Experienced DBs anchor Zips defense

“There are a lot of questions that University of Akron football coach J.D. Brookhart will have to answer this offseason. Whether it’s because of inexperience (quarterbacks, offensive line) or sheer lack of production (tight ends, place kickers), there are many questions that went unanswered during its spring practice schedule, which concluded on Saturday.”

There are a lot of questions that University of Akron football coach J.D. Brookhart will have to answer this offseason.

Whether it’s because of inexperience (quarterbacks, offensive line) or sheer lack of production (tight ends, place kickers), there are many questions that went unanswered during its spring practice schedule, which concluded on Saturday.

One unit Brookhart won’t have to worry about in the offseason will be his defensive backs. The Zips return five experienced players from last season. Seniors Reggie Corner, John Mackey, Davanzo Tate, Chevin Pace and Yamari Dixon as well as junior Andre Jones, are all returning after successful 2006 campaigns.

Corner led the team with four interceptions last year, Mackey led the Zips in tackles (88, 52 solo) and Tate was third in the Mid-American Conference with 13 pass breakups. Jones recorded seven defended passes and 77 tackles.

The defense looks great, Brookhart said. There’s not a lot of hesitation. The guys are playing fast with not a lot of thinking, just reacting.

Statistically speaking, the Zips’ pass defense was their strength last season. They yielded 186 passing yards per game and allowed opponents to complete just 54 percent of their passes, third lowest in the conference.

With everyone back from last year, the unit looks even stronger.

We know how each other plays, said senior rover John Mackey. We’re more consistent and more experienced.

Mackey said the chemistry between the defensive backs is much better than it was last year, thanks to special counseling sessions the Zips attended.

The starters and backups are really close, he said. Everyone is a lot more comfortable.

Brookhart said the secondary was not tested much during the spring because of the changing offensive scheme and the struggles of the young quarterbacks to adapt.

They had a nice spring, Brookhart said of his defensive backs. But it’s a concern (that they weren’t tested). It bothers you that you can’t get a lot of work done.

The lack of live repetitions may hinder a less experienced group. But the senior-laden secondary is focused on improving.

We’re stepping up, Tate said. We’re more consistent now, but we have to take our game to the next level. Since we’re not getting a lot of passes to defend, we’re working on technique.

Being good is not good enough because the offense is still learning. Every day we have to focus on getting to the next level.

Mackey said one problem the secondary had to overcome is not playing down to the offense’s level.

Hopefully, we can raise their level to ours.

Reid looking ahead to NFL Draft

Former UA defensive end Jermaine Reid is still holding out hope that he will land on an NFL roster.

Reid, who was at the Zips’ final spring practice on Saturday, said his agent told him that several NFL teams were interested in him. Among the teams he mentioned were Jacksonville, Miami and Kansas City.

He recorded 130 tackles, 12 sacks and 23 tackles for loss in his career at UA, including a seven-sack season in 2005.

Reid was drafted as the first pick in the second round of the 2006 CFL Draft by the Hamilton Tiger-cats.


” #1.1362046:3330189985.jpg:maniacal mackey.jpg:Intense senior safety John Mackey is the undisputed vocal leader of the Zips football squad:Design by Kiel Fleming / the Buchtelite / Photo by Jeff Harwell / Zips Sports Photography”