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Old 08-22-2007, 07:48 PM   #21
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Default Re: 2 WVU players BUSTED

Rodriguez should take a page from this guys book. He's the former OC for Pitt. The guy cut his stud All-American Frosh because of attitude!

Not afraid to admit mistakes

University of Akron coach J.D. Brookhart takes steps to ensure Zips contender in MAC

By Terry Pluto

Published on Wednesday, Aug 22, 2007

It's not just their fault.

That's what coach J.D. Brookhart realized after his University of Akron football team finished last season with a 5-7 record.

It wasn't just some bad breaks. It wasn't that the kids underachieved. It wasn't that an assistant coach might have failed.

OK, there were some problems in each of those areas.

The real trouble began with . . . the coach.

''We had some division and cliques on the team, and I should have been more aware of that,'' Brookhart said. ''But I also was our offensive coordinator, and I was spending so much time with the offense it was like we became two teams.''

That can happen . . .

The offense is in one part of the building the defense in the other. It's up to the head coach to keep them together, to make sure that one side of the ball doesn't begin to resent the other.

Now, Brookhart is the special-teams coach. He has turned the offense over to quarterbacks coach Joe Moorhead. Brookhart is making a point of spending time with all his players and assistants.

''This is a good sign, giving up the offense and being more of a manager of the entire team,'' Zips Athletic Director Mack Rhoades said. ''It's about trusting your staff. J.D. is very self-reflective. He's not afraid to admit he's wrong.''

Brookhart had been an offensive coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh, and he kept that job in his first seasons when he became the Zips' coach.

And it worked.

The Zips were a solid 6-5 his first season, including 6-2 in the Mid-American Conference.

The next year, they were 7-6 overall and won the MAC East with a 5-3 record, ending with an appearance in the Motor City Bowl.

''Looking back, we got famous before we got good,'' Brookhart said.

He meant the publicity that came from the school's first Division I-A bowl appearance, some games on ESPN and also having Charlie Frye (the Zips' 2004 quarterback) playing for the Browns. UA football was being noticed.

Last season, expectations were high for UA with Motor City Bowl quarterback Luke Getsy returning. Picked to win the MAC, UA stumbled to a record of 5-7 overall, 3-5 in the league.

''We thought we were better than we were,'' Brookhart said. ''Especially after we beat N.C. State (20-17).''

The first warning sign was a 37-16 spanking at Kent State. The Zips lost their final two games to Ohio University and Western Michigan, scoring only seven points in their final eight quarters.

In the end, no one was happy in the football wing of the glittering new Stile Field House. For the first time in Brookhart's three years with the Zips, the team had taken a clear step back.

Brookhart realized that he had ''lost his focus.'' Some of his recruits didn't buy into the disciplined culture that he helped create when he first arrived. That approach was the driving force for the team overachieving in the first two seasons.

''I think we made some compromises in recruiting,'' Brookhart said. ''It's easy to be blinded by talent and not pay attention to if the kid will fit in with the rest of the team.''

He didn't mean taking players who failed to qualify academically. But there were borderline students with grades, or players whose attitudes were questionable.

After the season, Brookhart let six of his players go. Some had academic problems; others just didn't buy into his type of team. One of the departed players is David Harvey, who was perhaps the most gifted athlete on the team.

As a freshman, Harvey led the Zips with 10 touchdowns, all as a receiver. He averaged 21 yards per catch and 30 yards per kick return. It's rare to find that kind of pure athlete in the MAC, but Brookhart believed that Harvey and the others were not a good match with the culture that he wanted to create.

For example, Brookhart breaks his team into 10 ''discipline groups'' of 10 players each. If any member of the group misses a class, is late for a meeting or fails to meet another academic or team requirement all 10 members assemble early Wednesday morning to run.

After that's finished, the nine innocent players come up with a penalty for the guilty party such as bear crawling the field, or maybe running laps carrying a 45-pound weight.

In his first two years, that kept character problems to a minimum. Last season, several players rebelled against the system.

Brookhart was determined not to let that happen again.

He told Rhoades of his plans, ''and I knew it could come back and hurt our (graduation rate) and even cost us some scholarships down the line.''

Rhoades talked about how he had ''several candid'' conversations with Brookhart about what really matters. It was time to make some tough decisions.

Said Rhoades: ''You can talk academics, character and winning, but what values does your team exhibit?''

The Zips will graduate about 12 players this year by the end of the fall quarter. They had three All-Academic picks for the 2006 All-MAC team in Mark Groza, Tim Crouch and Getsy. The team has consistently graduated more than 50 percent of its players the past several years.

''We don't want to lose that,'' Rhoades said. ''With the six players we let go, there were character issues. We could not have one set of rules for some players, another set for the rest. I give J.D. credit for not being willing to compromise.''

When Brookhart arrived in 2004, he believed that it would take six seasons for a true winning program to be firmly in place. He mentioned the slow and determined pace of the Virginia Tech construction job.

The Zips are now in a new field house. A new stadium should be ready by 2009. Many pieces are in place to ensure that the Zips become annual contenders in the MAC.

Brookhart won in his first two years with a combination of players left from former coach Lee Owens, transfers from four-year schools and a few of his recruits. Now, most players are his own.

''This last recruiting (season), I flat out told kids that this was how it would be at Akron, it would not be easy,'' Brookhart said.

''I think this is the best freshman class we've had in terms of character and academics. It will pay off for us on the field.

''Over the years, our best players have usually been our best people. That's something that I don't think will change, either.''noweb
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