Kent State football kicks off this Saturday

Taylor Rosen

Fab Five to watch for this season

Jordan Italiano (S)

One of the best safeties in the MAC last season, totaling 78 tackles.


Colin Reardon (QB)

The sophomore now has one season’s worth of experience under his belt.


Casey Pierce (TE)

On the preseason Mackey award watch list for best tight end in the country.


Chris Humphrey (WR)

Will be Reardon’s favorite, number one target this season.


Jordan Italiano (S)

One of the best safeties in the MAC last season, totaling 78 tackles.

Kent State football enters the 2014 season with a pair of second-year leaders and seasoned veterans as the face of the program as Paul Haynes enters his second year as the Flashes head coach. 

Improvements are expected coming off of a 2013 season in which the Flashes went 4-8 in Haynes’ first year. 

The Flashes have been working fervently this summer to prepare for the season opener at home against Ohio University this Saturday, Aug 30.

“The flow of camp and practice is better,” Haynes said. “The coaches being a bit more on the same page, and the players knowing the expectations of what you want all makes it run a bit smoother in the second year.”

Less than two weeks before the season opener, the Flashes were given shocking news. Junior starting center Jason Bitsko was found dead in his off-campus apartment last Wednesday and all team practices for the rest of the week were canceled.

“The passing of Jason is going to carry a huge impact on our football team this season,” Haynes said.

Bitsko started all 13 games for the Flashes last season at right tackle and was going to be the starting center snapping the ball to sophomore starting quarterback Colin Reardon this season.

Based on the importance of the relationship between quarterback and center, nobody on the field will miss Bitsko more than Reardon. 

“Losing Jason was really tough, frustrating and shocking,” Reardon said. “Right now we just have to use this as a spark. We’ll use it as inspiration to motivate us to have a great year because that’s what he would have wanted. He came to work every day and gave us his all. It’s just really sad, but we still have a place for him in our hearts and on this team.”

As a freshman, Reardon threw for 1,957 yards and rushed for 336 yards on the ground. He finished the season with 12 passing touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 58.9. 

“I feel much more comfortable controlling the offense,” Reardon said. “It’s time for me to just play and not think as much. I’ve noticed more people are really into it and watching film this season. The attitude is great, and the energy level has been through the roof.”

Losing an explosive player like Dri Archer can be detrimental to an offense that relied so heavily on its run game over the last few seasons. That being said it’s time for new guys to step up and fill the empty roles of offensive playmakers.

“James Brooks, who didn’t play for us last year, will be at wide out for us,” Haynes said. “Miles Hibbler is a freshman that may have an opportunity to play running back for us. Eldin Anu is a wide out that we could see out there as well.”

On the defensive side of the ball, Kent State lost several seniors to graduation in cornerback Darius Polk, defensive end Mark Fackler and leading tackler safety Luke Wollet. The Flashes will lean heavily on young, inexperienced players who will need to step up and improve upon last year’s effort. 

“On the defensive side Richard Gray will be out there for us,” Haynes said. “He didn’t play for us last year. Jon Cunningham is a true freshmen nose tackle that we may see out there. Calvin Tiggle is another kid that didn’t play for us last year and will be out there.”

With the way last season played out, it will be interesting to see how this team responds to adversity when the season kicks off this Saturday.

“We want to do everything in our power to get the Bitsko family a ring, and go to a bowl game,” Reardon said. “This team deserves it. We’ve worked hard enough, and we just need to make it this year. I really believe we have a team that can make it that far this year.”

Haynes echoed Reardon’s sentiments, reiterating that the way the team plays on Saturday will be the ultimate determinant of the Flashes’ fate this season.

“We want to be the best we can possibly be,” Haynes said. “The amount of effort and work we put in will determine where we end up in November.”

Contact Taylor Rosen at [email protected].