Starters shine as Blue squad takes Spring Game


Shane Flanigan

Sophomore quarterback Brett Maxie runs away from several Gold team defenders during the annual Spring Game at Dix Stadium on Saturday, April 27. The Blue overwhelmed the Gold, defeating them 31-0 in the exhibition game. Photo by Shane Flanigan

Tim Dorst

The Kent State football team closed out its spring practices Saturday with its annual Spring Game, allowing fans in attendance to get an early glimpse at the 2013 Flashes before the regular season begins in August.

The scrimmage pitted the Blue squad, consisting of returning starters from last season and likely future starters, against the Gold squad made up of reserves. Experience appeared to be the difference maker as the Blue team ran away with a 31-0 victory over Gold.

The game’s atmosphere resonated the feeling of spring football, and head coach Paul Haynes said it was clear the players on the field were treating the game like the exhibition it was.

“There were a lot of great things, but it was a spring game mentality in our emotions,” Haynes said. “In the fall, we’ll play with a lot more emotion and attitude. I can guarantee that to you.”

Kickoffs and punt returns were eliminated from the game, as both squads strictly placed the focus on offensive and defensive execution. Two touchdowns runs by junior running back Trayion Durham highlighted the evening and helped put the Blue squad ahead early on in the game.

Durham’s first rushing touchdown broke a scoreless tie in the second quarter and followed a 33-yard scamper by senior back Dri Archer on an end-around play. Durham barreled into the end zone for a second time later in the quarter, pushing Blue ahead 21-0 before halftime.

Haynes had made it clear throughout spring practice that Durham will be a go-to player on offense, especially with the ball inside the 10-yard line. After finishing Saturday’s game with 80 yards on 12 carries, Durham felt confident about having the ball in his hands more often this upcoming season.

“I feel pretty good about coach calling my number,” Durham said. “It just gives me more motivation to work harder, and lose more weight and listen to what he’s got to say to me.”

The 247-pound Durham said he wants to spend time this summer trimming some of his stomach fat and adding more muscle while getting his weight down between 230 and 235 pounds, around the same weight he was during his high school years at Colerain. Antoine Sharp, the football team’s strength and conditioning coach, will be working with Durham during the summer to help him reach his target weight.

Another bright spot for the Flashes this weekend was the play of redshirt freshman quarterback Colin Reardon. With senior quarterback David Fisher out with an injury, Reardon played the entire game for the Blue squad and completed 17 of his 25 passes for 243 yards.

Reardon also threw a touchdown pass to fellow redshirt freshman receiver William Woods late in the second half and did not throw an interception.

“Reardon did a good job,” Haynes said. “There’s a lot of things he can improve on once he watches the film, but he’s a good quarterback and a good athlete. He studies the game like crazy, and this is all important to him. So he’s got a chance.”

Haynes presented Reardon with the Don Nottingham award following the third quarter, an honor given by the coaching staff to the most improved offensive player over the course of the spring. Redshirt freshman cornerback Kerrick Rhone received the Jack Lambert award, given to the most improved defensive player from spring practices.

Haynes said he thought the whole team looked good considering the number of young players on the team, but he acknowledges that the Flashes still have a long way to go before they are ready to take the field when it matters most.

“We’re satisfied with them at this point,” Haynes said. “The young kids are continuing to get better, but they are young. So it’s going to take a little bit of time. This summer is going to be very important for them as far as getting strong. Once they get that strength, I think they’re going to be very good players.”

Winters drafted in third round by New York Jets

Video of the phone call from the New York Jets to Brian Winters during the draft.

Former Kent State offensive lineman Brian Winters sat in a Residence Inn hotel room in Cleveland with his girlfriend Friday night waiting to hear his name called during the 2013 NFL Draft.

With his stress level at its highest, Winters finally got a call from New York Jets General Manager John Idzik, who then handed the phone off to head coach Rex Ryan, assuring Winters where he will be playing his next game of football.

The Jets selected Winters in the third round (72nd overall) in this year’s NFL Draft, and Winters breathed a sigh of relief afterward, as his next destination finally became clear.

“I was a little nervous after the second round with everything that was going on,” Winters said. “The nerves were going, and then I got a call from a New Jersey number that just lifted a weight off my shoulders.”

Winters attended the first day of the draft in person, but he said he wanted to spend the second day away from distractions or anything else that would potentially heighten his stress even more. Now that the draft has passed, Winters said he is pleased with the result and excited about the opportunity he has been given.

“I really didn’t feel like [the Jets] were a team that were going to be after me as far as the other teams that I talked to,” Winters said. “But obviously it’s a great situation to be in. They have a great team, and it’ll be a great career.”

Winters had previously worked out for the Tennessee Titans, the Arizona Cardinals and the Detroit Lions before being selected by the Jets. He became the highest selected Kent State player in the NFL Draft since Usama Young (Round 3, Pick 66) in the 2007 draft.

New York currently has six quarterbacks on its roster, including last year’s starter Mark Sanchez and former West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, whom the Jets drafted in the second round Friday. Winters, who will have a chance to start at left guard for the Jets, said one of the owners asked him which quarterback he believes should start.

“I said whatever one they feel is best,” Winters said. “It was kind of funny that they asked me that kind of question because I have no say in it. But they’re all great quarterbacks. It just depends on the scheme.”

Winters has yet to meet with the Jets’ officials in person, but he is scheduled to report to the team on May 9.

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected].