Forced into Ball State's lineup initially by injury, left guard Jordan Hansel has started the past five games. But as the Cardinals' offensive linemen start to comeback from their injuries, Hansel will have to fight to keep his starting job.
Coach Stan Parrish said he expects center Kreg Hunter and guard Dan Manick to play Saturday against Akron.
Hansel said he knows the competition for playing time on the offensive line is about to increase, and he's ready to defend his job.
"I've got to keep working hard to prove I can handle my spot," he said.
Recruiting battles: Zips coach Rob Ianello said earlier this week he wanted to start getting more players from Northeast Ohio to come to Akron. He also would like to slow the river of talent coming to Ball State from the region, especially from Cleveland's Glenville High School.
"We can't have that happen any more, Coach Parrish coming in here and getting some guys out of Glenville," Ianello said.
Parrish has been instrumental in getting players from Cleveland and the surrounding area to travel about 250 miles away from home to attend Ball State, passing many Mid-American Conference schools on the way.
Parrish said sometimes that kind of recruiting is easier than convincing a player to stay in his backyard for college.
"It's not easy to keep kids at home," he said. "I think that's the hardest kind of recruiting to do."
Coaching connections: Curt Mallory is in his first year as Akron's defensive coordinator after spending the past five years at Illinois.
Mallory's résumé also includes six years as an assistant coach at Ball State from 1995 through 2000. While he was coaching the Cardinals, he met his wife, Lori Hill. She played tennis at Ball State and will become the first women's tennis player inducted into the Ball State Athletics Hall of Fame in January.