When Wisconsin lines up against Akron Sept. 6, it will be the first opportunity for fans at Camp Randall Stadium to see one of the most explosive offenses in school history. But the Badger offense won't be the only impressive offense on display that afternoon.
Despite finishing a very disappointing 4-8 last season, the Zips' offense put up some dynamite numbers. In a rarity in college football, Akron returns all 11 starters and the majority of its two-deep on offense.
Akron's athletes might not be as big, strong, or athletic as Wisconsin's offensive stars. But the Zips have the ability to put up points on anybody, including the Badgers.
Here is a look at the Akron offense headed into the 2003 season:
The Akron offense is centered around quarterback Charlie Frye, who could become one of the top gunslingers in the country over the next two seasons. Frye started the first game of his redshirt freshman season, and never looked back. He's started the last 22 games for the Zips entering his third year.
The 6-4, 213-pound Frye already ranks No. 2 on the school's all-time passing list (4,877 yards) and career total offense (5,024 yards). Last season, he set single-season records for completions (250), attempts (380), passing yards (2,824), total offense (2,949) and completion percentage (65.8).
One of the reasons Frye racks up such impressive numbers in the air is his mobility. Teams can't focus on defending the pass because Frye is capable of hurting defenses on the ground. Last year, he rushed for seven touchdowns (while throwing for 15), on 125 yards rushing.
Frye didn't miss a snap last season, and his continued health is crucial to Akron's success this year. The No. 2 quarterback is senior Micah Faler, who played in three games last year, completing 7-of-13 passes for two touchdowns.
With former 1,000-yard rusher Brandon Payne suffering through injuries last season, Bobby Hendry stepped to the forefront and became the second Akron tailback to record a 1,000-yard season (1,021 yards) since the Zips joined Division I-A football 16 years ago.
Hendry, a 5-10, 206-pound senior, returns as the No. 1 rusher this year. Unlike Payne, who was a pass-catching threat out of the backfield, Hendry is known for his power and deceptive speed. He averaged 4.9 yards per carry last season.
Backing up Hendry is sophomore Thomas Plummer, a highly-rated recruit from Canada who rushed for 84 yards on 10 carries last season.
Paving the way for Hendry and Plummer is junior fullback Dan Basch, who was redshirted after attempting to return from a 2001 knee injury. The Zips hope Basch can return to 100 percent as the team's top blocking back. He averaged 6.2 yards per carry in his first two seasons.
The Zips return every member of the two-deep to their best unit on the team. Returning from a shoulder injury suffered midway through last season is Matt Cherry, a 6-2, 202-pound senior who still finished the year second on the team in receiving yards (463) and third in receptions (35).
Taking over for Cherry as the No. 1 receiver last year was Toledo transfer Miquel Irvin, a 6-1, 190-pound senior that set a school record for single-season receptions with 53 last year.
Joining the receiving unit full-time is Nick Sparks, a West Virginia transfer that split reps last season at quarterback and receiver. Sparks caught 26 passes last year, while filling in as the No. 2 quarterback.
Junior Mo Ellington and Jamie Goodwin are also dangerous threats. Ellington caught 312 passes for 307 yards last year, while Goodwin is a speedy kick returner that finished second in the MAC in the 200 meters in the conference track and field championships.
Senior Mike Brake returns at tight end, where he finished last season with 15 catches for 215 yards and five touchdowns. At 6-4, 256 pounds, Brake is a big, experienced blocking tight end that led the team in touchdown grabs last season.
Similar to the receiving corps, the Zips return every single member of the two-deep roster on the offensive line. The line averages 310 pounds and a 460-pound bench press, the best total in Akron history.
The line paved the way for 24 rushing touchdowns last season. After predictably struggling against Iowa, Maryland and Virginia, the Zips averaged 183.3 yards on the ground over the last nine games of the season.
The unit is led by Bryan Shaw, a 6-3, 318-pound monster at left tackle that protected Frye last season, allowing him to accumulate his impressive numbers.
Akron Week: Offensive Preview
Badger Nation Top Stories
Red/White ObservationsThoughts and observations from No.10 Wisconsin's Red/White Scrimmage at the Kohl Center Sunday
Badger NationYesterday at 1:23 PM
Badgers Drop Out of Top 10Although its road win gave them an important tiebreaker in the Big Ten West, Wisconsin didn't impress enough pollsters to stay in the top 10 before its weekend matchup against No.7…
ScoutYesterday at 11:10 AM
Game Balls: Wisconsin at IowaBadgerNation awards the game balls for No. 10 Wisconsin’s 17-9 victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Badger NationYesterday at 7:52 AM
Notes: Biegel's Return a Boost for WisconsinRead out Vince Biegel's return to the lineup, Wisconsin's two-quarterback system, its multiple offensive line system and more in our insider postgame notebook.
Badger NationYesterday at 1:18 AM