Welcome to another season preview to supplement the series about Akron’s quest for peace and happiness in NCAA Football 14. For any new readers, feel free to check out the about page of the site to read about this whole project and catch up on the past installments.
Zipsters, I know you’ve come to expect a certain order of things here but I’m afraid I’m breaking tradition with this post. You see, this isn’t going to be your normal typical Akron Zips roster preview this season.
On our Discord, I tossed out the idea of having readers get the chance to do an occasional guest post here. I thought that hearing the voice of fans or faux reporters would be a great way to get the Akron universe to feel larger than just thoughts coming from my head.
Ian Newcomb immediately volunteered to write the first guest post in Rubber City Dynasty’s history, which you’ll see below. I’ll throw in some details about the roster and schedule after his post too.
Please enjoy Ian’s fantastic piece! If you’re interested in writing for this series too, leave a comment or reach out to me via email/twitter/discord/pigeon.✓
Excitement Building In Akron
“Disappointment.” That one word could describe the feeling hanging in the air of the Rubber City following a two-loss season and a Fiesta Bowl victory. To almost any college football fanbase that would be a banner year, one to look back on with pride. But to the city of Akron and the fans of Zips football, their goal was another National Championship, and anything short of that is, to put plainly, a disappointment. With the announcement of the LeBron James Stadium over a year ago and the planned move into the BIG10, the stage was set for Akron to move on from the beloved InfoCision with another National Title in hand. Fans were excited, players were pumped up, and the buzz surrounding the University’s expansion and the collective hopes of the city was reaching an all-time high. But alas, losses to Oregon and Notre Dame dashed the Zips title hopes, setting a collective feeling of disappointment over Akron. This wasn’t always the way seasons around here ended. For a long time, Akron fans endured less-than-mediocre teams that routinely let down the city minutes into week one. Decades went by with only a single bowl game, and it wasn’t until a new era began in 2013 that the Zips fanbase went from expecting mediocrity to demanding greatness.
That demand for greatness is also felt amongst the team. Since taking over the Zips Coach Luke has expected nothing less than 100% from every player, and has never been afraid to call a player out whether it is in the paper, on the sidelines, or in a post-game press conference. This tough-love approach has caused friction with players in the past, but Coach Luke’s dedication to his team and to winning has inspired his players to dig deep and give it their all. He’s benched starters, changed players’ positions, and even cut his very first recruit for not living up to the high standards he sets. While people on the outside may look at Coach Luke as a ruthless emperor, his players and staff see him differently. “Coach remembers every little detail about you. When he out there yellin’ at you, you listen up ‘cuz he knows you more than you know you.” Says quarterback-turned-halfback “Hot” Rod Jackson, who says Coach Luke took him out to dinner to discuss his “insanely detailed, mad scientist-like” vision and get Rod on board. Rod Jackson’s faith in Coach Luke’s plan paid off to the tune of 800+ yards of total offense and a third-round selection to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Sending players into the NFL was a rare sight in Akron, but over the last decade Coach Luke has turned the Rubber City into the Tuscaloosa of the north. This season appears to be no different, with talent loaded up on both sides of the ball. Fans at Barley House, the premier Zips bar in Akron, tell me all eyes for them this year are on the defense. Last year the defense stifled teams, forcing 27 turnovers, racking up 55.5 sacks, and holding teams to 18.4 points/game. This was not the case in Akron’s losses however, and fans have tough memories of the defense being carved up by Oregon and Notre Dame. “Yeah they tore us up those games, not gonna lie, but we have been working on that all summer long and it’s gonna be a whole new level of intense this year.” Says star-in-the-making DE James Smith. Led by him off the edge, the front 7 is going to be tested early after losing both starting outside linebackers to the draft. Smith says to “look out for my boys Teej (TJ Blanco) and Trev (Trevor Allen) ‘cuz they about to Zip some dudes up!” Some fans see the defense differently, however. Long-time Zips fan Matt M. says he has no worries about the front 7 because “‘Stormin’ Howard Norman had like, 10 picks last year, the dude is going to light up opposing teams!” While Norman only had 5 interceptions (and 8 passes defended) he seems primed for another monster year.
With eyes in the Barley House on the defense, Coach Luke and his assistants tell me this year they have their focus on the offense. With Leonard Sims taking over a new pass-heavy offense last season we saw both the highs (records for passing yards in a game) and the lows (multiple games below 20 points scored, 21 dropped passes, 17 turnovers) showing us the potential for greatness and the price of failure. This season’s offense is priming themselves for an explosion and they are relying on the “Three Musketeers” of the wide receivers to carry them. The three wideouts, Brad Smith, Sean Odom, and Roger Cooley, have been inseparable this offseason, according to Receivers Coach Wes Welker, who also notes the trio have been “devouring” film and “obsessing over how best to improve their routes, catch points, and every other minute detail you want your guys looking at.” Welker also praised the work put in by the team’s tight ends, notably Ryan “Little Guy” Gatewood. “For a guy that big to be showing off quickness and speed like that, no one is going to be able to stop this guy. It’s a sprinting mountain,” says Welker. The only potential question mark on this offense seems to be the line, but talking to O-line coach Jason Kelce, he has only one word to describe his unit: “dominant.” Despite their hiccups last year, Coach Kelce says that his crew knows that success starts up front and they are prepared to put the team on their backs as they push forward.
As summer winds down and we are on the eve of Zips football once more, the sour disappointment that lingered in the city has dissipated and in its place excitement has taken hold. Locals are buzzing about the upcoming opener against long-time rivals Kent State and the juicy new BIG10 conference schedule Akron faces this year. LeBron James has been holding “Bron Block Parties” every Friday and Saturday this August leading up to kickoff weekend and at each party he has torn apart a pinata of each opponent’s mascot from this year’s schedule. Much like last year, the excitement of the fans is evident, as is their demands for the Zips to bring another National Title to Akron, and only time will tell if this team can fulfill the hopes of the Rubber City.
Year 13 Roster Overview
Ian’s piece has got me so hyped for lucky Year 13. Our offense, as he indicated, has a trio of young receivers primed to lead a dangerous passing attack. The only weakness is the right side of the offensive line. The performance of the offensive line will be something to keep an eye on in games this year.
Ian explained how amazing our defense was last year. It was outstanding! Yet, we’ve improved at nearly every position as many players are now entering their senior year. This may end up being the best Zips defense we’ll ever see.
If you want a full breakdown of the roster that includes backups at those positions, here is a spreadsheet that shows just that. Redshirt players for Year 13 have not been chosen yet and are not indicated on that sheet though.
Year 13 Schedule
We’re entering our first season in the Big Ten and our first season in LeBron James Stadium. Our schedule—dare I say—looks a bit easier than our Independent years. I’m excited to potentially play in a conference championship for the first time in five seasons. Heck, maybe we need that game to get us primed for a national championship. Maybe that’s the thing that we’ve been missing!
We’ll find out soon enough!
Twitch stream at 8 PM EST tonight!
If you don’t know the Twitch schedule by now, I’m streaming every Tuesday and Friday night. You may notice that tonight is Friday night. That means I’m streaming the start of the lucky Year 13 season tonight. Here is a link to my Twitch channel if you want to hop over and hang out with us.
This lucky season will end right before Halloween next week. Could that night be a spooky, scary national championship party? I hope so!
We’ll likely watch select games from the first five or six weeks of the season tonight so feel free to pop in anytime after 8:00 PM. We go late into the night!
Love y’all. This year is gonna be the year. I feel it.
In the meantime, remember to…