Winters, Nix represent KSU at MAC Media Day


Senior Brian Winters, junior Roosevelt Nix and head football coach Darrell Hazell answered questions during a live-streaming interview for ESPN3, during the MAC Football Media Day on Tuesday, July 24. The media day was held in Detroit at Ford Field where Kent State, as well as 12 other colleges, was represented. Photo by Jenna Watson.

Matt Lofgren

For the second month in a row, the national media set their attention on Kent State athletics. However, this time, football was the sport of focus.

Broadcast nationally on ESPN3, the annual Mid-American Conference Football Media Day at Ford Field in Detroit explored the conference’s most successful year in its history with a total of five postseason bowl appearances that resulted in four big wins.

Although Kent State wasn’t one of the schools involved, rounding out the 2011 season by winning four of the team’s final five games got a lot of people talking.

“I think ­— to the players’ credit — when things were really bad on the scoreboard and our record, I thought they did an excellent job of staying glued together,” head coach Darrell Hazell said. “And that was hard. We only had one win at one point in time, and they stayed together and kept believing.”

Accumulating hard-fought wins is something Hazell said he expects out of his team. Finishing second in total defense in the MAC last season, Hazell’s key is nine returning starters on offense and defense that started to click.

MAC Media Poll

East Division

1. Ohio (17 first-place votes), 119 points

2. Bowling Green, 91

3. Miami, 84

4. Kent State, 76

5. Buffalo, 52

6. Akron, 31

7. UMass, 23

West Division

1. Toledo (7 first-place votes), 87

2. Northern Illinois (5), 83

3. Western Michigan (4), 79

4. Ball State, 42

5. Eastern Michigan, 34

6. Central Michigan (1), 32

Championship game winner: Ohio (5 votes), Toledo (3), Northern Illinois (1), Western Michigan (1), Central Michigan (1).

This is a preseason poll voted on by members of the media.

Representing Kent at the media day was senior offensive tackle Brian Winters as well as Roosevelt Nix, junior defensive tackle, Bronko Nagurski Trophy candidate and leader of the Flashes’ defense. Nix led the team with 10 sacks on the field and a relentless drive for perfection off the field, in Hazell’s eyes.

“Can anybody block him?” Hazell asked, in regard to Nix. “He’s unbelievable. You watch him and you just shake your head. He’s ridiculous off the ball in terms of quickness, and he processes things or he knows the schemes that are coming at him.”

Part of Hazell’s job — and defensive coordinator Jon Heacock’s job — every week is game-planning against an offense that will choose to double-team Nix.

“I talked to one of the coaches last night and he says, ‘We watch Nix and I want to know where he is every single play. We are going to find a way to scheme or double on him every single play.’ Well, the problem with that is, it frees up other guys,” Hazell said.

Headed in the Right Direction

When it came time to jump in front of the cameras and answer the pressing questions, coach Hazell had a lot to talk about.

After a productive spring campaign and an offseason filled with players in the weight and video rooms, Hazell said he has found comfort in his second year with the team.

“The difference between year one and year two is just amazing,” Hazell said. “You know your players better, you know your staff better: where the strengths and weaknesses are, you know where things are on campus. All of those things that you take for granted coming in that you have to find answers to, you already have the answers to.”

Having his first full offseason as head coach of the Flashes is what Hazell said he has been waiting for. To spice things up, there is still a wide open spot at the quarterback position that Hazell said will be filled by August 19, just 11 days before the first game of the season.

“We are going to give each guy an opportunity to have equal reps,” Hazell said. “It’s not going to be based off of numbers and those types of things. We are going to go with a decision that the guy that is going to run our football team the best and give us the best chance to win football games.”

The Kent State football team will begin regular practices Aug. 2 in preparation for the team’s first game Aug. 30 against Towson.

Contact Matt Lofgren at [email protected].