Lebron James once said that, “in northeast Ohio nothing is given. Everything is earned.”
For an Akron Zips team that’s coming off a 4-8 (2-6 in MAC play) season a year ago, they’ll have to earn every single first-down, touchdown, and win this upcoming season. On July 23, at Ford Field in Detroit at the 2019 MAC Media Day, the Zips were picked in the coaches poll to finish fifth in the MAC East with 25 points. If they want to have any hope of making it to their third MAC championship game, and first since 2017, they’ll have to get through a juggernaut in the Ohio University Bobcats. Ohio ran away with the coaches poll with all 12 first-place votes and 72 points, which was 22 higher than second place Buffalo (50 points). Ohio was also picked to win the 2019 MAC championship game over MAC West favorite Toledo.
This year, the Zips will be led by head coach Tom Arth, who will be in his first year with the program and sixth year as a head coach overall. Arth previously spent time as the head coach at UT Chattanooga (’17-’18) and John Carroll University (’13-’16), as well as an assistant at John Carroll University (’10-’12). Through six seasons as a head coach, Arth has compiled a 49-21 record overall and 39-13 record against conference opponents. In three postseason runs with John Carroll, Arth compiled a 5-3 record, which included a trip to the NCAA Division 3 semifinal in 2016.
As far as player personnel goes, Arth will have experience on his side as Akron has 51 letter winners returning. Akron will also have ten starters returning—the most notable of which will be redshirt junior quarterback Kato Nelson, who was recently named to the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award watch-list. In 11 games as a starter last season for the Zips, Nelson went
178-342 for 2,329 yards and got 15 touchdowns. Nelson’s stats last season were good enough for sixth of Akron’s single season passing touchdowns list (15) and ninth on the University’s single season passing yards list (2,329). Additionally, after last season, Nelson moved to 11th on Akron’s career passing yards list (3,318), and his 2,632 total yards ranked seventh all time for a single season at Akron. Aside from the quarterback position, Arth mentioned at MAC media day that he was excited about different matchups he’ll be able to get with his wide receiver group, as well as the returning experience on the Zips’ offensive line.
Tom Arth and the Zips are set to open the 2019 season on August 31st at the University of Illinois before coming home to the friendly confines of the rubber city for their home opener against the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Both games are set to kick off at noon.