4, 2-1 MAC) continues MAC East Division play Saturday when they travel to UB Stadium to face the Buffalo Bulls (3-5, 3-1 MAC). With the Bulls sitting atop the MAC East at 2-0 and the Zips currently positioned fourth at 1-1, the game is pivotal as UA looks to stay in the race for the division title.
Saturday’s game will be the ninth match between the two schools. The Zips defeated the Bulls 31-16 at the Rubber Bowl late in the 2006 season. The Bulls lost 20-12 last week in their final non-conference game of the season.
The Bulls’ offense is led by redshirt sophomore running back James Starks. Starks earned back-to-back MAC East Division Player of the Week honors in UB’s wins against Ohio and Toledo. The starting tailback rushed for 231 yards and three touchdowns in the Bulls 43-33 home win against UT.
Brookhart said that limiting Starks’ success is one of the Zips keys to victory.
I think we have to stop Starks, the fourth-year head coach said. That is the best chance we have to win. He is their guy. Their quarterback is effective and they have good receivers but Starks is the guy that for two weeks ran over 200 yards.
Junior linebacker Kevin Grant has also taken notice of the Bulls’ offensive catalyst and the development of this year’s young Bulls team.
Starks is probably one of the better backs, if not the best back, in the MAC, Grant said. You can just see by his numbers the last couple of weeks. Watching them on film this week and last week, you can see they’ve started to gel more and more.
After Saturday’s game, the Zips will play four straight weekday games to close the 2007 regular season.
Brookhart said that playing the next three games in a 12-day plan will be challenging, but several other schools will go through the same scenario, and the coaching staff will make changes to the team’s routine in preparation for the games.
It’s an adjustment, he said. We are going to have different times we have to practice, on Saturdays, on Sundays, on Monday nights, meet Monday mornings, different things like that to accommodate the class schedules. It will be a challenge, but we are not the only ones going through it.
One of the main reasons for the weekday night games is that all four of the MAC East matchups will air on a channel in the ESPN family of networks.
“” #1.1361620:3640412880.jpg:20071025sportsJohnMackeyArmy.jpg:Senior rover John Mackey tore his ACL Sept. 22 against Kent State but could return to the Zips in 2007.:Jeff Harwell / Zips Sports Photography”