Spring practices bring changes for football


Kent State junior quarterback Nick Holley runs down field against Akron at Dix Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016. Kent State lost 31-27.

Scott Lendak

The Kent State football team finished up their spring practice on March 24, and one of the main themes was competing at a high level.

“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.”

Coach Paul Haynes said that it is extremely difficult to do a lot of team drills with the amount of players missing.

“Spring football is really about working on the fundamentals,” Haynes said. “We don’t have the numbers to do a lot, especially with only six or seven offensive linemen. There isn’t a whole lot of team stuff that we can do.”

The team made several position changes in preparation for the upcoming season. One of the questions remaining was quarterback position; Holley said that he plans on being the quarterback this season despite sophomore quarterback Mylik Mitchell returning from injury.

“We haven’t decided anything at quarterback,” Haynes said. “Nick didn’t go through the spring with his injury, and Mylik was still limited. We won’t make that decision until we get to the fall.”

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 Alabama. Mitchell practiced fully in the spring.

“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. 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 be moved to left tackle to replace graduated senior Reno Reda.

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

The Flashes also have some players returning from injuries last 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, 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 our teammates and bonding with them.”

The Flashes also received their annual spring awards.

Sophomore 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.

“Carrigan gained a lot of football intelligence,” Haynes said. “He’s learned a lot of different wide receiver positions. He’s a great competitor, tries to be the best at everything and he really has a great attitude.”

Senior 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. He will be replacing two-time, first-team all-MAC selection, Terence Waugh.

“It is important for Marques to just be himself,” Haynes said. “We don’t want him to think that he has to do what Terence did for us. He’s played a lot of football for us, so he brings a lot of leadership and experience.”

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.

Bahr received the Leo Strang Award, which is given to the 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 team’s 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 will begin in early August. Kent State will first take the field in the 2017 opener against Clemson on Sept. 2.

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