Spring practices bring changes for football team

Scott Lendak

Competing at a high level was the main theme of Kent State football team’s spring practice on March 24.

“The most important part of spring football is the competitiveness,” senior quarterback Nick Holley said. “It gives you time to join up and build your team around each other.”

The team made several position changes in preparation for the upcoming season. One of the big questions was the quarterback position. Holley said he plans to be the quarterback this season despite sophomore quarterback Mylik Mitchell returning from injury.

Holley finished the 2016 season with four passing touchdowns and 868 passing yards. He also added 920 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. Mitchell threw for 363 yards and five touchdowns in his 2016 season.

Mitchell started three games in 2016 for the Flashes before he suffered a season-ending wrist injury against University of Alabama.

“We’ve done our best to build chemistry among each other,” Holley said. “The good thing about spring practices is that it gives us time to link up and become an actual team.”

The Flashes made various position changes on the line on both sides of the ball. Coach Paul Haynes moved junior West Virginia transfer Davonte James from defensive line to offensive line during spring camp.

Junior Stefano Millin was a starter at center and right tackle last season but will move to left tackle to replace graduated senior Reno Reda.

Junior Matt Bahr, who mainly was involved on special teams last season, will move from the secondary to linebacker.

The Flashes have multiple players returning from injuries this season. Senior wide receiver Kris White and senior cornerback Demetrius Monday both participated in spring drills after suffering injuries last season. White suffered a season-ending leg injury in the opener at Penn State University, and Monday was hobbled all season by an ankle injury he suffered in the Flashes’ home opener.

“It’s a struggle,” Holley said. “Coming off of injuries, practicing without any games and having a lot of conditioning is tough. We’re really leaning (on) our teammates and bonding with them.”

Players also received their annual spring awards.

Sophomore wide receiver Mike Carrigan won the Don Nottingham Award as the offensive player who made the biggest improvement during the spring. Carrigan, who caught six passes for 66 yards in his freshman season, will look to expand his workload this upcoming season.

Senior defensive end Marques Moore received the Jack Lambert Award as the defensive player who made the biggest improvement during spring practice. Moore, who had just seven total tackles last year will move from linebacker to the Leo position, which is the weak side edge player.

Sophomore running back Will Matthews claimed the Matt Ramser Award, which is given to a member of the football team who best exemplifies the qualities of courage, dedication, attitude and commitment.

“When I think of Matt (Ramser), I think of a well-rounded person,” Haynes said to the Record-Courier. “This goes far and beyond the realm of football. Will (Matthews) is an awesome young man that always has a smile on his face. He’s a man of faith, and he gets his teammates involved in life outside of football.”

Bahr received the Leo Strang awarded, which is given to an upperclassman with the highest cumulative grade point average. Bahr holds a 3.8 GPA and has been a MAC Distinguished Scholar Athlete twice.

The Flashes finished the 2016 season with just three wins, but Holley said the teams’ expectations are higher than ever.

“We go into every year expecting to be undefeated,” Holley said. “We don’t play the game to lose, so we set expectations very high for ourselves.”

Preseason camp begins in early August. The Flashes first take the field in the 2017 opener against Clemson University on Sept. 2.

Scott Lendak is a sports reporter, contact him at [email protected].