Akron Expert Q&A: Part 3

The final installment of our interview with Akron sports expert Jason Stoynoff, with information regarding Wisconsin's second opponent of the 2003 season, the Akron Zips.

How much did Akron's victory over Marshall last year help turn the program around and send it in the right direction, especially defensively?

Stoynoff: The Marshall victory was huge for the Zips. It was the first time in school history they have beat a top 25 team. It also showed the defense they could play with a top-notch offense.

Is there anyone that stepped up on the defensive line this spring that might help the Zips defend the run?

Stoynoff: Andy Wills (6-4, 290) and Antonio Shippy (6–1, 325) both played sparingly last season as true freshmen. Their play this spring was very good and they proved they could make some noise next year at defensive tackle. Marques Hayes is the other defensive tackle at 265 he is a bit undersized but he can hold his own. He was moved from defensive end in the middle of last season.

Chase Blackburn is changing positions once again this year. Is the weak-side linebacker spot his best position?

Stoynoff: Chase Blackburn is the leader of the defense. He was moved to weak-side linebacker so they could use him more as a pass rusher. Last year as the middle linebackerl he lead the team in total tackles. At 6-3, 245, Chase can cause a lot of problems for opposing quarterbacks. He also has the speed to run them down from behind.

How are the Zips' special teams this year?

Stoynoff: Punter Andy Jerdon has a decent season last year. He still needs to work on getting more hang time for the coverage team. The Zips were not very good on punt coverage.

Place kicker Billy Sullivan has gotten stronger and more confident after starting as a true freshman. I look for him to have a breakout season.

Both return men are very solid. Matt Carter is an excellent kick returner and Matt Cherry can take back a punt at any time.

It's a long road from now until Akron will line up against Wisconsin, but do you feel the Zips have a chance to pull off the upset?

Stoynoff: I feel any team has a chance to win any game. Akron must control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. If the Badgers are allowed to run the ball at will, then it could be a long day for the Zips. With the offense the Zips will field next year, they should have a chance to win any of their games. I just hope it's a good fair game where both teams suffer no injuries.

What is your predicted record and finish in the MAC for Akron this year?

Stoynoff: The Zips' schedule next year is not as strong as last year. 8–4 or 9–3 is not out of the question. I think they could finish anywhere from first to fourth in the MAC East. They have tough road games at Marshall and Miami but do get UCF at home this year.

This is a big season for Zips football, I think they must win a lot of games or changes could be on the way for the 2004 season.

Jason Stoynoff is not affiliated with the University of Akron or the UA Athletic Office. His independent website can be accessed via the link below:

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