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August 13, 2009

Kent State Football 2009 – Week 1 Preseason Camp Update
By Mike Hrusch


            The 2009 Kent State football program has one week of practice in the books at Dix Stadium.  Let’s take a look at some of the storylines going on so far and who is looking good for the Golden Flashes.

 

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Giorgio Morgan is beginning to look more and more comfortable as he tries to settle in and learn the offense more.  At 6-4, Morgan has a powerful arm but has also shown athleticism and scrambling ability as well.  Anthony Magazu’s quest to win the starting job while competing with Morgan took a hit as he suffered an elbow injury.  The extent of the injury is not known but the coaches are hoping he would be back in a week or so.  Before the injury, Morgan and Magazu had both been enjoying the competition for the starting job.  Magazu is helping Morgan along since he is entering his fifth season in the program.  “Both of them have a lot of maturity about them,” Head Coach Doug Martin told the Record Courier. “I think everyone thinks we are starting over. But these two guys have played. Giorgio has played in games. Magazu has played in games. So they have kind of been in the battle. They don’t get rattled. They don’t get pressured up about anything. They are just out here competing.”  With the injury, freshman Spencer Keith has been practicing with the second team.  Sal Battles continues to figure into the mix with his running ability that will make for the opportunity to make some interesting play calls.  
Running Back Eugene Jarvis has looked impressive as usual thus far in preseason camp.  Jarvis was recently named as one of the 45 candidates for the Doak Walker Award.  While that is a very humbling honor for Jarvis, past seasons of disappointment motivate him more.   "I have enough motivation as it is to start out with, being how the season ended last year," Jarvis told the Kent Sports Report.  ”I didn't like it.  It feels good because my recognition on the field is paying dividends and people out there are seeing what I'm doing.  It's good in that aspect, but at the same time you still gotta' win.  I want to go out on top with a winning season."  The theme that continues to emerge from Kent State camp is that the Golden Flashes might have the most depth at the position of any team in the Mid-American Conference.  With Jarvis, junior Andre Flowers and sophomore Jacquise Terry, Kent State has a lot of capable ball carriers.  If that wasn’t enough, many people are starting to be ‘wowed’ at freshman Dri Archer and his blazing speed.  Archer might have to redshirt this season due to the talent at running back, but he appears to definitely be a player to watch in the future.  Coach Martin says, “Dri can be a great return man.  He has tremendous speed.”
Thus far, a very pleasant surprise has been the wide receivers.  Derek McBryde, Sam Kirkland, Tyshon Goode and Ed Cazenave have all looked impressive reportedly.  Another one of the main themes coming from camp is the size of the receivers this year.  For years Kent State has trotted out 5-7, 5-8 and 5-9 receivers.  This year the targets are bigger and the quarterbacks are definitely enjoying it.  “Now we have some bigger receivers who can go up and get the ball,” Magazu said.  When Doug Martin first got to Kent State his priority was to upgrade the speed at the position and that resulted in some smaller receivers.  Now he and his staff have been able to recruit kids that are fast and bigger.  Last year, none of the six receivers listed on KSU’s preseason depth chart were taller than 5-11.  With all of this talk about bigger sized receivers, this unit will still have to consistently catch the ball and make plays down the field.  Through one week, this unit looks like it is upgraded.
            The offensive line looks like they have recovered from a bad spring practice session and are coming together.  The unit, led by Terry Tilghman is still trying to replace Gus Parrish at left tackle.  Newcomers that are looking impressive have been Brian Winters and Max Plunkett.  The size of the lineman has also been discussed at length by many members of the media.  In the past few years Kent State has started to recruit bigger and stronger athletes who are ready to step in on the offensive line.  Also, due to improvements in weight training and condition, players who have been in the program continue to get bigger and stronger.   
            Defensively, the Golden Flashes got to put the pads on Tuesday, August 11 and fly around and got a chance to hit someone.  Kevin Hogan and Monte Simmons look to help lead the defensive line from their defensive end positions.  It looks like some of the leaders on the defense will be Hogan, linebacker Cobrani Mixon and free safety Brian Lainhart.  Danny Sadler and Josh Pleasant are looking impressive at the cornerback positions.  There is a lot of depth at all three units whether it be the line, linebackers or in the secondary.  There are several players on the depth chart who have started or contributed in games and now some of these players will be asked to take an expanded role this season.
            Special teams appear to have renewed attention to it this summer after it has been a miserable unit in years past.  I’m hearing new drills have been added to teach the fundamentals of special teams and it should pay dividends.  The place kickers Nate Reed and freshman Freddy Cortez have looked sharp kicking the ball and Cortez has displayed a very competitive attitude and is ready to contribute now.  I expect Alan Vanderink to emerge as the primary kick and punt returner to start the season. 

Notes…

    1. Defensive tackle Sam Frist had a boot on his right foot the first day of camp and has not practiced this week.  He is not expected back before the Boston College game on September 12
    2. Offensive lineman Michael Page and defensive back Kirk Belgrave were not at practice this week and will not be with the team this season due to academic reasons.
    3. Running back Andre Flowers has changed his number from 25 to 10.

       

 

August 5, 2009

Kent State Football Preseason Prospectus - 2009
By Mike Hrusch

            The Kent State football team will begin camp on August 7 in preparation for the upcoming 2009 season.  The 2008 season could be viewed as another disappointing, losing season in a long history of seasons just like it.  The Golden Flashes went 4-8 and 3-5 in the Mid-American Conference.  Poor special teams, injuries and the failure to make winning plays at crunch time contributed to the demise in 2008.  Kent State did end the season with some positive momentum however.  On November 28 they defeated the eventual MAC Champion Buffalo Bulls 24-21 at UB Stadium in Buffalo.  Kent State head coach Doug Martin is now in his 6th season at the helm of the program and he is hopeful that victory can pay dividends this season.  “I walked into the locker room after the game and it was like we won the Super Bowl,” Martin told The Cleveland Plain Dealer in a recent interview.  “I felt something changing.  I felt like the players proved something to themselves, something that can carry over to this season.”  The Kent State football program will try to shake the losing culture that has plagued it for so long to rise above all of that negative history, and start to write their own chapter of winning football.  

QUARTERBACKS
            While many talented players return for Kent State, the program loses its heart and soul, as well as its best player.  Quarterback Julian Edelman is gone and was a 7th round draft pick of the New England Patriots.  For the past three seasons Edelman was the face of the program and its main offensive weapon.  Last season he accounted for 3,190 total yards throwing and running with the football.  At many times over the last three years, Kent State’s best play may have been Edelman dropping back to pass and improvising to make something happen by running the football.  With that said, Edelman is gone.  The quartback position is in pretty good shape considering the loss of Edelman.  Redshirt sophomore Giorgio Morgan is expecting to step in as the starter in 2009.  Morgan was pressed into duty in 2007 due to injuries and played a very solid game against Central Michigan going 18-24 for 247 yards and 3 TD’s.  He is 6-4 with a very strong arm and should help the Golden Flashes have much more of a vertical passing game this year.  Senior Anthony Magazu is expected to be the backup although going into camp Coach Martin was quoted at media day as saying both will be competing for the starting job.  Magazu is a very capable backup with some starting experience and his experience within the program (this will be his 5th year), should make him one of the most experienced back ups in the conference.  Look for sophomore Sal Battles to maybe figure in the mix on some creative play calls or some gadget type plays.  Battles returns to the QB position full time (it was high school position) after playing at wide receiver last year.  Battles gives the position group an athletic threat with his feet.      

RUNNING BACKS
            The running back position appears to be in very good shape coming into the 2009 season.  Senior Eugene Jarvis returns and should be one of the most exciting, electric players in the MAC.  Missing about four games last season to an ankle sprain, Jarvis was able to rush for 801 yards and 9 TD’s.  At 5-5, 170 pounds, Jarvis will look to regain the form he had in 2007 when he rushed for 1,669 yards and was a first team All-MAC selection.  His 3,268 career rushing yards rank third in school history.  He only needs 722 yards to become the school’s all time leading rusher.  Jarvis is also a very good receiver out of the backfield.  Backing up Jarvis and seeing his share of carries will be junior Andre Flowers.  In 2008 Flowers rushed for 319 yards and a touchdown.  Flowers suffered a scary concussion after the first spring scrimmage on April 11 but should be ready to roll and be a nice compliment to Jarvis.  Sophomore Jacquise Terry also returns after rushing for 170 yards and a touchdown as a freshman last year.  Switching back to his old high school position this year will be junior Alan Vanderink who comes over from receiver.  According to the coaching staff the ideal spot for Vanderink will be a third down back who can come into the game and make plays in the passing game and will also be a key contributor on special teams.  Incoming freshman Dri Archer will be a player to watch down the road in upcoming seasons.

WIDE RECEIVERS
            The wide receivers have been some of the most maligned players on the team under Martin’s tenure.  Martin has called them out himself several times for poor performances.  The hope is that the 2009 version will be much improved with some new talent out on the field.  Sophomore  Kendrick Pressley will be the main man at the flanker position.  Only playing in one game last season, the Virginia Tech transfer had nine receptions for 57 yards and 3 rushes for 13 yards in the Wagon Wheel game vs. Akron last season.  Pressley broke his leg in practice the next week.  Sophomore Sam Kirkland, if he can recover from several dropped passes last season, will figure in the mix as well at the position.  At split end senior Derek McBryde will get the chance.  McBryde had been an exciting playmaker when given the chance in the past but then would mysteriously disappear and not play perhaps being in the staff’s dog house.  Other youngsters in the mix include freshman Tyshon Goode, redshirt freshman Chris Gordon and redshirt freshman Matthew Hurdle, who makes the position switch from quarterback. Senior  Jameson Konz is a player who has a chance to be a premier threat for the Golden Flashes this season if he can stay healthy.  After playing linebacker his first three seasons, he moved to tight end last season and got hurt in the first game vs. Boston College.  Now playing H-Back, he has the potential to create a lot of matchup problems all over the field.  At tight end junior Jonathan Simpson returns after catching eight passes for 104 yards and 2 TD’s last season.  The wide receiver position will have to step up if Kent State is to improve on last season’s 4-8 record.

OFFENSIVE LINE
            The offensive line is a position group that returns four starters from last season.  Pat Reedy at right tackle, Mike Roder at right guard, Chris Anzevino at center and Michael Fay at left guard.  Unfortunately, KSU will have to replace its best lineman for the past couple of seasons.  Gus Parrish, who started the final 31 games of his career, has graduated and look for Kent Cleveland to get the first crack at replacing him.  Josh Kline, Michael Page and Donte Campbell return as capable backups.  This unit helped the Flashes rush for 230.6 yards a game last season, good for 11th in the nation.  They also had the ever elusive Edelman to constantly escape from trouble so it will be an adjustment with a different kind of quarterback this season.  This unit struggled a little bit during spring practice and that has caused some concern among the coaching staff heading into camp.

DEFENSIVE LINE
            Defensively, the defensive line appears to be a strength heading into the season.  Nose tackle Sam Frist returns for his senior season.  He led Kent State with 10.5 tackles for loss last season and was named the team’s most improved defensive player.  Aaron Hull returns along side Frist at tackle.  Zach Williams will step in defensive end.  At the buck position, Kent State returns Monte Simmons and Kevin Hogan who both have the potential to be two of the best pass rushers in the MAC.   

LINEBACKERS
            The line backing corps has to replace stalwarts Derek Burrell and Cedric Maxwell who have both exhausted their eligibility.  Junior Cobrani Mixon returns at middle linebacker and promises to be one of the top defensive players in the conference.  Mixon, a Michigan transfer, suffered a broken foot in the middle of the season but still finished third on the team with 73 tackles.  Senior Anthony Mirando will step in at strong side linebacker and junior Dorian Wood will get his opportunity at weak side linebacker.  Kent Walker, Luke Batton and C.J. Steward are three young players who look to have bright futures at linebacker.

DEFENSIVE BACKS
            Kent State returns seven of their top eight defensive backs from a year ago but lose their top cover man in Rico Murray.  Brian Lainhart returns at free safety after he earned second team All-MAC in 2008.  His six interceptions led the MAC and were tied for seventh in the nation.  He was also second on the team with 106 tackles.  Next to Lainhart will be strong safety Dan Hartman and he will have a solid back up in Adam Richey, a Kentucky transfer.  Sophomore Josh Pleasant will step in at half back this season next to Danny Sadler at cornerback.  Kirk Belgrave was injured and out for spring practice but should factor into the mix this season at corner.  As with most defenses, more pressure from the line and front seven will help the secondary and this group is no different.  With the experience of Lainhart, this group should become a strength by the end of the season.

SPECIAL TEAMS
                        The special teams have not been very good to put it nicely in recent years.  The kicking game has been inconsistent at best.  Place kicker Nate Reed has struggled with his confidence and will try to improve this year.  The staff did recruit a kicker, Freddy Cortez to come in and compete for the starting job.  Punter Matt Rinehart did a solid job as a freshman but that unit still had some punts blocked.  The kickoff team continued to allow big returns as well as touchdowns.  The punt return team was searching for a man to do the job and couldn’t find anyone so Martin put the elusive Edelman in that role the last three games of last season.  Coach Martin hinted that Jarvis could be in that role this season but I am against that for fear that he could get hurt and the fact that there should be someone on the roster with the ability to do the job well.  I would like to see Vanderink handle both punts and kickoffs as he has some experience doing it in the past.  The special teams unit continues to single handedly lose games for the Golden Flashes and time will tell if this unit improves.  If it does and is at least consistently decent, not spectacular, Kent State should be an improved team by at least one win. 

COACHING STAFF
            Martin returns for his sixth season with a career record of 19-39 for a .327 winning percentage.  At the end of last season when speculation was saying that he would be fired, Athletic Director Laing Kennedy gave Martin a vote of confidence and said he intends to honor the final two years of Martin’s contract.  “I believe in Doug Martin,” Kennedy said in a recent article in The Cleveland Plain Dealer.  “He has some Tony Dungy qualities when it comes to character.  He’s the kind of man that you’d want your son or grandson to play for.  We really want him to win, because he is everything doing right.”  While a lot of positive things have been happening around the program with high graduation rates, improvements to Dix Stadium and improvements to the weight room and training tables, even Martin admits that at some point the program has to win.  Craig Aukerman is new to the staff this year and will be the linebacker coach and Richard McNutt is also new and will coach the defensive backs.  Other duties were shifted as Larry McDaniel will now work with the interior defensive lineman, A.J. Pratt will coach the receivers as well as be the offensive coordinator and Zane Vance will coach the tight ends and be the special teams coordinator. 

OUTLOOK
            The time for Kent State football to win is now.  In a wild MAC East Division where anyone can win it, it is right there for the taking and Kent State has as good a chance as anyone to be playing in Detroit on December 4 in the MAC Championship Game.  The special teams and most especially the kicking game will have to get off to a good start and keep it up.  Offensively, Morgan or Magazu will have to step in as a first time starter and the receivers need to be threats and do it consistently.  Defensively the unit needs to improve against the big play and will need some leaders to emerge such as Lainhart, Frist, Mixon, etc.  There are winnable non-conference games on the schedule vs. Boston College, Baylor, Iowa State and Coastal Carolina while Phil Steele said KSU has the easiest schedule in the country this season.  Early season wins will help build confidence and maybe Kent State can finally shake the losing culture.

Mike Hrusch is also a writer at the Kent Sports Report. (http://kentstate.rivals.com/)

He has a Kent State blog entitled ‘NewsFlashes’ at Ohio.com which is the website for the Akron Beacon Journal.  (http://www.ohioverticals.com/blogs/kent_state/)