Lewis, Flashes get 15 signees during early signing day

Kent State coach Sean Lewis looks toward the scoreboard during Kent State’s game against Illinois at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018. The Flashes lost 31-24.

Ian Kreider

Length.

It’s an attribute Kent State football coach Sean Lewis harped on during the recruiting process.

“Length across the board, but particularly on the defensive side,” Lewis said of the Flashes’ signings. “Dean Clark, Jaylen DeCoteau, Glen Hayes, they all have ball skills and can line up and go get the ball.”

The Flashes added those three players to help a secondary that finished 10th in the Mid-American Conference with a 20-to-9 touchdown against to interception ratio, while allowing almost 250 yards per game.

Kent State also signed Prince Okituama, a 6-foot-7-inch, 230-pound defensive end from Newark, New Jersey. Okituama comes in as the tallest player on the Flashes’ roster.

“Prince embodies the length that we’re looking for more than anybody else in the class,” Lewis said.

Okituama has only two years of experience playing football at the high school level because he focused more on basketball. The Flashes were able to secure a commitment, despite Okituama receiving offers from Kentucky, Iowa and Minnesota.

“I think it’s the tremendous job that Coach Farrell did with him and the genuine interest we have shown since Day 1,” Lewis said. “We painted a very clear vision of how we were going to utilize his skill set because he has a very unique skill set.”

The Flashes added three more defensive linemen in tackles Sekoua Diaby, Jabbar Price and Oly Okombi in an attempt to help a defense that finished with 24 sacks, but also allowed over 200 yards per game on the ground.

Another focus was on shoring up an offensive line that ranked last in the MAC with 43 sacks allowed last season.

The Flashes picked up four offensive linemen in total: Adam Tourville, Logan Swartz, Mike McNicholas and Jack Bailey.

“Bolstering that unit with four guys today and a couple more to follow in February will make us that much more sound,” Lewis said. “If Woody (Barrett) continues to develop his understanding of the offense scheme and when he needs to get rid of the football, that will keep him protected as we get started with the 2019 campaign.”

Kent State also added a running back after the departure of junior Justin Rankin, who announced via Twitter he was transferring from the program. Rankin has not announced where he plans on taking his talents, but stated his recruitment was “now 100% officially open.”

The Flashes recruited Bryan Bradford to help support senior running back Jo-El Shaw. Shaw finished last season with a team-high 707 yards rushing on 4.4 yards per carry. Bradford finished his senior season of high school with 2,090 yards on the ground with 10.6 yards per rush and 39 total touchdowns. He was a large contributor to Christian Brothers College High School’s back-to-back Missouri state titles over the past two seasons.

“He’s a load when he has the ball in his hands and he’s moving downhill,” Lewis said. “He should be able to come in and compete and make that room (of running backs) stronger.”

The Flashes also added tight end Hayden Junker and quarterback Collin Schlee.

Bailey, Bradford, and Schlee were each members of state championship teams in high school.

“We put a premium on kids who won championships in high school to help change the culture here,” Lewis said. “Work works, and they understand that.”

Today was the one-year anniversary of Lewis’ hire at Kent State. Last season was an expedited recruiting process for Lewis and his staff, while this offseason allowed for the staff to go through the full recruiting process.

“We had 42 days for recruiting last year,” Lewis said. “It was like speed dating.”

The Flashes will hope to improve on their 2-10 mark from last season, leaning heavily on their new talent.

Kent State starts its season on Aug. 29, 2019, as the Flashes take on Arizona State inside Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe.

Ian Kreider is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]