As Ohio State prepares to host Akron on Saturday, here are a few key Zips players that I'm looking forward to watching.
Akron will be led by reigning MAC East Offensive Player of the Week, DJ Irons. Irons originally enrolled at Eastern Kentucky University out of high school and then transferred to Iowa Central, where he was a Junior College All American. Irons came in late against Auburn and was a perfect 13-of-13 with a passing touchdown. Irons is the pedal that makes the offense go. He has elite size, speed, and arm strength.
He will be protected by a young Akron Offensive Line that boasts five freshmen starters, led by pre-season All-MAC selection, Xavior Gray. Gray was an All-State lineman out of Massillon Jackson High School. He is the most seasoned “freshman” of the bunch, this being his 17th start for the Zips. (He started three games during his true freshman season, six during the COVID-shortened 2020 season, and now the first three of 2021.) He is massive at 6-foot-9 315 pounds. His length is a tremendous asset and he will get an opportunity to block some talented Buckeye edge players.
The Zips will also rely heavily on freshman sensation Konata Mumpfield, who had two touchdowns against the Bryant Bears last week. Michael Mathison has the most starts on the offensive side of the football and followed head coach Tom Arth from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga as a commit, eventually signing with the Zips.
The Rubber City Defense is lead by Bubba Arslanian and Jeslord Boateng at linebacker. The two are the top tacklers for the Zips and both have different backgrounds.
Both Ohio natives, Arslanian came to Akron after he being very under-recruited. He was the Cleveland Plain Dealer Defensive Player of the year in High School and earned his way to the starting lineup through special teams plays. Boateng is a former 3-star recruit out of Dublin Coffman High School. He selected Michigan State as his initial home and found his way back home to Ohio this off season.
In the defensive coordinator Matt Feeney's 3-4 scheme, the under-sized defensive line will look to slant, angle, and stunt to cultivate pressure. They have funneled runners to Arslanian and Boateng all season. It will be essential that Arslanian and Boateng can keep TreVeyon Henderson and the rest of the Buckeye rushing attack in the box.
The secondary also features former Cass Tech and University of Michigan player Jaylen Kelley-Powell. Kelley-Powell is in his second season with the Zips and it doesn’t appear that former Warren Harding standout Jalen Hooks will be available after leaving the game early last week, with what appeared to be a head injury. The Zips will put together a plethora of exotic blitzes to attempt to create confusion and get to Kyle McCord and Jack Miller III.
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