JATAVIS BROWN, LINEBACKER
The 5-11, 222-pound weakside linebacker is drawing NFL Draft speculation, with most placing him as a late-round prospect who might need to move to safety.
The MAC defensive player of the year racked up 108 tackles and 17.5 tackles for loss this season, and he set the school’s single-season sack record at 10.5, breaking a mark shared by four-time All-Pro Jason Taylor.
“He’s our bell cow,” Akron coach Terry Bowden said. “We know at the end of the game he’s going to have about 12 tackles and two or three tackles for loss and a sack or two.”
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THOMAS WOODSON, QUARTERBACK
The redshirt sophomore appeared in eight games last year as a freshman, and started two. But Bowden said Woodson was overweight at 260 pounds, and he started the year third on the depth chart behind redshirt sophomore Tra’Von Chapman, a transfer from Pitt, and senior Kyle Pohl, the returning starter.
Woodson dropped 30 pounds before fall camp and came on in relief in Week 3, starting every game since. He’s completed 53.2 percent of his passes for 2,034 yards with 16 TDs and 10 interceptions, adding 553 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
“The uniqueness of him is his lower body thickness and how strong he is,” Utah State coach Matt Wells said. “I mean, you’ve got to get a lot of hats on him. You’ve got to wrap up.”
CODY GRICE, NOSE TACKLE/FULLBACK
The 5-11, 285-pounder in Akron’s 4-3 defense has started every game since arriving on campus four years ago. Tuesday’s game will be his 49th start, a school record.
Grice entered the program as a running back/defensive lineman before settling in on defense as a freshman. But the Zips also moved Grice into the backfield the past two years as a short-yardage back. He’s turned 19 carries this fall into 33 yards and four TDs, including a three-TD performance against Savannah State.
“He’s 285, which is a big running back, but he’s got the quick feet of a running back,’’ Bowden said.
JEROME LANE, WIDE RECEIVER
The son of Pitt backboard-shattering basketball star Jerome Lane Sr., the 6-3, 220-pounder bounced between linebacker, defensive end and safety at Akron before making the move to receiver a week before fall camp.
His big frame, explosiveness and speed (4.5 in the 40) have allowed him to catch 35 passes for 780 yards and eight TDs. His average of 21.4 yards per catch is tied for fifth best in the FBS.
JAMAL MARCUS, DEFENSIVE END
The 6-2, 240-pound junior started for Ohio State in the 2014 Orange Bowl against Clemson. He sat out last season, one of 14 transfers on the roster.
Marcus finished the regular season with 26 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks on a defense that held opponents to 89.8 rushing yards per game, third best in the FBS.
All copy by Dave Southorn and Michael Lycklama of the Idaho Statesman
Akron bowl history
FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL: UTAH STATE VS. AKRON
▪ When: 1:30 p.m. Tuesday
▪ Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf), Boise
▪ TV: ESPN
▪ Records: Utah State (6-6, 5-3 Mountain West); Akron (7-5, 5-3 Mid-American)
▪ Coaches: Utah State, Matt Wells (25-15, third year); Akron, Terry Bowden (18-30, fourth year; 158-92-2, 22nd year overall)
▪ Series: First meeting
▪ Vegas line: Utah State by 6 1/2
▪ Tickets: $20-$90, at ticketmaster.com; $24 for FitOne Family Field Day (pre-game NFL combine-type event at 10:30 a.m., lunch and game ticket)
▪ Kickoff weather: Mid 30s and partly cloudy, with 8 mph winds and a 15 percent chance of rain.