AKRON Fax machines across the United States got their annual workout last Wednesday as high school football players from coast to coast faxed in their National Letter of Intent to their respective college programs of choice.
The Akron Zips were among the teams looking to use their 2017 signing class to bolster the roster after a disappointing 2016 season that saw them suffer a series of injuries on the defensive side of the ball on their way to a 5-7 record.
One Suburbanite-area athlete was among those who will join head coach Terry Bowden’s squad this fall. Coventry receiver Dusty Burkhart inked his letter of intent with Akron.
Burkhart, a 6-foot-1 receiver, was joined by his mother, father, brother, sister and coaches for his signing. As a senior, Burkhart had 41 receptions for 762 yards and 11 touchdowns and was named first team All-Portage Trail Conference for his efforts.
For his career, Burkhart tallied 111 receptions for 1,959 yards and 28 touchdowns. He exits the program with three school records and will attempt to use his speed as a state track meet qualifier to make a difference on the college level for the Zips.
Along with Burkhart, Akron signed a total of 13 recruits. Of that number, seven hail from Summit or Stark counties, including Canton McKinley defensive back Reggie Corner. Recruiting top local talent was a priority for head coach Terry Bowden and his staff when they took over five years ago.
“We slowly made that turn,” Bowden said.
After a four-game losing streak to end the season, the Zips entered recruiting season knowing they didn’t have a large number of available scholarships to bolster the roster, so getting their top targets was even more essential.
Burkhart is one of just two receivers in the class, along with St. Vincent-St. Mary speedster Malik Wooldridge. The class also features a pair of quarterbacks, including transfer Nick Johns (NE Oklahoma A&M) and Texas native Alex Rampart.
“They all come out here knowing they’re going to have an opportunity to play,” Bowden said. “When you play Division I football, when you’re going to (practice) in the spring with a lot of reps, you’re going to compete to play.”
Quarterback is a position of need for Akron. Injuries at the position cost the Zips dearly last season, as injures sidelined starter Tommy Woodson for much of the season and hampered him once he returned to the lineup. Backup Tra’Von Chapman was inconsistent in relief and by season’s end, he too was injured, forcing receiver Tyrell Goodman to shift under center.
Johns enrolled at Akron early and is expected to take part in spring practice. He’s the only transfer in the signing class, which represents a big departure from the transfer-heavy approach Bowden has used to try to bolster the program in recent seasons.
Whether Burkhart and his fellow recruits can infuse new energy into the Zips remains to be seen, but the clock is already ticking down toward Akron’s season opener late this summer and in college football, that clock never stops.
* Editor’s note: Springfield senior lineman Tracy Jordan verbally committed to Akron late last year, but is a non-qualifier on the college level and could not officially be included as part of the recruiting class for the Zips as of National Signing Day.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB