Defense looking to make noise this season

By Terry Rabbitts, Sports Editor

When teams have losing seasons, the blame is sometimes pinned on the defense for not being able to stop opponents.

Not the case here in Akron, as last year’s team ranked second in the MAC in yards allowed per game (371.1) and first in points allowed per game (23.1).

Despite the success, the defense is hardly ever spoken about. This year the Zips return six starters and several reserves who have substantial playing time, along with a few transfers. Seniors Cody Grice and Jatavis Brown, both of whom were first-team All-MAC in 2014, will be the likely leaders.

Nose tackle Grice, who also doubles as a fullback on offense in short yardage, anchors the line with juniors Se’Von Pittman, Jamal Marcus, and senior tackle Rodney Coe. Marcus, who is from The Ohio State University, and Coe, who is from Iowa State University, sat out last year to conform with NCAA transfer rules.

Brown, the only returning starter at linebacker, is Akron’s two-time defensive MVP. Brown led the Zips in both tackles (99) and tackles for a loss (14.5). Joining him will be fellow seniors Dylan Evans, who played in all 12 games a season ago, and transfer Darryl Monroe from Washington State University.

In the defensive backfield, seniors Bryce Cheek and Kris Givens and junior DeAndre Scottwill be tested by senior John Senter and the underclassmen.  Sophomore Zach Guiser rounds out the group trying to shut down the receivers and help with stopping opponents’ running game.

The Zips should not encounter too many problems on special teams as punter Zach Paul was a second-team All-MAC punter after averaging 42.5 yards per kick. He has distance with his kicks, as 21 of his 66 punts were 50 yards or more, but also shows placement, with 24 of those kicks being inside the opponent’s 20 yard line. Robert Stein connected on 13 of 16 field goals last year and is 94 out of 96 for extra-point kicks in his career at UA.