Flashes led by depth, experience
Written by Cody Francis
Key players to watch during spring drills
Twelve points stood in between the Kent State football team and eight wins last season. A one-point loss to Bowling Green, an eight-point loss to Akron and a three-point loss to Buffalo was all that stood between the Flashes and one of the best regular seasons in program history.
Instead, Kent State dropped its last three games after a 5-4 (4-1 Mid-American Conference) start to finish 5-7 (4-4).
This season, Kent State coach Doug Martin is looking to change the “mental toughness” of his team to win in close games — something he says starts during the spring practices.
“We’ve been working really hard on getting more mentally tough and understanding that we played a lot of close games in the last couple of years, especially last year,” Martin said. “We’re really trying to make the competition (at spring practice) stiff and put our guys in a lot of game situations so we can win those close games.”
Part of Martin’s new plan for success will include running back Eugene Jarvis, who earned a sixth year of eligibility after suffering a kidney laceration in Kent State’s second game in 2009.
Along with Jarvis, Martin pointed out the key players to watch out for to make an impact on his team this spring and during the 2010 season as the team is in its first week of spring drills.
• RB Eugene Jarvis
Jarvis is the nation’s second leading career rusher with 3,426 yards. In his only full game last season, an 18-0 win in the season opener against Coastal Carolina, Jarvis rushed for 146 yards on 27 carries returned five punts for 77 yards and hauled in three catches for 30 yards.
With Jarvis in Kent State’s backfield will be junior Jacquise “Speedy” Terry.
Terry started seven games last season after Jarvis was injured, racking up 649 yards and four touchdowns to go along with more than 200 yards receiving.
Although Jarvis will be the starter, Martin said he wants to find ways to use all the members of his experienced backfield, one he says is probably best in the MAC.
“We’ve definitely got more depth than we’ve ever had,” he said. “We’re really confident with those guys. We may have to train one of them to be a slot receiver or create some two-back sets so we can have more of them in the backfield at the same time.”
Terry might be Martin’s best option to train as a slot receiver. The junior ranked sixth on the team with 17 receptions and is best known, as his nickname “Speedy” states, for his quickness.
WR Tyshon Goode
Martin was quick to praise Tyshon Goode for his 2009 performance. The sophomore led the team with 53 catches for 755 yards and five touchdowns in just eight starts as a freshman. Martin said he expects Goode to improve those marks in 2010.
“We need to keep improving at the wide receiver position and I think Tyshon Goode really stepped up and had a great year last year,” Martin said. “We need him to keep coming forward as a leader.”
Martin also mentioned junior Sam Kirkland as a possible impact player at wide receiver.
LB Cobrani Mixon
Senior linebacker Cobrani Mixon will sit out spring drills to recover from offseason knee surgery, but that doesn’t worry Martin.
He said some of the most competition for starting jobs will be at linebacker, but Mixon is the only sure thing the Flashes have at the position.
Mixon led Kent State with 108 total tackles last season. He also had three sacks, seven pass defenses and two fumble recoveries en route to making the All-MAC First Team.
S Brian Lainhart
Senior Safety Brian Lainhart had almost half of his team’s 15 interceptions in 2009.
His seven interceptions not only led the conference but were good to rank him fourth nationally.
With 15 career interceptions, Lainhart ranks second among active players in the country and is only four away from tying the school record.
As a freshman last season, Spencer Keith started six games and played in 10 games for Kent State, throwing for 2,147 yards, 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
However, injuries sidelined Keith, which gave Giorgio Morgan, the Flashes’ starter to begin the season, a chance to step in.
While Martin said Keith is the starter going into spring drills, the team will have an “open competition” at quarterback.
Martin said prep school transfer Cedric McCloud is also in the competition for the starting job. At the recruiting class press conference in February, Martin said about McCloud: “I haven’t seen a guy throw a ball like this since I coached (Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback) David Garrard back at Eastern Carolina.”
“Even though Spencer is the number one quarterback, this is going to be an open competition where everybody will get a chance,” Martin said “The other guys will get to work with the first offense also, particularly Giorgio Morgan who’s played in a lot of games himself.”
First-year impact players
CB Darius Polk
Redshirt freshman Darius Polk was high on Martin’s list of impact players last season. Martin said he intended on playing Polk as a true freshman, but a broken collarbone forced Polk to receive a redshirt and sit out a season.
Martin said he has the same expectations of Polk this season, mentioning him as a possible starter at cornerback.
“We were really high on Darius Polk going into last season but unfortunately he broke his collar bone, so I think he’s got a chance to really step up and be a productive player this year.”
WR Ed Cazanave
Redshirt freshman Ed Cazanave, a 6-2 wide receiver from Dallas, Ga., may step in as a big weapon in Kent State’s passing game.
Martin said Cazanave’s height and speed will give him an opportunity to get consistent playing time.
“(Cazanave) was somebody that we redshirted last year hoping he could come in the next season and do something good for us,” Martin said. “He’s someone we think will do some special things for us too.”
The Flashes will hold 15 spring practices over the next three weeks culminating in the annual Spring Game on April 30.
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