Football update: Lewis eyes improvement in second season

Flashes quarterback Woody Barrett drops back for a pass during a drill before Kent State’s spring game on April 14, 2018. Barrett is entrenched in a three-way quarterback battle heading into the team’s season opener at Illinois. 

Ian Kreider

Last season, Sean Lewis predicted that Kent State would be playing in a bowl game in his first season as coach. Lewis even went as far as scheduling 14 unique jersey combinations, including one for both the Mid-American Conference title game and a bowl game.

The Flashes finished 2-10 and an unsightly 1-7 in Mid-American Conference play. Kent State enters the season ranked fourth in the MAC East Division, ahead of only Akron and Bowling Green, according to

This season, Lewis is making no such predictions.

“We haven’t really set expectations for wins or losses right now,” Lewis said. “The main focus is camp and finding out what the identity of our team is.”

Junior quarterback Woody Barrett will be an integral part of the Flashes’ success. Barrett averaged 236 yards per game last year, and his continued development as both a quarterback and an athlete is something Lewis and his staff focused on throughout the offseason.

“When he first showed up, he was a very raw passer,” Lewis said. “He’s really developed into a much more refined thrower. He’s done a good job of working on timing with receivers and gaining a better understanding of where to go with the football.”

Lewis also plans on sticking with his high-paced “FlashFAST” offense that eclipsed 70 plays per game 11 times with Barrett behind center. 

“Woody has a greater understanding of the offense,” Lewis said. “He can anticipate a little better, and he has a year’s worth of encyclopedia pictures to draw from, and because of this, he’s been able to play with more efficiency.”

The Flashes also hope to improve on the defensive side of the ball. Lewis has left defensive coordinator Tom Kaufman in charge of play calling on that side of the ball. 

“We work together in terms of gameday assignments and what we want to do and the philosophies that we have,” Lewis said. “Coach Kaufman has the reigns on that side of the ball. That’s his expertise, and that’s why he’s here.”

Lewis is pleased with the growth of the defense as a whole. 

“The leadership and the attacking mindset on that side of the ball has been great,” Lewis said. “Some of the playmakers we have on that side of the ball get overlooked at times. They don’t worry about that, and they’re going to show up and perform in the fall so there will be plenty of stories to write about them.”

The Flashes add former Maryland cornerback redshirt junior Qwuantrezz Knight to a passing defense that finished ninth in the conference (247 yards allowed per game) last season. Knight left the program following an investigation into the circumstances surrounding 19-year-old Jordan McNair’s death from heatstroke. The investigation ultimately resulted in the termination of coach D.J. Durkin.

Knight finished his three-year career with the Terrapins with 41 tackles in 15 games played, and was granted his request for immediate eligibility last month after appealing the NCAA’s initial denial.

“It’s great to have Qwuantrezz,” Lewis said. “He’s in a much better state of mind to be out here and playing and to have this utopia, so to speak. For a lot of these kids, this is their sanctuary where they’re able to escape from whatever is going on in their life.”

Lewis also spoke to Knight’s skillset and energy on the field, but refused to publicly name him the Week 1 starter. 

Lewis plans on sticking by a rule he followed last season. He refuses to ring the Kent State Victory Bell until he wins a conference title. 

“No disrespect to those that came before, but when I get an opportunity to ring that thing, when we get an opportunity to ring it, that it’s very meaningful,” Lewis said.

Ian Kreider is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected].

2019 Football schedule 

August 29 at 10:00 p.m., Kent State at Arizona State 

September 7 at 12:00 p.m., Kent State vs. Kennesaw State (Parents and Families weekend)

September 14 at 7:00 p.m., Kent State at Auburn

September 21 at 3:30 p.m., Kent State vs. Bowling Green (Homecoming) 

October 5 at TBA, Kent State at Wisconsin 

October 12 at 3:30 p.m., Kent State at Akron 

October 19 at TBA, Kent State at Ohio 

October 26 at TBA, Kent State vs. Miami

November 5 at 7:00 p.m., Kent State at Toledo 

November 14 at 7:00 p.m., Kent State vs. Buffalo 

November 23 at TBA, Kent State vs. Ball State

November 29 at TBA, Kent State at Eastern Michigan