Kent State football returns to Dix Stadium for Spring Game


Running back Jo-El Shaw cuts back during the KSU spring game at Dix Stadium. April 13, 2019.

Brandon Lewis

Kent State football coach Sean Lewis said the passing offense stood out to him as an area the team did well in during the 2019 Kent State Spring Game Saturday at Dix Stadium. That said, Lewis knows that there’s room for improvement.

“There were some deep balls that sailed on us and some option routes where the receiver and the quarterback weren’t on the same page, but that’s ok,” Lewis said. They’ll go on some dates this summer, and they’ll be fine.”

The leader of the Flashes’ offense, quarterback Woody Barrett, was 15-for-21 through the air with two touchdown passes. Barrett, the junior from Orlando, Florida, is entering year two as Kent State’s starting quarterback. Lewis thought Barrett showed how much he improved in the offseason.

“There’s a calmness to him right now,” Lewis said. “I don’t think people realize how complicated our scheme is. The amount of plays we run, and how fast we move is a lot on a young quarterback.

“The best way I can compare it is you getting your driver’s license, and you go hop on the highway for the first time. You think you are ready when your parents aren’t in the car with you, and then you start going 80 and things are happening really fast around you.

“With him, you watch his feet and watch him go through his reads, and he has an incredible skill set that is now really starting to show. He’s taking care of the football, and he’s operating at an efficient level, so we’re pleased with his growth, but he still can get a lot better.”

Barrett said the offense has a different feel to it this year.

“We’re moving a lot more urgently,” Barrett said. “Everything is clicking right now. Everybody is doing their assignment and holding each other accountable.”

Barrett said he’s grown a lot since last season.

“My biggest area I’ve grown in is reading defenses,” Barrett said. “Knowing what the defense is doing pre-snap is so important because if you know what the defense is doing, you know where to go with the ball.”

Barrett said the biggest thing he has to work on to get ready for the season is being a better leader on and off the field.

“I need to be more vocal,” Barrett said. “Push the herd a little bit, so then we can get the tempo going. I also need to talk to our guys, and let them know they have a quarterback that’s willing to stay, and we’re gonna do great things together.”

Some players that stood out to Lewis during the game were running back Jo-El Shaw, wide receiver Javaughn Williams, defensive end Nick Faulkner and linebacker Matt Bahr.

“I was really pleased with the way Shaw ran the ball, and the way Williams competed on the edge,” Lewis said. “Nick Faulkner and Matt Bahr are always around the ball.”

Shaw finished with two touchdowns on the day and over 100 yards rushing. He said he would be nothing without his offensive line blocking for him and the football IQ of Kent State’s quarterbacks.

“Those holes were big and wide,” Shaw said “Also, I got to thank my quarterbacks, whoever was in, for reading the defenses and getting me in the right position.”

Shaw said even though he took some hits, his body feels good.

“It’s football,” Shaw said. “You’re going to take some big hits as a running back, but I love it. This is what I trained myself for my whole life.”

Shaw said his weight kept fluctuating last season, but that he has it under control now, and he said that has helped him be more efficient this spring.

“I consistently kept flopping between 236 and 238 (pounds),” Shaw said. “I just continued with my diet this offseason to get me down to 226 as of this week, so that was one of the biggest things I wanted to do, so I could maintain playing at a high level.”

Shaw said he feels a lot better about this season coming up than last season in every aspect.

“The biggest adjustment I had to make last year was not being the bell cow,” Shaw said. “I was so used to being the guy that got every carry that it was tough for me when I wasn’t, but I think it all worked out. I play this game to show that I have talent, and I can’t wait to showcase my talents again this year.”

Lewis said Keith Sherald, the junior cornerback from Walford, Maryland, may be the most underrated player on the Flashes roster.

I don’t give enough love to Sherald, and I told him that earlier in the spring,” Lewis said. “He’s as steady and consistent as it goes. He’s exactly what we want. He’s gonna make the routine play. It seems like every time we stop the run he’s there getting the ball carrier to the ground.”

Safety Rodley Jolicoeur, a sophomore from Delray Beach, Florida, went down in the first half with an ankle injury. Lewis said it was minor and he should be fine for summer workouts.

Shaw said the team overall should be a lot better this season because everybody is buying in to Lewis’ culture.

“One of the biggest things we have to do this year as a team is stick together,” Shaw said. “Last year, after we started losing, we had low energy. Our expectation is that we will improve from last year, and I think we will because we have a great group of guys in there who are buying in to what we’re doing.”

Kent State opens up their season Thursday, August 29 at Arizona State.

Brandon Lewis is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected]