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Breaking down Akron

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Posted: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 7:18 pm

Defense

Defensive line: Don't let Shawn Lemon and his last name fool you. The senior defensive end hasn't played like a dud as he leads the Zips' defense with four tackles for loss and three sacks. Besides Lemon, the rest of this group has been suspect. http://www.niuhuskies.com/sports/m-footbl/niu-m-footbl-body.html" target="_blank">Huskies running back Chad Spann might be in store for a big day as http://www.gozips.com/SportSelect.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=10800&KEY=&SPID=4319&SPSID=47122" target="_blank">Akron is giving up an average of 169.2 yards on the ground.

Grade: C-

Linebackers: All-Team http://www.mac-sports.com/SportSelect.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=9400&KEY=&SPID=3802&SPSID=42968" target="_blank">MAC selection Brian Wagner is a tackling machine. The sophomore middle linebacker is coming off a freshman season when he led the Zips' defense with 132 tackles. Wagner was also a preseason All-MAC pick so he's got the credentials to back up his game. So far, Wagner is second on the team in tackles with 35 trailing senior linebacker Mike Thomas by two tackles for the team lead.

Grade: B

Secondary: Opposing offenses have picked apart Akron's secondary so far this season. Opponents are averaging 278.8 passing yards a game. Doug Richardson prowls at safety in Akron's secondary as the senior ranks third on the team in tackles. Besides Richardson, this group isn't going to put fear into the Huskies wideouts. Landon Cox and company could be in for a big day if they can take advantage of this poor defensive backfield.

Grade: D

Special Teams: According to NIU Head Coach Jerry Kill, Zips' kicker Igor Iveljic and the special teams unit raises reasons to be concerned. "Special teams, they're very solid," Kill said . "They give me some headaches on some things. They do a good job kicking the onside kick like we do. They do some things in the kicking game that are difficult." Iveljic is 5-for-7 on field goals including a 48-yarder, the longest kick he's connected on this season.

Grade: C+

Offense

Quarterback: Under center for the Zips is Patrick Nicely and the sophomore quarterback has completed less than 50 percent of his passes this season. First year head coach Rob Ianello runs a pro-style offense and has yet to get the most out of his preseason picked All-Mac quarterback. "Offensively, they have a big, tall quarterback and good receivers," said NIU head football coach Jerry Kill.

Grade: C-

Running back: With an underclassmen signal caller, Akron has relied on its running game early on this season. The backfield for Akron has depth and experience. Seniors Alex Allen and Nate Burney have averaged a combine 119.7 yards rushing through four games. "I think they look at the MAC and say that they need to run and we have to have some guys to make some plays," Kill said.

Grade: C+

Wide receivers: Nicely and senior wideout Jeremy LaFrance have developed a rapport this season. The senior leads all Akron receivers in catches (17), receiving yards (232) and has nabbed all three of Nicely's touchdown passes. Junior Gary Pride is coming off his best performance of the 2010 season with four catches for 54-yards in the Zips' 35-20 road loss to Indiana. Kill described this a "good receiving" core.

Grade: C

Offensive line: You could call this unit the "300 club" since all five starters weigh in at over 300 pounds. The line consists of three seniors in guard Zac Kasparek, center Mike Ward and tackle Corey Woods. Sophomore guard Mitch Straight is the lone underclassmen up front for Akron. This group has surrendered 13 sacks so far this season.

Grade: B-

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