Hazell looks to lead Flashes in a winning direction
DetailsHits: 665 When Darrell Hazell was introduced as the next head coach at Kent State, he stressed how much he believed in the Flashes’ football program. “We are real close,” Hazell said at his introductory press conference. “There are a few things we can do to take off and accelerate.”
The former Ohio State assistant coach is hoping that installing a new offensive scheme and changing the image of Kent State football will speed up the reclamation project.
Coach Darrell Hazell hopes to drastically improve the football team and compete for the MAC East title in his first season with the Golden Flashes.
Offensive coordinator Brian Rock’s system requires a quarterback with the ability to throw downfield. Junior quarterback Spencer Keith struggled last season when former coach Doug Martin called plays that required the signal caller to stretch the field.
The offense rests on Keith’s ability to play to his strengths and use his signature accuracy to their advantage.
Hazell said Keith needs to drastically improve for Kent State’s offense to click.
“Spencer, I want to see his game step up as well,” Hazell said. “He’s just like the rest of them. It’s all new information for them. He’s got to be at another level this year than he was in any of the previous years.”
Senior wide receiver Sam Kirkland and junior wide receiver Tyshon Goode are Keith’s primary targets. Both gained all-conference honors last season and will be complimented by junior Eric Adeyemi. The former Kentucky Wildcat sat out 2010 because of NCAA transfer rules, but he adds a big play threat downfield for the offense.
Senior running back Jacquise Terry returns as the starter at tailback after starting seven games in 2010 and gaining 542 yards on the ground. Terry will be Kent State’s primary back. The Flashes suffered a significant loss when junior running back Dri Archer announced he would sit out the 2011 season to focus on academics. The team does have notable depth behind Terry.
The Flashes expect freshman fullback Traiyon Durham to be a force in short yardage situations.
The running game is aided by one of the conference’s best offensive lines, led by senior center Chris Anzevino and junior left tackle Brian Winters.
OffenseWR Tyshon Goode (Jr.)
WR Sam Kirkland (Sr.)
LT Brian Winters (Jr.)
LG Tyler Arend (So.)
C Chris Anzevino (Sr.)
RG Josh Kline (Jr.)
RT Kent Cleveland (Jr.)
TE Justin Thompson (Sr.)
QB Spencer Keith (Jr.)
FB Trayion Durham (Fr.)
RB Jacquise Terry (Sr.)
DE Jake Dooley (Jr.)
DT Dana Brown (Jr.)
DT Roosevelt Nix (So.)
DE Lee Stalker (Sr.)
OLB Luke Batton (Jr.)
MLB C.J. Malauulu (Jr.)
OLB Byron Tyson (Sr.)
CB Josh Pleasant (Sr.)
CB Norman Wolfe (Sr.)
S Luke Wollet (So.)
S Leon Green (Jr.)
K Freddy Cortez (Jr.)
P Matt Rinehart (Sr.)
KR Eric Adeyemi (Jr.)
PR Wollet (So.)
The Flashes’ defense ranked 10th in the nation in total defense (306.7 yards per game) last season, but defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis and several key players from the record-setting unit are gone.
Former Youngstown State coach Jim Heacock takes over the defense, which will be similar to Rekstis’ pressure-heavy scheme.
Heacock is aided by the MAC Defensive Player of the Year, sophomore defensive lineman Roosevelt Nix. Nix finished fourth in the nation in tackles for a loss and eleventh in sacks.
Nix’s success will depend on his teammates on the defensive line and their ability to create pressure on opposing linemen.
“Teams know about me but there’s a lot of other great football players that I play side-by-side with that they have to watch out too, so I’m not really concerned about that,” Nix said.
Senior defensive end Lee Stalker brings a wealth of experience, while highly touted sophomore defensive end Richard Gray is expected to make an impact.
While Kent State’s defensive line is the team’s strength, the linebacking corps has lingering questions surrounding it. Junior college transfer C.J. Malauulu is expected to start in the middle, and will immediately give the Flashes a hard-hitting player to lead their defense.
Junior Luke Batton returns after a solid sophomore season, recovering fumbles for touchdowns against Akron and Ohio.
Senior cornerbacks Josh Pleasant and Norman Wolfe return as the team’s starting cornerbacks, while Wolfe led the team with five interceptions in 2010.
Cornerback Josh Pleasant tackles wide receiver Matt Hurdle during preseason practice.The Flashes begin their 2011 season at Alabama on September 3rd.
Junior kicker Freddy Cortez was perfect on extra points last year, but made 11-of-17 field goals. Senior punter Matt Rinehart was a first team All-MAC selection with a 42.7 yard average in 2010.
Hazell’s coaching pedigree and demeanor have pumped a new life into the Kent State football program. While the offense has the weapons to succeed, the unit is leaning on Keith’s arm. If the junior improved his arm strength and decision making, look for the Flashes to compete for the MAC East Title.
The team’s confidence seems high with the new coaching staff in-place, but they have to retain that attitude with tough out-of-conference matchups at Alabama and Kansas State.
The defense will play physical but it will be forced to rely on first-year players like Maulauulu to fill the void.